A happy homecoming. Such has not been the case since the Albany Devils made their return to the Capital District in 2010. After dropping their three prior home openers against the Adirondack Phantoms, Springfield Falcons and Manchester Monarchs, the current version of the Devils, carried a much different vibe. Mind you I’m making a one-game prognosis here but these Devils seemed to have a cohesive presence about them.
Albany’s 3-2 victory over the Utica Comets was a credit to their defence and having players contribute, who were expected to make an impact. It was Reid Boucher, Mike Sislo and Joe Whitney, putting the Devils in the scoring column and the win column. Plus I would imagine there are some of you reading this in Newark, who I gather are salivating at the prospect of seeing Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill in New Jersey. They were solid, the defence was stout and honestly, I haven’t seen a Devils team rally like this since the AHL Devils called themselves the Albany River Rats.
Although the first frame was a feeling out process, the Devils did their best to keep the biscuit away from Keith Kinkaid in net. Albany out shot Utica 13-5. While their defence clamped down, the squad as a whole stood up. Midway through the stanza, Darcy Zajac dropped the mitts with Alexandre Grenier. Shortly thereafter, Chris McKelvie locked horns with Brandon DeFazio. Then, soon thereafter, Seth Helgeson and Kellan Lain threw down and were subsequently given matching game misconduct penalties. Once that was all out of their systems, amazingly there were no penalties in the remaining two stanzas.
As the game progressed to the second, the Devils would strike early in the second. From Steve Sullivan to Adam Henrique, there have been many a good Albany player to don number 14. On opening night, Boucher would do it proud. Getting Albany on the board, Boucher converted on a feed from a backhand pass behind the net by Scott Timmins, to beat Joacim Eriksson.
Albany wasn’t finished and doubled its lead in the second. Their second marker came on a nice outlet pass by Gelinas, who hit Sislo in stride and Sislo got behind the Utica defence and hit the back of the Comets net, making it 2-0.
Although with just over five minutes to go in the period, Gernier on the doorstep, would register his first marker of the season for the Comets, cutting the lead in half in the process.
In the third, the Devils would all but put it to bed. Albany kept up the pressure and Whitney would put home the eventual winner, off the stick of Gelinas.
While the Comets would net a late tally by Benn Ferriero, a complete effort by the Devils was far too much.
Albany out shot Utica 29-25 and Kinkaid turned back 23 shots for the victory. Even though the Devils were 0-for-4 on the power-play, that was offset by not taking any ill-advised penalties.
It really was some kind of start for the A-Devils, a sign that things may indeed be turning for the better at the AHL level. If you’re a Devils fan, you couldn’t ask for a more complete 60 minutes for a first impression.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.