Hockey pucks are made out of vulcanized rubber. Rubber bounces.
Those facts alone pretty much ended the Albany Devils’ season.
The Devils lost Game 7 of their AHL North Division Final series to the Toronto Marlies Monday when Richard Clune banged home the rebound on a shot that missed net, but bounced off the springy Ricoh Coliseum backboards to the front of the net. The goal with 2:30 to play broke a 3-3 tie. Hockey game, series and season over.
“That’s playoff hockey,” Devils coach Rick Kowalsky said Thursday, as the Devils cleared out their locker stalls at Times Union Center for the season. “It really did come down to a bounce.”
Despite coming up two series wins short of a Calder Cup, to a man the Devils labeled the season a success. The six-year-old franchise set team records for points (102), victories (46) and home wins (27).
Kowalsky — who is in the last year of his contract but said he wants and expects to be back as coach — said he might watch the last couple weeks of the season and wonder “what might have been or could have been,” but at the same time said this is the quickest it has ever taken him to look forward to a new season.
For the players, some of whom will be back, others elsewhere in the AHL, still others up top in the NHL, the season and playoffs proved to be a learning experience — the whole point of the minors.
The close playoff series, veteran captain Rod Pelley said, “pointed out how important the little details are, [like] the faceoffs. . . It’s what you preach all year, all the little things you work on in practice.
Later, he added: “Especially for the young guys, it’s a great learning experience, playing a Game 7.”
Matt Sislo, the team’s leading scorer in his first full year as a professional, said he learned from the playoffs “just how big a mental battle it is.”
“It’s just trying to stay on an even keel over the course of a series, win or lose,” he said.
Brian O’Neill, the 2015 AHL MVP, is a free agent who got a taste of the NHL this season. It’s uncertain whether the veteran, who missed Games 6 and 7 with an injury, will be back in Albany this fall.
He is certain the Devils could have taken out the AHL regular champions, the Marlies.
“I thought we were the better team,” he said. ” I thought we should have won Game 7.”
But a series and season can turn on the tiniest of things. Such as the bounce of a puck.