Even with a 3-1 lead at the first intermission, Albany coach Rick Kowalsky felt uneasy.
His gut proved prophetic as Albany fell, 5-4, to Norfolk on Wednesday, allowing the game-tying and game-winning goals just 26 seconds apart in the second period. The Devils never regained an offensive rhythm.
“After the first, I got the sense that this was going to happen,” Kowalsky said. “You could just feel that we thought this was going to be an easy game. We’ve seen that team too much. I knew it wasn’t the case. Even in the first, there were still some holes in our game that I didn’t like. They eventually started turning it up a notch, and we, mentally, left the building.”
Those last two Norfolk goals both came off Mike Kostka shots from the point, deflected in by Michel Ouellet and former Albany River Rat Mike Angelidis, respectively.
“It was exciting, it’s just one of my typical goals, a greasy goal,” Angelidis said. “It was nice to be back here and finally get a win against these guys.”
Albany had taken four points in Norfolk earlier this month, coming back from a 4-0 lead at the second intermission for an overtime victory in the first meeting, then skating to a 3-1 win in the second.
Wednesday, Albany got three first-period goals from Stephane Veilleux, the first hat trick for the franchise since Chad Wiseman’s four third-period goals March 11, 2011. Then the Admirals began to lock down their own zone as the Devils faded.
“We knew we had to put urgency in the game,” Veilleux said. “We won back-to-back games there, and we knew they were going to be ready to come at us right off the bat. I think we had a good start, but we still are a little ways from playing a whole 60 minutes.”
The two Norfolk deflections tipped the ice in its favor. The Admirals owned possession the rest of the way, and used a strong forecheck to keep Albany off balance.
“Everybody was going hard, back-and-forth kind of hockey,” Angelidis said. “We just tried to keep it in their zone the whole time, just pressure, pressure, not let our foot off the gas. Last time in our barn, it was [4-0], and they came back and beat us in the third
period. Tonight, we said, ‘Just don’t sit back. Go at them and play hard.’ ”
“We’ve done it all year. There’s only one time we haven’t done it, and it was against Albany,” Norfolk coach John Cooper said. “I guess we can protect a one-goal lead against them, we just struggle with the four-goal lead.”
At the end of the game, with Albany goalie Keith Kinkaid pulled for the extra attacker, a Peter Harrold shot from the left point found Wiseman at the right post with just a second left. It spun off his stick and wide.
Albany will return to the ice in Glens Falls on Friday against Adirondack.
“We had a lot of time to come back and show some resiliency,” Veilleux said. “I think we proved it on the road at Norfolk, but we couldn’t again tonight. We have to regroup and go back at it. It’s a race to the playoffs, and we have to regroup and play smarter.”
Norfolk 1 4 0 — 5
Albany 3 1 0 — 4
First Period — 1, Albany, Veilleux 6 (Urbom, Berube), 5:49. 2, Norfolk, Fornataro 6 (Conacher, Barberio), 14:16 (pp). 3, Albany, Veilleux 7 (Sestito, Whitney), 16:13. 4, Albany, Veilleux 8 (Whitney), 18:28. Penalties — Angelidis, Nor (holding), 8:55; Sestito, Alb (slashing), 12:50; Dimmen, Nor (tripping), 19:00.
Second Period — 5, Norfolk, Oberg 2 (Palat, Devos), 5:21. 6, Norfolk, Barberio (Johnson, Gudas), 6:09. 7, Albany, Wiseman 3 (Palmieri, Zharkov) 13:28. 8, Norfolk, Ouellet 9 (Kostka, Cote), 16:12. 9, Norfolk, Angelidis 8 (Kostka, Cote), 16:38. Penalties — Hoeffel, Alb (tripping), 3:17; Panik, Nor, minor-major (roughing, fighting), 7:35; Banwell, Alb, major (fighting), 7:35; Palmieri, Alb (interference), 8:26; Angelidis, Nor (tripping), 11:13; Hoeffel, Alb (slashing), 13:36; Veilleux, Alb (elbowing), 20:00.
Third Period — No scoring. Penalties — Perkovich, Alb (boarding), 16:31.
Shots on goal — Norfolk 10-8-8 — 26.
Albany 13-12-3 — 28.
Power-play opportunities — Norfolk 1 of 6; Albany 0 of 4.
Goalies — Norfolk, Tokarski 17-9-0 (28 shots-24 saves). Albany, Kinkaid 9-11-1 (26-21).
A — 2,371. T — 2:15.
Referees — Mark Lemelin, Geno Binda. Linesmen — Mike Emanatian, Frank Murphy.