In this series, home is where the heartache is.
The Albany Devils are 3-0 in Syracuse this season, and with a 2-1 win Sunday, the Crunch are 4-0 in the Times Union Center.
The Devils were unable to get much going most of the game, but they tied it up late, only to watch the Syracuse Crunch respond with a game-winning goal less than two minutes later to beat Albany.
“You get it to even, and you just want to get it to overtime at that point, or see if you can gain momentum and maybe get one before overtime,” Albany defenseman Peter Harrold said. “You certainly don’t want to give one up like that.”
Harrold had tied the game on a power play at 15:54 in the third, shooting through traffic from the right point. His shot deflected off the stick of Syracuse’s Kyle Cumiskey and past goalie Iiro Tarkki.
At 17:46, Brandon McMillan gave the lead back to the Crunch. Ryan O’Marra had the puck along the left boards and Albany defenseman Matt Corrente was caught out of position as McMillan got in behind him and O’Marra slipped him the puck. McMillan skated across the top of the crease and finished with his backhand at the right post.
“You can’t let guys get in behind you. There’s no question it was fatigue,” Albany Devils coach Rick Kowalsky said. “It was the end of a long shift for him at the end of three in three nights. It’s so important. We preach it. We can’t grab them with a hook and pull them off the ice, but you’ve got to be smart about your shift length. It’s a breakdown we usually don’t see.”
Syracuse got on the board in the first period when Riley Holzapfel scored on a rush, beating goalie Jeff Frazee from the high slot. The Devils seemed to have tied it up at 9:39 when a Brandon Burlon shot from the point was knocked down and in by Joe Whitney, but the goal was disallowed because of a high stick.
The Devils also had a three-on-two rush in the second period that ended with Brad Mills at the back door looking at an empty net, but he bobbled the pass and was unable to get a shot off.
The Crunch didn’t allow many of those rushes, though, often stopping the Devils before they could gain the zone.
“They pull everybody back and, a lot of times, have five guys in the neutral zone,” Kowalsky said. “They play the 1-3-1, and they play it a little more passively than a lot of the other teams play it. They kind of invite you to skate through it. We sometimes get tempted into it.”
A Manchester loss Sunday kept Albany in seventh place in the conference. The Devils are off until Friday, when they open a three-in-three road trip at Syracuse. They play at Adirondack on Saturday and back in Syracuse on Sunday.
Albany has lost its last three weekend-ending games, often seeing fatigue as a factor.
“Ironically, it should be the best structured game of the weekend, because that’s what you rely on when you’re tired,” Harrold said. “But it was sloppy. Fatigue sets in, but that’s where you’ve got to rely on structure and systems to take care of the game for you.”
Syracuse 1 0 1 — 2
Albany 0 0 1 — 1
First Period — 1, Syracuse, Holzapfel 11 (Palmieri, Zimmerman), 4:40. Penalties — Kelly, Alb (hooking), 17:20.
Second Period — No scoring. Penalties — Corrente, Alb (delay of game), 8:13; Perkovich, Alb (interference), 15:46; Palmieri, Syr (hooking), 17:38.
Third Period — 2, Albany, Harrold 4 (Hoeffel, Whitney), 15:54 (pp). 3, Syracuse, McMillan 10 (O’Marra, Caputi), 17:46. Penalties — Holland, Syr (high-sticking), 3:19; Albany bench, served by Tedenby (too many men), 10:56; Jacques, Syr (boarding), 14:15.
Shots on goal — Syracuse 6-10-7 — 23. Albany 7-5-15 — 27.
Power-play opportunities — Syracuse 0 of 4; Albany 1 of 3.
Goalies — Syracuse, Tarkki 13-15-4 (27 shots-26 saves). Albany, Frazee 10-13-2 (23-21).
A — 2,407. T — 2:08.
Referees — Jamie Koharski. Linesmen — Jim Harper, John Everett.