IceCaps in for a Devil of a series

Robin
Robin Short
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St. John’s coming home with split against tougher-than expected Albany squad

Forget the stats. Bury them. Burn ’em. Do whatever.    

But pay no attention to them.

These Albany Devils are for real. And they’re good.

Never mind the disparity in their home record vs their play away from the Times Union Centre this season (24-9-3-2 as opposed to 16-14-2-6). Or the fact the Devils’ power play was, well, motley (ranked 21st in the league). Or that only three players on the roster had 20 or more goals.

This is a very good, well-coached team under Rick Kowalsky. They are the Devils’ spawn. Like New Jersey, they find ways to win (this NHL season being an exception, of course).

In a must-win game Saturday night, the Devils grinded out a 4-2 decision, sending the first-round Eastern Conference quarter-final back to St. John’s tied up 1-1.

That means it’s now a best-of-three series, with all the games at Mile One Centre starting Wednesday with the possible clincher Friday.

“It was important to have one win at home before going to St. John’s,” said the Devils’ Mattias Tedenby of Saturday’s game,

“We know it’s a tough building, but if we play the same way we did today, we have a great chance to beat them over there.”

Two ways of looking at this, though.

On one hand, the Devils were awarded nine power plays Saturday, and cashed in on three of them, making Albany four-for-11 in the opening two games of the series while enjoying the man advantage.

Factor in Albany took only three of the game’s 10 penalties through 40 minutes Saturday, and were outshooting St. John’s 29-12, truth of the matter is the Devils should have been leading by more than a goal after two periods of play.

And really, if not for an uncharacteristic, God-awful turnover by young Josh Morrissey, it would have been a 2-2 game heading into the final period.

“But it’s still a game we feel we gave away too much,” said St. John’s forward Andrew Gordon. “We’re not satisfied with coming out of here with one (win).”

But then, on the flip side, Albany plays familiar Devils hockey, and that means the IceCaps are going to have to scratch and claw to gain even a foot of ice in these remaining games.

“They don’t give you a lot,” said Gordon. “We’ve got to create chances off rebounds, so we have to find out how to get pucks to the net.”

No dangling here. As former St. John’s Maple Leafs coach Tom Watt would say, “don’t paint me a portrait, paint me a barn.”

Heading back to Mile One, the IceCaps will have the benefit of last change, meaning coach Keith McCambridge will be able to get either the trio of Gordon, Jason Jaffray and John Albert, or Eric O’Dell, Kael Mouillierat and Carl Klingberg away from the likes of hard-checking Tim Sestito, Mike Sislo and Rod Pelley and a smothering defence.

And in this series, any little advantage counts in a big way.

As for goaltending, there’s not much to choose from. Keith Kincaid was outstanding Saturday, especially in the third period when the IceCaps threw everything and anything at the Albany goal, outshooting the Devils 20-5.

And Michael Hutchinson was very good in the St. John’s net, stopping 55 of 60 shots over the two games. Of the five goals allowed, only Tedenby’s power play goal Saturday could be considered a makeable save.

“It’s an old cliché,” Gordon said, “but you look for splits on road, and then try to sweep at home.

“So we’ll go home, play physical and maybe catch these guys sleeping in our building.”

Hopefully for the IceCaps and their fans, that will be the case.

Don’t bet on it, however.

 

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at rshort@thetelegram.com

Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort

 

 

Organizations: IceCaps, Maple Leafs

Geographic location: Albany

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