Albany Week in Review

By Mike Buskus

Only two points out of six

It was a weekend in which coaches, players and fans hoped to see
movement up
out of the basement in the standings. With three games in three
nights, the
Albany River Rats faced three opponents (Springfield;
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton;
Syracuse) that were near the bottom of the league: all three were in
the
bottom six out of 27 teams.

Springfield had not won on the road all season. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton,
despite making the Calder Cup finals last season, was in a deep slump,
winless in ten. The Crunch from Syracuse, too, were in decline.

The Rats even had a chance to string together a pair of wins for the
first
time on the season, having won their first road contest of the season
the
preceding Saturday (a 4-2 win over the Wolf*Pack in Hartford).

But hopes for a strong week evaporated on home ice Friday night as the
Rats
dropped a 3-1 tilt to Springfield. The Falcons, who had not won on
Albany
ice in several years, won, 3-1, as Springfield took advantage of its
5-on-3
power play, while Albany botched its two-man-up chance.

It was the first return to Albany by former Rat, Josef Boumedienne.
The
blueliner who was the Rats’ lone representative last year at the AHL
All-Star Classic, played quite capably for Springfield. Sheldon Keefe,
a
Tampa Bay prospect whose future was clouded a year and a half ago when
he
refused the Lightning’s invitation to report to the Rochester Americans
on
loan for post-season play (the Amerks went to the finals, losing to
Hartford), scored a pair of goals for Springfield.

Though the River Rats, in some respects at least, out-played the
Falcons,
only a defenseman’s shot (Daryl Andrews) from 40 feet out got past
Dieter
Kochan.

The week did not improve in snow-covered Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The
baby
Penguins soundly thrashed the Rats, 6-1, in the most penalty-filled
game to
date in the entire league. The teams combined for 216 penalty minutes,
with
Penguins’ enforcer, Steve Parsons, receiving a match penalty for
running
into goaltender Ari Ahonen. Parsons had earlier fought Mike Commodore
and
Brett Clouthier in the game.

The Albany power play disappeared in Wilkes-Barre, being blanked in a
dozen
opportunities, including a pair of two-man advantages. The 0-for-12 in
WBS
followed an 0-for-5 the night before against the Falcons, and an
0-for-3
against Hartford and an 0-for-5 against Worcester.

At week’s end, the Rats had sunk to 26th overall on the power play (at
12.9
percent), 26th on the road (at 9.3 percent), and 20th at home (at
16.1).
Quite a slide from October 19th, when the Rats got their first win of
the
season thanks to a 4-for-5 performance on the power play against
Portland.

On Sunday, the Rats returned home to entertain the Syracuse Crunch.
Despite
their spot in the standings, the past few seasons the Crunch have given
the
Rats trouble. With J.F. Labbe in net, the Crunch are usually in the
game,
particularly against teams (like the Rats) struggling to score
goals.

The Crunch took the lead early in the first period, with a power play
goal
one second after a two-man advantage expired. However, sparked by a
good
off-the-boards pass from Captain Sylvain Cloutier, Ted Drury tied the
game.
An overtime game-winner (the first win in an extra session this season)
came
off of Stephen Guolla’s stick, as the Rats won, 2-1, in overtime. It
was a
power play goal, the first power play goal in 35 power play
opportunities.

At week’s end, the Rats are in second-last place in the league, better
only
than Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. With their slide in the standings,
attendance
has dropped off, as well. Only Cleveland in the 27-team league,
averaging
2,569 per game, trails the Rats’ tally of 3,741 per game.

AWIR River Rats’ player of the week

Albany Week in Review has selected goaltender Scott Clemmensen as
player of
the week. The Boston College grad got two starts this past week,
against
Springfield on Friday (a 3-1 loss) and Syracuse on Sunday (a 2-1
victory).

Clemmensen showed good poise in both games, making 27 saves on 30 shots
against Springfield and 24 saves on 25 shots against Syracuse. He
seemed to
communicate well with his defenseman and two of the four goals he
allowed
were power-play markers, one of them one second after a 5-on-3 expired
but
before the fourth Rat could get into the play.

The win on Sunday night against Syracuse was Clemmensen’s first as a
professional. His record stands at 1-6-1, with a goals-against of 2.85
and
a save percentage of .915. Since Albany is second-worst in the league
in
terms of shots allowed (at 34.60 per game, better than only Portland),
it is
fair to say that Clemmensen, as well as the other Albany goaltenders,
are
really better than their “stats” might suggest. For his steady play in
two
home contests, as well as his first win as a pro, Clemmensen is
selected as
AWIR’s player of the week for Albany.