The three-in-three the Albany Devils played over the weekend didn’t catch up with them until Wednesday night.
Allowing three goals in each of the last two periods, Albany was routed by the Syracuse Crunch, 7-1, at the Times Union Center. They had beaten Syracuse over the weekend as part of a three-game road sweep, but the Crunch bounced back hard Wednesday.
“When you go on the road and you play in some real hard battles, then you add in the travel — you could see us getting tired [Sunday] in Providence toward the end, and the guys gutted it out,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “Even though we got back here and had a couple days, you worry about a bit of a letdown Wednesday night at home, not a lot of energy in the building. I thought our start was OK, then gradually, mentally and physically, the fatigue started to kick in.”
The Crunch got on the board first with a goal from Jean-Francois Jacques midway through the first period, but the Devils answered 35 seconds later with Darcy Zajac’s seventh goal of the season, assisted by Mike Hoeffel and Kory Nagy.
Then the wheels fell off.
Former Albany River Rat Bryan Rodney scored the eventual winning goal at 3:13 of the second period, finishing a play where it looked like the Crunch may have been offsides, but play continued and Rodney scored with a slapshot all alone to the left of the slot. All eyes were on the puck along the right boards before it was kicked out to Rodney skating in from the blue line with nobody on his side of the ice.
“When you get some zone pressure like that, some teams tend to run around,” Rodney said. “We’re guilty of that at times, as well. I think they just got out of position, I was left on the back door, the puck kind of squirted to me, and I got to walk in and take a slapshot and was fortunate enough it went through.”
It was the beginning of the end in a game that saw the Devils allow more goals at home than any so far this season.
The Devils had some chances to get back into the game, but they were 0-for-6 on the power play. Meanwhile, the Crunch scored twice on four power plays. It was a bit of a reversal from the weekend, when in their three games the Devils were 4-for-15 with the advantage and killed all 12 penalties for which they were whistled.
“There was one power play in the first where I thought we just didn’t battle hard enough, but the last one, we bounced back after we talked about some things on the bench,” Kowalsky said. “We created chances, moved the puck around. Nittymaki made some good saves. If we capitalize on those against a struggling team over there, I think it might be a different ballgame. Based on our energy level from the first on, I think it would have helped us.”
With the advantage of even-strength, alternate captain Peter Harrold was frustrated with the team’s inability to work through its fatigue by falling back on fundamentals.
“There are times when you’re tired, but you’ve got to play the system as almost perfect,” he said. “Those are the times you rely on the system. When you’re tired or a man down or guys are banged up. We didn’t do that tonight.”
The Devils will play at home Saturday and Sunday against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Binghamton, respectively, before traveling to play Bridgeport on Monday. It’s a chance, Harrold said, he and his teammates will seize to wash the taste of Wednesday’s loss from their mouths.
“It’s embarrassing to lose like that at home, but I guess the positive news is we get three chances to rectify that this weekend,” Harrold said. “No one wants to come home and lay an egg like that. It is what it is. We’ll come back and regroup.”
Syracuse 1 3 3 — 7
Albany 1 0 0 — 1
First Period — 1, Syracuse, Jacques 15 (Clark, Holzapfel), 10:25. 2, Albany, Zajac 7 (Hoeffel, Nagy), 11:00. Penalties — McMillan, Syr (high-sticking), 3:55; Perkovich, Alb (tripping), 11:13; Cuminsky, Syr (roughing), 13:09; Fraser, Syr (high-sticking), 16:33; Maroon, Syr (roughing), 20:00; Kelly, Alb (roughing), 20:00.
Second Period — 3, Syracuse, Rodney 5 (Brittain, Cuminsky), 3:13. 4, Syracuse, Maroon 23 (Holland, Palmieri), 8:54 (pp). 5, Syracuse, Smaby 2 (Bodie, Brittain), 11:01. Penalties — Zharkov, Alb (slashing), 5:57; Carle, Syr (holding), 6:39; Mills, Alb (hooking), 8:49; McMillan, Syr (hooking), 13:28.
Third Period — 6, Syracuse, Palmieri 27 (Maroon, Brittain), 8:17 (pp). 7, Syracuse, Maroon 24 (Sexton), 12:04. 8, Syracuse, Palmieri 28 (Carle, Holzapfel), 13:46. Penalties — Urbom, Alb (interference), 7:04; Holland, Syr, major (fighting), 8:17; Sestito, Alb, major (fighting), 8:17; McMillan, Syr (hooking), 9:37.
Shots on goal — Syracuse 10-10-9 — 29. Albany 13-8-10 — 31.
Power-play opportunities — Syracuse 2 of 4; Albany 0 of 6.
Goalies — Syracuse, Nittymaki 3-5-0 (31 shots-30 saves); Albany, Kinkaid 13-13-1 (19-15); Frazee (11:01 second, 10-7).
A — 2,147. T — 2:08.
Referees — Ryan Hersey, Terry Koharski. Linesmen — Frank Murphy, Mike Emanatian.