The Albany River Rats are in tough in their second round series against the defending Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears.
If the River Rats can’t avoid repeated trips to the penalty box, they will see a quick exit. Against a Bears club that rolled up a league record 60 wins and a 123-point season, the River Rats have repeatedly found themselves turning to the penalty kill.
The Bears used their top-ranked power play overwork and outscore the River Rats in back-to-back wins to open the series in Hershey, going 4-for-14 on the man advantage.
But it has not merely been the frazzled youth that have put the River Rats, who ranked 16th in the AHL on the penalty kill in the regular season, in penalty trouble. Veteran defenseman Jay Harrison took a second period 10-minute misconduct during Game 1 in a scrum with Hershey’s Patrick Wellar that cost Albany the services of its most experienced blueliner. Later in that contest, with the score tied 3-3 deep in the third period, veteran alternate captain Mike Angelidis took an extra unsportsmanlike conduct minor after being whistled for high-sticking.
Hershey sniper Andrew Gordon burned Albany for four goals in the opening two games, three of those tallies coming on the power play. Then, upon heading back to Albany for Game 3 Tuesday night, the River Rats surrendered another six power play chances to Hershey. The penalty kill managed to wipe out five of those chances, but Gordon again touched Albany for a power play goal in a 6-5 Hershey overtime win. Albany now trails the series 3-0.
“The key to shut it down is to not get the penalties,” Harrison said after Game 2 in Hershey.
Harrison said his club, a physical bunch that features the likes of Tim Conboy and Nicolas Blanchard, could stand taking good penalties, but lazy penalties and ones taken in the offensive zone had to stop.
“It all stems from hard work and keeping our feet moving,” Harrison added. “We have some good penalty-killers, so we’re not afraid to have to kill a penalty because it’s part of the game and part of our game. So, we just want to limit the opportunities we give them.”
Chicago finally put away the pesky Milwaukee Admirals in seven games after giving up a 3-1 series advantage. Texas took out Rockford in four games to set up a Chicago-Texas second round meeting.
Rochester’s up-and-down season came crashing down Tuesday night when Abbotsford took a 2-0 decision. After falling behind 3-1 in the series, the Heat took Game 5 on home ice and then went into Rochester and took Games 6 and 7. Abbotsford and Hamilton will now meet in an all-Canadian matchup after the Bulldogs took care of Manitoba in six games.
DEVILS ON MOVE?
According to a report in the Albany Times Union, the vacancy created by the departure of the Albany River Rats to Charlotte, N.C., next season is expected to be filled by the return of the New Jersey Devils’ affiliate currently stationed in Lowell, Mass. The Lowell team has been plagued by horrid attendance figures during New Jersey’s reign over the past four seasons. The newspaper elaborated that the New Jersey-Albany partnership would be a five-year agreement and include upgrades to the Times Union Center in downtown Albany. New Jersey held an affiliation in Albany for 13 seasons before the two sides split in 2006.
THIS AND THAT
• Lowell coach John MacLean is expected to receive consideration for the coaching vacancy in New Jersey…
• Portland’s Kevin Dineen has long been thought of as a strong bet to take over an NHL bench at some point and recent published reports have included Dineen as a candidate to land in the NHL next season…
• Rochester coach Benoit Groulx scratched veteran right winger Graham Mink for the team’s Game 7 contest Tuesday night. Captain Rory Fitzpatrick was slotted into the Rochester lineup in Mink’s spot. Mink had logged three goals and five points over Rochester’s first six playoff outings and starred on two Calder Cup-winning teams in Hershey.
From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world’s second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiling prospects destined for the next level. It appears every weekend only on TheHockeyNews.com.