Whitney’s pair help Devils banish Phantoms

saratogian.com

saratogian.com

The Adirondack Phantoms started their stretch of three games in three days on Friday night on home ice, but it was no comfort in a 4-3 loss to the Albany Devils in front of 4,606 at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

In the first of four meetings within six games against their northern neighbors, Joe Whitney tallied the go-ahead and insurance goals for the Devils (15-13-7). Matt Anderson and Harri Pesonen also scored, while Keith Kinkaid stopped 27 shots.

Tye McGinn lit the lamp and Jason Akeson added a marker with two assists for the Phantoms (15-19-2), but Cal Heeter took the loss despite making 31 saves.

Anderson opened up the scoring at 3:22 of the first period with a soft goal past Heeter’s right pad. That didn’t last long as Harry Zolnierczyk’s pass bounced up and off Akeson and in for a power-play goal at 8:55 in the first.

Only 1:41 later, Marcel Noebels scored his second goal of the season while Andreas Lilja’s recorded his initial assist in his first game as a Phantom this season. Things took a nasty turn with 3:57 left to play in the opening frame when Cullen Eddy and Chris McKelvie dropped the gloves in a bout that easily went to Eddy.

Although the Phantoms led at the end of the first it was misleading to how they played. For most of the period the Devils controlled the puck and the neutral zone as the Phantoms couldn’t seem to connect on a pass. Despite a 2-1 edge, the hosts were outshot 15-5.

“It’s a little bit of an experiment in progress,” Phantoms head coach Terry Murray said about the McGinn-Noebels-Akeson configuration. “They read off each other pretty well and I will probably give them another look tomorrow night.”

The Phantoms’ puck control continued to suffer in the second and they lost defenseman Brandon Manning to what coach Terry Murray later confirmed as an illness.

Right off the bat Albany had three great chances up close but Heeter was able to shut the door. That was followed shortly by a bad defensive play by Lilja which led to an open net chance for Albany but the shot hit the post. Things got a little rough when the Devils’ McKelvie barreled over Heeter during a rush and for a second time Eddy dropped the gloves with McKelvie and again easily won the match.

Albany’s pressure did lead to a goal, however, at 9:05 when Pesonen slid another soft goal past Heeter to tie the game at 2-2. The Devils continued to turn up the heat, taking the lead once more at 12:39 when Whitney backhanded the puck past Heeter on his stick side. Whitney then went on to score his second of the contest at 17:14 with a shot from the left circle, beating Heeter for a 4-2 game.

At the end of the second Albany had what seemed to be a commanding two-goal lead while continuing to outshoot the Phantoms by an incredible 31-9 count. Adirondack struggled in the second much like they did in the first and looked to be out of this game.

Unlike the first two periods, the Phantoms came out with jump in the third and thanks to Albany’s Raman Hrabarenka’s delay-of-game penalty Adirondack was able to start generating some shots. Roughly nine minutes in, a scramble in front of the net lead to a Phantoms penalty shot due to a Albany player placing his hand on the puck in the crease.

Matt Ford was given the chance but shot it directly into Kinkaid’s pads while trying to go through the five-hole. Adirondacks momentum kept building though as McGinn, fresh out of Flyers camp, scores with 9:56 left to play. The momentum continued to be all the Phantoms with a couple of great save from Heeter and a few good chances including a no goal with under 20 seconds left to play. The puck went over the goal line, but just as the net came off its moorings.

Notes: The Phantoms fell to 11-3 this year when scoring three or more times…Final shot count was Albany 35, Adirondack 30…The third star of the game went to Albany’s Brandon Burlon, second star went to Akeson, and the first star was given to Whitney…The stand out line of the game for the Phantoms was the McGinn-Noebels- Akeson pairing. This was their first game together and they seemed to click pretty well with speed and positioning on the ice…The Phantoms head out to Worcester to face off against the Sharks tomorrow night at 7 PM and then take on the Devils in Atlantic City on Sunday afternoon.

Postgame analysis: Heeter had his moments. The first two goals against him were soft but at times he also held this team in the game. Albany could have easily had two or three more goals. I think with a little more solid defense in front of him and some time he will round out to be a capable goaltender.

Most of the Phantoms players had a weak night but Lilja, the spare defenseman who was sent down from Philadelphia, was one of the worst offenders. This very well could have been due to lack of play due to the lockout or just getting use to the team and system. Either way it was a rough night with a couple of bad penalties in the first and a couple of miscues defensively. We will see how he does as the season progresses.

For the full press interview with Murray see the video below (audio is a little rough due to the line of fans behind us).

As a special treat I got to have a very brief chat with Brian Boucher about coming to Glens Falls and you can see that video below: