The Albany Devils will take on an Adirondack Phantoms team tonight that has five players suspended.
The Phantoms are without Kris Newbury (four games), Cal Heeter (three), Zack FitzGerald (two), Ben Holmstrom (one) and Tye McGinn (one) after a massive brawl in the last minute of Sunday’s 2-0 loss at Portland.
What started as a fight between Holmstrom and Portland’s Connor Murphy escalated when McGinn was the third man in.
The suspensions leave Adirondack without three of its top four scorers, but as Albany defenseman Dan Kelly said, sometimes those secondary altercations that led to these suspensions are hard to avoid.
“You definitely have to be cautious,” Kelly said. “It depends on the situation. If there’s a cheap shot and you’re trying to stick up for your teammate or another guy jumps on your teammate, you know you have to get in there and you have to protect guys. But you never want to leave your team down a guy.”
Heeter, who was in goal for that game but had been pulled for an extra attacker, came off the bench for the brawl, seemingly to keep Portland goalie Louis Domingue from joining in. Domingue had left the crease, and Heeter skated over to him and the two just stood there a moment. Later, Domingue got involved, and so, too, did Heeter.
“If I was on the ice and a secondary altercation was to happen or a line brawl, I wouldn’t hesitate,” Albany captain Rod Pelley said. “It’s kind of one of those things where you act now and ask questions later, in my opinion. It’s a whole different ball game when you’re on the bench or in the penalty box or whatever the case may be, and you come off that. You have a second to think about it.
“And there could be reasons for that. Your guys could be shorthanded. Whatever reason the decision is made, that’s not what I’m arguing. But you have a moment to think about maybe the ramifications of a two- or three- or four-game suspension.”
“It all depends on what happened and what’s going on in the game,” Kelly said. “Sometimes, you have to get the guy on the next shift.”
On the next shift, FitzGerald got involved. He was not on the ice for the brawl, but he was for the next faceoff. Three seconds after the puck dropped, play was whistled dead as he had cross-checked Kyle Hagel, who then slashed back at him before the two fought. Hagel also was suspended two games.
Even though the Phantoms are without a few top skill players, the Devils expect nothing short of a hard-fought game.
“We’re not going in thinking that just because they don’t have Newbury and McGinn in the lineup that it’s going to be easy,” Pelley said. “If anything, it could be the opposite way around, where you’ve got some guys who are hungry.”