They were playing hockey Saturday night, but the Albany Devils still were locked out of the Manchester zone.
They broke in a few times and stuck around for a couple minutes before being chased off by the tenants, but those occasional offensive forays weren’t enough in a 2-1 season-opening loss to the Monarchs.
The Devils had the most trouble gaining the zone on their power play, losing possession time and again before chasing down cleared pucks back at their own end.
“They had three across the line, and they’re flat-footed, but they’ve got good sticks,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “They kind of baited us into that. If they’ve got pressure right at you there, we’ve got to get it in behind.
“That was part of the problem, five-on-five, at times. They do a good job of holding their ground, and they’ve got good sticks. I just thought we tried to challenge one-on-one. It’s trying to break through that wall, and then it doesn’t lead to possession. You’ve got to force them to turn and go and have to try to get the puck.”
One time the Devils moved with some pace through the neutral zone, rookie defenseman Raman Hrabarenka got off a shot from the right boards, which Monarchs goalie Martin Jones turned aside. He turned it aside, however, to the wrong side, and it came to right wing Chad Wiseman skating through the slot. Wiseman smacked it back past Jones at 8:18 in the first period for a 1-0 Albany lead.
The lead lasted 29 seconds, though, as defenseman David Kolomatis scored with a point shot on the night’s first power-play, getting help from a screen of Albany netminder Keith Kinkaid.
Before the period was over Kolomatis added another power-play strike from just a couple yards farther out, but more or less the same angle, sending his shot from the left point past Kinkaid and into the side netting.
“We’re too aggressive,” said Albany captain Jay Leach. “We’re trying to play a little bit more of an aggressive style than in previous years, and in doing that, there’s a fine line. You have to figure out when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, and identify those things. The other thing is, when we have the opportunity to clear pucks, we have to get those things down, and we didn’t.”
That was all the scoring, though the Devils had other opportunities.
During a surge in the second period, defenseman Brandon Burlon took a feed across the slot to his backdoor approach to the left post, but he shot it wide of the net.
Then in the third, the Devils saw two power plays in the first 10 minutes, but tried to carry the puck into the zone instead of chipping and forechecking.
With about six minutes to play, they managed some solid attack for a little over a minute, but Jones kept his goal empty and moved to 2-0-0 in the early season.
Despite four shots on goal from Jacob Josefson, including a nice short-handed chance, not even the players down from the locked-out NHL could find many opportunities. Calder Trophy finalist and alternate captain Adam Henrique was held without a shot on goal, but said he expects the Devils’ game to come around.
“It was the first game,” Henrique said. “I felt we had spurts of good play and spurts of not-so-good play. Really, we’ve just got to simplify things, especially early on. Try to chip pucks in deep and get a forecheck established. I don’t think we did that for a full game. We did that for parts of the game, then got away from it. I think if we can do that for a full 60 minutes, things will be different.”
Manchester 2 0 0 — 2
Albany 1 0 0 — 1
First Period — 1, Albany, Wiseman 1 (Hrabarenka, Urbom), 8:18. 2, Manchester, Kolomatis 1 (Toffoli, Muzzin), 8:47 (pp). 3, Manchester, Kolomatis 2 (Kozun, Prokhorkin), 14:10 (pp). Penalties — Pesonen, Alb (hooking) 8:32; Albany bench, served by Wiseman (too many men), 12:51; Cliche, Man (boarding), 16:33; Hrabarenka, Alb (closing hand on puck), 19:01.
Second Period — No scoring. Penalties — Clune, Man (unsportsmanlike conduct), 12:27; Leach, Alb (tripping), 12:27; Clune, Man, major (fighting), 13:49; Kelly, Alb, major (fighting), 13:49; Bodnarchuk, Man (hooking), 16:56.
Third Period — No scoring. Penalties — Voynov, Man (high-sticking), 4:57; Voynov, Man (interference), 7:19.
Shots on goal — Manchester 10-12-5 — 27. Albany 6-8-9 — 23.
Power-play opportunities — Manchester 2 of 3; Albany 0 of 4.
Goalies — Manchester, Jones 2-0-0 (23 shots-22 saves). Albany, Kinkaid 0-1-0
A — 5,072. T — 2:07.
Referee — Terry Koharski. Linsemen — Frank Murphy, Jud Ritter.