For a hockey player, Kelly Zajac is finding unique ways to score goals.
The Union College graduate looked like he would have fit in on the soccer pitch or baseball diamond Friday night as he scored one on a bounce off his helmet and batted another into the net on a pass that was about waist-high and on the inside corner of the strike zone.
His 11th and 12th goals of the season lifted the Albany Devils to a 2-1 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
“I didn’t even know that went off my head,” he said. “I was just trying to stay in front of the net, get to the net like the coaches say. That second one, I think it was an inside pitch, and I was just trying to knock it down. I got a lucky bounce, and it went in.”
The first goal came when Dan Kelly’s hard-angle shot from the left caromed off the stick of goalie Philippe Trudeau and popped straight up in the crease. Zajac was at the top of the crease, and Bridgeport forward Alan Quine tried to punch the puck away from the net, but it instead hit Zajac’s helmet and sailed back past Trudeau.
The second broke a 1-1 tie at 5:08 of the third period when Stefan Matteau sent a waist-high pass from behind the net to Zajac as he skated below the right circle. Not only was he swinging from a hard angle, he had to take the puck out of mid-air. It hit off Trudeau’s pad and went in for the eventual game-winner.
“You go to the net, you put pucks there, good things happen,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “I thought there were a lot of loose pucks bouncing around there; we didn’t find as many as we would have liked. I thought they played a pretty tight game, and when that happens, you have to find ways to get pucks. They’re ugly ones, but we’ll take a bunch of those.”
Albany will host Providence tonight at 5 and Syracuse Sunday at 5.
The seventh-place Devils gained a point in the playoff race on eighth-place Hershey and ninth-place Norfolk, which both lost in overtime. They are two ahead of Hershey and three ahead of Norfolk, though both those teams have a game in hand on Albany.
Another Union product, Albany goalie Keith Kinkaid, was solid in net, making 21 saves for his first win since March 7.
“I finally got the monkey off my back,” he said. “There were a few games we were winning and they’d tie it at the end. It feels real good to finally get that win again. Hopefully, this is a winning streak to come.”
Bridgeport 0 1 0 — 1
Albany 1 0 1 — 2
First Period — 1, Albany, K.Zajac 11 (Kelly), 18:52. Penalties — Antipin, Bri (high-sticking), 11:52.
Second Period — 2, Bridgeport, Graham 1 (Ness, Langkow), 14:27 (pp). Penalties — Kelly, Alb (holding), 1:00; Kelly, Alb (high-sticking), 12:58; Hrabarenka, Alb (charging), 13:23.
Third Period — 3, Albany, K.Zajac 12 (Matteau, Helgeson), 5:08. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — Bridgeport 4-12-7 — 23. Albany 9-5-13 — 27.
Power-play opportunities — Bridgeport 1 of 3; Albany 0 of 1.
Goalies — Bridgeport, Trudeau 0-2-1 (27 shots-25 saves). Albany, Kinkaid 22-13-5 (23-22).
A — 3,487. T — 2:14.
Referee — Tom Chmielewski. Linesmen — Mike Emanatian, Jim Harper.