If the Albany Devils don’t shoot the lights out at Mile One Centre tonight, it won’t be for a lack of pulled triggers.
The St. John’s IceCaps can eliminate the Devils from the first-round Calder Cup playoffs series with a win tonight at 6 in Game 4. They took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series by shutting Albany out in Wednesday’s Game 3, in no small part due to the Devils’ tendency, on occasion, to pass up shots.
“We didn’t skate like we can,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “We didn’t skate with the puck or take their ice, and they certainly gave it to us. The more the game went on, I think they went into a little bit of protect-the-puck mode, especially through the neutral zone, and we were able to attack with speed as the game went on. We didn’t do it enough early. Getting to the net, getting pucks to the net, then executing off the rush. We had eight to 10 odd-man rushes.”
The Devils have scored just one five-on-five goal in the first three games of the series, adding four on the power play.
St. John’s goalie Michael Hutchinson has been good, but he spent too much of Wednesday’s game untested, facing 14 shots in the first 40 minutes, while the IceCaps put 30 on Albany goalie Keith Kinkaid.
“Taking care of executing on our opportunities. Although we did get outshot — and our goalie was outstanding — we did have opportunities to score,” Albany captain Rod Pelley said. “I felt like we may have given them a little too much. But they’re a good team, and they skate hard. Saying that, it is a little bit frustrating when you have chances, odd-man rushes, rebounds [and don’t score]. You need to capitalize on those. It could be a different outcome, it could be a different game.”
Kinkaid has played all three games and has a 1.68 goals-against average and .949 save percentage, so he’s done his part to keep the Devils in games.
Pelley said Thursday that despite the loss in Game 3, the Devils are not taking time to dwell on missed opportunities. Instead, they had an easy skate and took in the Newfoundland sights, and will try to keep each other positive heading into what could be their final game.
“Our backs are against the wall, it’s an elimination game, we know where we’re at,” he said. “We had a good video session, we had a few laughs at the end to keep it light-hearted. That’s where we’re at, right now, as a group. It’s our job, together, as a team in that room to keep each other up. That’s been our mentality about it. Everyone’s not going to be cheery every day, so other guys have to notice that and pick them up.”
The Devils have not scored the first goal of the game in any of the first three contests. In the regular season, Albany was 31-8-1-5 when scoring first, 9-15-4-3 when not. . . .
Albany defenseman Dan Kelly (soreness) will not be an option tonight. Otherwise, the Devils are healthy, but Kowalsky said Thursday he could foresee no lineup changes.