There were no holes in the Albany defense Sunday night, and certainly not any around goalie Scott Wedgewood.
The rookie netminder faced only 13 shots, thanks to a tenacious defensive effort and long stretches of puck possession by the Devils, and he stopped them all for his second shutout in as many nights as Albany beat the Syracuse Crunch, 3-0, Sunday at the Times Union Center.
Saturday, he made 23 stops in a 2-0 shutout of Hartford.
“The quantity was low, quality was low. You can’t ask for much more help as a goaltender,” Wedgewood said. “When they did have an opportunity, the rebounds I did let up, we cleared them out properly and quickly. And blocking shots and not having many turnovers was huge for us.”
It was the first time in the franchise’s history that one goaltender has recorded consecutive shutouts. The Carolina-affiliated Albany River Rats got consecutive shutouts from Michael Leighton in October 2007 and Justin Peters in March 2009.
Sunday, the Crunch were never able to get more than five shots on goal in a period.
“I think a lot of guys in that room really do take pride in it; as coaches, we do,” Devils coach Rick Kowalsky said. “We’re tight defensively in our own end, but it’s more about taking away time and space. I think if you ask anybody who’s seen us play our better games, including opposing coaches and players, that’s what it’s been about.”
Albany got on the board in the first when a Kelly Zajac pass through traffic riccocheted off a Crunch player to the waiting stick of Raman Hrabarenka, a defenseman sneaking up to the weak side on a power play. He one-timed it past goalie Cedrick Desjardins for the eventual game-winner.
“It was kind of lucky, but you have to be waiting for it,” Hrabarenka said. “It’s my job to be ready, and if I have a chance, score goals.”
Hrabarenka’s broken-stick shot in the third fluttered to Mike Sislo in the slot, and Sislo buried it for his 20th goal of the season. Sislo added a long-range empty-netter in the final minute for his 21st.
“We played our game, played aggressive and played a good game in all three zones,” Hrabarenka said. “It’s a team win. It’s just a matter of working hard, and that’s why we were better than Syracuse tonight.”
Albany is now 32-20-3-7, just two points out of fifth in the conference with 14 games remaining. The Devils will host Binghamton on Wednesday night at 7.
“You get down to playoff hockey time, that’s how it is,” Wedgewood said. “You block shots, you put your body on the line, you pay a price to win hockey games. We start doing that now, we’ll be better off, hopefully, once we make it into a playoff spot.”
Syracuse 0 0 0 – 0
Albany 1 0 2 – 3
First Period — 1, Albany, Hrabarenka 6 (K. Zajac, Urbom), 16:53 (pp). Penalties — DiSalvatore, Syr (hooking), 15:32; Witkowski, Syr (roughing), 17:50; Pesonen, Alb (roughing), 17:50; Sestito, Alb (slashing), 17:50.
Second Period — None. Penalties — Helgeson, Alb (holding), 8:41; Gourde, Syr (elbowing), 10:57; Sestito, Alb (tripping), 19:52.
Third Period — 2, Albany, Sislo 20 (Hrabarenka, K. Zajac), 14:45. 3, Albany, Sislo 21 (McPherson), 19:38. Penalties — Langelier-Parent, Syr, double-minor (roughing), 2:31; Kelly, Alb (roughing), 2:31; Henry, Syr (holding), 10:05; Pesonen, Alb (cross-checking), 15:12.
Shots on Goal — Syracuse 4-4-5 — 13. Albany 8-15-14 — 37.
Power-play opportunities — Syracuse 0 of 4; Albany 1 of 4.
Goalies — Syracuse, Desjardins 7-16-2 (36 shots-34 saves). Albany, Wedgewood 11-12-3 (13-13).
A — 3,016. T — 2:16.
Referees — Chris Brown, Ryan Murphy. Linesmen — Steeve Lemay, Frank Murphy.