An uninspired performance against one of the least-successful teams remaining on the schedule provided a poor start to Albany’s home stretch Wednesday.
The Devils lost to the St. John’s IceCaps, 4-2, in the first of 10 home games in the final 13 of the season.
“More of the same. A lack of urgency, a lack of discipline,” Albany captain Jay Leach said. “I think in the first 10 minutes we came out pretty well and scored a power-play goal. Then we got into penalty trouble, kind of took the momentum away from us and onto them, and that was it. It doesn’t take much.”
The Devils got an early power-play goal from Joe Whitney, his 23rd of the season, to take a 1-0 lead. The IceCaps tied it up on an odd goal by Jason Jaffray, who appeared to have the puck poke-checked away from him as he skated through the slot, and the sudden change in direction left Albany goalie Jeff Frazee high and dry.
The rest of the St. John’s goals came on specialty teams, two power-play strikes sandwiched around Aaron Gagnon’s short-handed tally.
“It’s been our Achilles’ heel all year,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said of specialty teams. “The power play got one early, but we could have used a couple of more. We gave up a couple on the penalty kill. Aside from that, our five-on-five is nowhere near where it has been or where it needs to be. We’ve got to get it figured out real quick.”
The second St. John’s score came on a deflection in front. The third was buried at the back door as Gagnon streaked down the right side of the crease and finished the pass from Jaffray. The tandem was on a two-on-one break with Albany defenseman Eric Gelinas trying to take away Jaffray’s option to shoot.
Frazee made 17 saves on the night.
Albany (27-25-1-10) got one goal back in the third when defenseman Brandon Burlon scored on a rebound in front of the net, his first goal of the season.
St. John’s (28-33-1-4), though, did well to keep the Devils from putting too much pressure on goalie Mark Dekanich, who saw just one shot in the first 14 minutes of the third period. He stopped 21 shots in the win.
Albany is still six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot, as No. 8 Hershey was idle. The Bears visit Albany on Friday. The IceCaps, meanwhile, are now 10 points out with 10 games to play, and plan on reaching for the postseason as long as it’s even a slight possibility.
“Until we read that we’re mathematically out, we’re still pushing for it every single game here,” St. John’s coach Keith McCambridge said. “We’ve been a team that’s had some adversity, as a lot of teams do. We’ve faced a lot of injuries this year. It’s been a really different year.
“I’m sure you’re hearing the same from Kowalsky on the other side where with the lockout it’s been a real odd year for us with regard to players on the bubble, whether they’re going to be in the NHL to start when the season goes. There’s been a lot of different aspects taking place, but we’re starting to get traction as of late.”
St. John’s 1 2 1 — 4
Albany 1 0 1 — 2
First Period — 1, Albany, Whitney 23
(Anderson, DiSimone), 4:29 (pp). 2, St. John’s, 14 (Sawada, Chiarot), 10:27. Penalties — Chiarot, StJ (high-sticking), 2:37; Petiot, StJ (hooking), 7:20; DiSimone, Alb (interference), 8:19; Ramsey, StJ (holding), 11:54; Gelinas, Alb (delay of game), 14:54; Lunden, StJ, major (fighting), 15:16; McKelvie, Alb, major (fighting), 15:16; DiSimone, Alb (tripping), 18:46; Sislo, Alb (roughing), 19:25.
Second Period — 3, St. John’s, O’Dell 25 (Maxwell, Jaffray), :57 (pp). 4, St. John’s Gagnon 9 (Jaffray, Petiot), 3:20 (sh). Penalties — Arsene, StJ (holding), 3:03; St. John’s bench, served by O’Neill (too many men), 5:58; Janssen, Alb (elbowing), 17:17.
Third Period — 5, St. John’s, Gagnon 10 (Maxwell, O’Dell), 8:35 (pp). 6, Albany, Burlon 1 (Sislo, Wiseman), 15:06. Penalties – Whitney, Alb (hooking), 6:46; Wiseman, Alb, (holding), 10:28; Gagnon, StJ (hooking), 17:51.
Shots on goal — St. John’s 7-10-4 — 21. Albany 11-5-7 — 23.
Power-play opportunities — St. John’s
2 of 7; Albany 1 of 6.
Goalies — St. John’s, Dekanich 13-12-0 (23 shots-21 saves). Albany, Frazee 7-11-4 (21-17).
A — 2,209. T — 2:08.
Referees — Ryan Hersey, Geoff Miller. Linesmen — Frank Murphy, Steeve Lemay.