The Albany Devils finished their final game much like they finished the regular season.
Even when the effort was there, the result was not.
The Devils dropped a 4-2 decision to the Adirondack Phantoms on Sunday night to finish the season 31-32-1-12 — the best record they have posted in their three seasons in Albany. After going ahead late in the first period, Albany watched as Adirondack cracked off four straight goals — three in the second period — and put the game just beyond reach.
“We wanted to try to make a push. We just didn't have it, but guys didn't give up,” Albany centerman Tim Sestito said. “They played hard to the very end, and I think that's a testament to the character in this room. We didn't have the last month of the season that we wanted, but guys gave the effort, which was good. There was no quit, especially this weekend, when we didn't have much to play for. We played a couple of playoff teams and played pretty well then.”
Albany finished the weekend with four points, beating Connecticut and Norfolk, two teams that were vying for a playoff berth, neither of which made it into the postseason.
Those two wins, though, pushed Albany's record in its last 18 games to just 4-12-0-2. Even with that poor finish, the Devils ended up just six points out of the playoffs.
It was the first win for Adirondack in the Times Union Center since April 7, 2012. Overall on the season, Albany finished 8-3-0-1 against the Phantoms.
“Albany's played us very well this year,” Adirondack coach Terry Murray said. “They've really been a difficult team for us to win against. Today is a meaningless game for both teams, but I thought the second and third periods were good. We're here to be professionals, and play the game right through to the last whistle. I thought both teams did a good job on the physical side of it, entertain the fans. At the same time, it satisfies me, as a coach for the Phantoms. I can't speak for the other side. It was a game that I wanted to pour everything in, leave everything on the ice and get a win to finish the season off.”
Blake Kessel scored his first two goals of the season in his seventh AHL game of the 2012-13 campaign, pushing the Phantoms’ lead to 3-1 with less than a minute left in the second period, then stretching it to 4-1 just over three minutes into the third.
Phantoms goalie Cal Heeter made 21 saves for the win, moving Adirondack to 31-38-3-4. Albany netminder Keith Kinkaid was chased by Kessel's second goal after making 13 stops. Rookie Scott Wedgewood came in and stopped all eight shots he saw.
The Devils went up, 1-0, at 18:27 in the first period when Harri Pesonen scored from low in the left circle, taking a crossing pass from defenseman Damon Severson and firing top-shelf. Pesonen closed the season with an excellent weekend, posting a goal and an assist in Friday's win and adding an assist in Saturday's victory.
The game lacked intensity, especially in the first period, but that may have had something to do with the youth on the ice. Albany suited up four players who joined the team in the last month on amateur tryout contracts, three rookies and five second-year players.
“I thought in the first period we were going to go through the entire game without a whistle or much contact,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “It got a little spiced up a bit there, but for the most part, it was a quiet game. But both teams had a lot of young guys in that weren't here or maybe didn't play much all year. So they were different lineups than we saw in the first half of the season.”
Several of those players will factor into next year's attempt to take that next step and get into the playoffs.
“Especially the guys who came in from college and juniors, they had some jump,” Sestito said.
Adirondack 0 3 1 – 4
Albany 1 0 1 – 2
First Period – 1, Albany, Pesonen 14 (Severson, Wohlberg), 18:27. Penalties – Harper, Adk (tripping), 11:21.
Second Period – 2, Adirondack, Noebels 13 (Flanagan), 6:09 (pp). 3, Adirondack, Bordson 12 (Roe, Sim), 15:27. 4, Adirondack, Kessel 1 (Alderson, Noebels), 19:02. 5, Albany, Hoeffel 5 (Sestito), 16:18 (sh). Penalties – Helgeson, Adk (hooking), 4:24; Lilja, Adk (hooking), 6:49; Roe, Adk (roughing), 11:00; Hoeffel, Alb, double-minor (roughing), 11:00; Sislo, Alb (delay of game), 12:33; Adirondack bench, served by Laughton (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:36.
Third Period – 5, Adirondack, Kessel 2 (Lilja), 3:01. Penalties – Mathers, Adk (roughing), 14:31; Janssen, Alb, double-minor (charging, roughing), 14:31.
Shots on goal – Adirondack 3-13-9 – 25. Albany 9-9-5 – 23.
Power-play opportunities – Adirondack 1 of 4; Albany 0 of 3.
Goalies – Adirondack, Heeter 12-16-3 (23 shots-21 saves). Albany, Kinkaid 21-17-6 (17-13); Wedgewood (3:02 third, 8-9).
A – 5,118. T – 2:05.
Referee – Darcy Burchell, Ryan Hersey. Linesmen – Frank Murphy, Rich Patry.