Business went on as usual in Albany on Saturday, as the New Jersey Devils’ AHL affiliate kept its focus on the ice underneath them instead of the changes in Newark.
New Jersey fired head coach Peter DeBoer on Friday, as well as assistant coach Dave Barr. Saturday morning, New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello announced he will step back behind the bench as head coach, and he hired co-coaches Adam Oates and Scott Stevens, both former assistant coaches with New Jersey.
The Albany Devils kept their minds on beating the visiting Springfield Falcons, which they did, 4-3, on Joe Whitney’s overtime goal. Albany head coach Rick Kowalsky, though, said there’s no avoiding thinking about the coaching shakeup at least a little bit.
“I built a relationship with Pete over the years, and it’s tough anytime that decision has to be made,” Kowalsky said. “It’s tough when the big club struggles, whether it’s a coaching change or things just aren’t going well.
“In my term here, [the organization has] been to a Stanley Cup final, and we’ve seen different things happen. You build relationships with these people, and even though we’re down here, we’re still involved in it, as far as having a vested interest in wanting them to do well. So when they don’t, you think about it and feel for everybody involved.”
Albany captain Rod Pelley played 74 games with New Jersey in Oates’ first year as an assistant there, then seven more the following year. He’s also worked with Stevens in camp or when Stevens was in Albany on special assignment.
“Him being the assistant coach, me being a young guy, not playing every night, we worked on a lot of things together,” Pelley said. “He’s a great teacher. I think, for the young guys up there, Adam Larsson, [Eric] Gelinas, these types of guys, he’s going to be very good with.
“I had [Stevens] briefly as an assistant coach, and he obviously worked with the D-men a lot and the penalty kill, so I got to work with him on the penalty kill. He’s just a huge presence in the room.”
Kowalsky is in his fifth season as the Devils’ AHL coach, but said he didn’t give much thought to being called upon to come to New Jersey Saturday. Instead, his thoughts were with DeBoer and the two returning co-coaches.
“Both intelligent guys,” Kowalsky said. “I hope it works out. It’s a tough situation for everybody involved. Hopefully, they can get this thing turned around.”
Albany got things turned around after watching leads of 2-0 and 3-2 dissolve Saturday, allowing three power-play goals.
They got a game-winner from Whitney, though, 34 seconds into overtime. It was his 11th of the season and team-leading 28th point.
Springfield 0 2 1 0 — 3
Albany 0 3 0 1 — 4
First Period — None. Penalties — Labrie, Spr (interference), 1:25; Wohlberg, Alb (hooking), 10:28; D. Zajac, Alb, double-minor (high-sticking), 18:28.
Second Period — 1, Albany, Wohlberg 1, 6:09. 2, Albany, Black 6 (Scarlett, Whitney), 6:41. 3, Springfield, Anderson 3 (Rychel), 8:20 (pp). 4, Springfield, St. Denis 1 (Urban, Anderson), 11:19 (pp). 5, Albany, Boucher 9 (Whitney), 15:39 (pp). Penalties — Kelly, Alb (roughing), 7:17; Janssen, Alb (boarding), 9:33; St. Denis, Spr (holding), 14:17; Tynan, Spr (cross-checking), 17:39.
Third Period — 6, Springfield, Craig 11 (Urban, Tynan), 7:58 (pp). Penalties — Fraser, Alb (tripping), 6:44.
Overtime — 7, Albany, Whitney 11 (Burlon), :34. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — Springfield 5-11-9-0 — 25. Albany 10-7-7-1 — 25.
Power-play opportunities — Springfield 3 of 6; Albany 1 of 3.
Goalies — Springfield, Dansk 4-3-2 (25 shots-21 saves). Albany, Wedgewood 5-5-2 (25-22).
A — 5,008. T — 2:33.
Referee — Geno Binda. Linesmen — Steeve Lemay, Frank Murphy.