Friday, January 18, 2013

Devils 4, Phantoms 3 1/18

Props to Saratogian photographer Ed Burke for this shot of Jason Akeson's first-period goal.

Let's begin with the obvious in Adirondack's 4-3 loss to the Albany Devils.

With 1.4 seconds to go in tonight's game, Albany goaltender Keith Kinkaid was prone in the crease and the Adirondack Phantoms chipped the puck over him and into the back of the net. Referee Geno Binda immediately signaled a washout, or no-goal, as the net had been dislodged from its moorings.

Crazy end to a period in which the Phantoms really seemed to turn on the afterburners and outshot the Devils 21-4. One of their best. After the game, Phantoms coach Terry Murray argued the equalizing goal should have counted regardless because Kinkaid had pushed the net off. Here's a direct quote from him: "We got close. I even think that goal at the end was a legal goal. Even though their goalie knocked the net off, I don't think it really matters if the net's on the mooring in those situations."

I checked the AHL rule book about this and I think I found a couple relevant passages.
"63.6 Awarded Goal - In the event that the goal post is displaced, either deliberately or accidentally, by a defending player, prior to the puck crossing the goal line between the normal position of the goalposts, the Referee may award a goal."
 OK, so maybe he's onto something and the Phantoms got gypped. However, the next paragraph: 
"In order to award a goal in this situation, the goal post must have been displaced by the actions a defending player, the puck must have been shot (or the player must be in the act of shooting) at the goal prior to the goal post being displaced, and it must be determined that the puck would have entered the net between the normal position of the goal posts."
Emphases mine, and I'm not so sure the Phantoms had shot the puck before the net was dislodged. I'm not even sure the Phantoms were in the act of shooting the puck. And while there is a provision in the rules (63.2) for a penalty if a defender does deliberately shove the net off, no Devil was given one.

No excuses, though. The game was not lost on that play. If anything, it was lost in the first 40 minutes when the Phantoms had a grand total of nine shots on Kinkaid. Albany peppered Cal Heeter with 31.

"If you keep playing like that -- unless your goaltender is extremely hot that night and shuts them down himself -- it's very hard to get out of it," Murray said. "Heeter played well. He made some big stops. He gave us a chance. We just have to play better. That's all. You have to play the game with emotion and intensity and compete and that's where it got to in the third period."

Yes, the Phantoms were up 2-1 at one point. Albany made a couple of mistakes and the Phantoms capitalized on them, Jason Akeson poked a bouncing puck past Kinkaid and Marcel Noebels banged in a backhander after the Phantoms dug a puck out from behind the net. But they made far too many mistakes of their own -- namely turnovers, which has been one of their biggest problems all season.

“They had 31 shots after two periods,” Murray said of the Devils. “I think 18 of them probably came off our sticks with the passing or turnovers. We’re just not managing pucks at all. They ended up just hemming us in. We couldn’t do a thing that was right.”

Joe Whitney had a really good game for the Devils, setting up a Matt Anderson goal and then scoring two of his own. Jason Akeson countered with a three-point game of his own, busting out of a slump.

He had 10 points in his first nine games since getting called up from ECHL Trenton, then just three in his next 12. With tonight's showing, he is now in sole possession of the scoring lead among players on the Adirondack roster with 16 points. Tye McGinn also scored in his return to the AHL.

“When you only have nine or so shots after 40 minutes, something’s wrong," McGinn said. "We came into the dressing room and we addressed that. We weren't putting the puck to the net in the first 40.”

By the time the Phantoms started doing that, it was too late.
“When our backs are against the wall, we’re a pretty good team,” winger Mike Testwuide said. “When we’re desperate and working hard, we’re a pretty good team. But early in games, we don’t have that.”

Therein lies the problem.

Focused the print story on how Albany used to not be able to buy a win in this building, going 2-10-2-1 in their first 15 visits to the Civic Center.  But they've now won two in a row here in Glens Falls have beaten the Phantoms four out of five times this season.

"So what? They beat us," Murray said. "It doesn't matter in the five, six games. It doesn't matter. They beat us. It's tonight that matters. And we were not good tonight. We got better in the third period. We've played very well against them and lost games. We lost a 2-1 game down there where the puck's bouncing over, in short-side. Those are the way things go sometimes. There's nothing to talk about outside of the fact they've beat us in those games."

Testwuide offered some insight on why Albany has been successful against the Phantoms, but ultimately said tonight's game came down to what Adirondack didn't do more than what Albany did.

"They play a pretty defensive style," he said. "They really smother the puck with a bunch of guys. Tonight we came out pretty slow and they took advantage of our slow start. We built too big of a deficit and then we couldn't come back."

They made it interesting, though.

"The third period was Phantoms Hockey," Testwuide said. "That's what we do. We get on the pucks, we pressure everything. We play hard. The first two periods, we didn't come with a good enough effort tonight."

-- Didn't have the chance to take to Andreas Lilja after the game to address the report that came out of Sweden I referred to in my pre-game post. I probably won't have another chance to ask him about it until the team is back on the ice for practice Tuesday. He's here and he's playing for the time being. His assist on Marcel Noebels' goal was Lilja's first AHL point since the 2001-02 season.

-- Not playing -- at least not for the final two periods tonight -- was defenseman Brandon Manning, who Murray said is "sick." He played the first period, but then didn't come out for the second. Zack FitzGerald, who had been skating at left wing, then dropped back to defense. If Manning can't play tomorrow or Sunday, the Phantoms always have the opportunity of putting Blake Kessel back in.

-- Brian Boucher did not play, as was planned. Scott Munroe was the back-up. We'll see if that changes tomorrow night when they visit Schenectady-born, Clifton Park-raised Nick Petrecki's Worcester Sharks or travel to Atlantic City Sunday to play these same Devils.

More after the game tomorrow.
-- MC


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