Pelley: 'Things happen fast' in line brawls
File it under the old saying ... well, the family-friendly version ... stuff happens.
Things happen, and you’re not always in an ideal situation.
Five Adirondack Phantoms are sitting out Friday’s game against the Albany Devils because of a big brawl in the final minute of their 2-0 loss at Portland on Sunday night. Well, four of them for that, one of them for a fight on the very next shift.
“Things happen so fast during the game,” Albany Devils captain Rod Pelley said Thursday after practice. “Myself, I’ve been in one [line brawl]. It was close to the end of the game. There was a fight happening. It comes to a point that you’re either the aggressor and are starting the second altercation, or you’re standing up for yourself and you’re a part of the secondary altercation. It’s either one or the other. A lot of times, you don’t have a choice in the matter if you’re the one sticking up for yourself. If you’re the aggressor, maybe it’s because of frustration. Who knows what it could be? But it does happen. If you’re on the aggressor side of it, there’s many reasons it could happen. Who knows?”
Adirondack’s Ben Holmstrom and Portland’s Connor Murphy got the ball rolling with a fight behind the play, then the Phantoms’ Tye McGinn came rushing in as the third man.
With their teammate, Murphy, outnumbered, Portland’s Brendan Shinnimin and Jordan Martinook came storming into what was becoming a big group hug. Then Adirondack’s Kris Newbury joined in. Then Adirondack’s Brandon Manning tackled the cluster of players.
Portland goalie Louis Domingue came out of his crease and drifted toward the fracas in his zone, so Adirondack goalie Cal Heeter came off the bench (where he had been sitting so the Phantoms could skate an extra attacker). Heeter just skated over to Domingue, and the two stayed back away from the fighting.
There was fighting throughout the zone, and it eventually started to calm down, except for the throw-down between Murphy and McGinn, which drifted out to the neutral zone with McGinn doing all the swinging and Murphy unable to recover quickly enough to throw some fists of his own.
Then Domingue skated in to pull off McGinn, so then Heeter rejoined the tilt and there was a goalie fight.
You can watch the whole show on Youtube:
That video even includes what happened afterward. On the next shift, three seconds after the puck drops, Adirondack’s Zack FitzGerald (a former Albany River Rat) cross-checks Kyle Hagel, and Hagel responds with a couple slashes, then the two fight.
For their respective roles in the whole episode, Newbury was suspended four games, Heeter three, FitzGerald two, and both Holmstrom and McGinn one. Hagel received a two-game ban.
Not ideal. Not for a team 15 points out of the last playoff spot with 26 games to play.
But like Pelley said, things happen fast. There’s not a whole lot of time to consider any consequences.
“I think it all depends on where you are. If you’re coming off the bench or something, that’s a whole different story than being on the ice and just going with what’s happening,” Pelley said. “Me, myself, personally, if I was on the ice and a secondary altercation was to happen or a line brawl, I wouldn’t hesitate. It’s kind of one of those things where you act now and ask questions later, in my opinion. It’s a whole different ball game when you’re on the bench or in the penalty box or whatever the case may be and you come off that. You have a second to think about it.
“And there could be reasons for that. Your guys could be shorthanded. Whatever reason the decision is made, that’s not what I’m arguing. But you have a moment to think about maybe the ramifications of a two- or three- or four-game suspension.”
Pelley once received a one-game suspension. He was in a fight with Tyler Bouck, and at the end, when the two went to the ice, he had his forearm across Bouck’s throat.
“It was one of those things where I watched it on video, and I was like, ‘Oh,’ ” Pelley said. “It got reviewed and I got suspended for a game.
“The games were spread out, so it was the next week. So you’ve got no pay for that whole week. When you’re a 20-year-old, those five days count.”
Albany defenseman Dan Kelly has never been suspended, though he has been tossed from a game before. He also doesn’t shy away from a fight if one has to happen.
Still, he said, if there’s time to think things through, sometimes it’s best to wait.
“You definitely have to be cautious. It depends on the situation,” he said. “If there’s a cheap shot and you’re trying to stick up for your teammate or another guy jumps on your teammate, you know you have to get in there and you have to protect guys. But you never want to leave your team down a guy, you never want to be suspended.
“It all depends on what happened and what’s going on in the game. Sometimes, you have to get the guy on the next shift. It’s all about what the situation is.”
Waiting for the next shift didn’t work out for FitzGerald. Of course, had he come off the bench to join into the initial rumble, he would have been smacked with a heftier penalty, so maybe it worked out just fine.
Albany coach Rick Kowalsky thought back to his days as a player, and his time with the ECHL’s Hampton Road Admirals in the mid- to late-90s sprung to mind.
“I played for a coach by the name of John Brophy, and every scrum, if you didn’t have your gloves off, you didn’t want to go back to the bench,” he said. “The game’s changed, obviously, but sometimes those things just happen and your emotions get the best of you. You don’t like to see it in a 7-1 game where guys are frustrated. I think the game’s changed a little bit that way, but for the most part, sometimes, you’re not thinking clearly. You’re more about jumping in for a teammate when things escalate. But you don’t see that nearly as much as you used to.”
Those days with Hampton produced some of Kowalsky’s highest penalty totals. In 244 games with the Road Admirals, he totaled 510 penalty minutes.
Regardless of the consequences for those five players, the Devils don’t expect any less of a game from the Phantoms. The two teams have played nearly to a stalemate over their first 10 meetings of the season. They have two games remaining, both in Glens Falls, tonight at 7 and April 6 at 3 p.m.
So far this season, Albany is 5-4-1 against Adirondack, having outscored the Phantoms 24-21.
Newbury (13 goals, 20 assists), McGinn (14-11-25) and Holmstrom (10-14-24) are the second-, third- and fourth-leading scorers for Adirondack, so it would be naive to say they won’t be missed. At the same time, though, with these five players sidelined, five more will step in and play their butts off in an attempt to earn more ice time.
“To be honest with you, when you get a team that loses some of their top guys, it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up to the plate and get other opportunities,” Pelley said. “I’m expecting players we haven’t seen as much to get more ice time and try to take advantage of the opportunity. In no way are we expecting it to be any type of an easy game. We’re not going in thinking that just because they don’t have Newbury and McGinn in the lineup that it’s going to be easy. If anything, it could be the opposite way around, where you’ve got some guys who are hungry.”
“Any team can beat any team on any night,” Kelly said. “That’s been proven all throughout the league. I think we’re going to see a really high-energy game from them. Maybe some guys are getting opportunities that don’t normally get opportunities. Maybe some guys are called up and want to make a good impression. We can’t take them lightly, especially when we’re playing in their building.”
Kowalsky even has a few Phantoms in mind who might give the Devils some trouble.
“I thought [Tyler] Brown and [Matt] Mangene were great last game,” he said. “Their energy and physical play caused a lot of problems. Those are guys who have been in and out of the lineup, those are guys who are regularly fourth-line guys. Last time up there, [Nick] Cousins wasn’t in the lineup. He’s a skill guy, and maybe he hasn’t had the best year, but now he’s going to be thrust into a power-play role and first-line role.”
“I’m not concerned about them. I’m concerned about us. We addressed it. We’ve seen it before. I talked about when we played desperate with 11 forwards and seven D and some guys in the lineup from the East Coast Hockey League. They’re going to find a way to fill a roster. They’ve had a big enough roster where some guys will get in and some guys will have expanded roles and want to prove themselves. For us, our approach doesn’t change. I think the way we played them last Saturday at home [in a 4-1 win] is the way we have to approach it there — be simple with the puck and get pucks in behind, challenge their D and play in the offensive zone as much as possible.”
Darcy Zajac (shoulder) remains out but is skating with the team. He is expected to be out until late March. Chris McKelvie (lower body) was hurt in the Atlantic City game and is not available. Cam Janssen (lower body) will be out for at least another week.