By Mike Buskus
The Albany River Rats enjoyed a holiday, of several days duration, following Saturday night?s 3-2 overtime victory over the Providence Bruins. It was the first time this season that the Rats emerged victorious when trailing after two periods (1-14-1).
The overtime game-winning goal, notched by Joel Bouchard, came on a 2-on-1 break featuring Bruce Gardiner setting up Bouchard. It was only the second overtime victory (Syracuse was the other) in twelve contests this year to go to the extra session.
The week began on the road in Hamilton, at Copps Coliseum. In the Rats? most offensive outburst in 20 minutes this season, Albany scored five times in the first period and took a 5-3 lead into the first intermission. Two periods later, the Rats emerged victorious, 8-6, to score the most goals since last spring when Albany scored 8 while hosting the Bulldogs at the Pepsi Arena.
For Albany fans who remember Walt Kyle?s Bulldogs as being a particularly stingy and cautious defense, this year?s Hamilton team is different. The Bulldogs led the league, through games played on December 22, with 125 goals, or 3.91 per game. For an Albany team that was at the bottom of the league (2.33 per game), the 8-goal outburst in Hamilton may have revived the confidence of some players who had not scored.
At Copps Coliseum, Albany collected two of the three stars, with defenseman Mikko Jokela garnering third star (1G; 2A) and forward Christian Berglund bagging first star (2G; 1A). Mike Rupp (1G; 2A) scored for the first time in a month and a half.
Ari Ahonen had quite a scare in Hamilton. He was accidentally cut by a skate blade in a scrum near the net and was replaced early in the second period by Scott Clemmensen. Fortunately for Ahonen, the cut was several inches away from his jugular vein and medical staff at Copps Coliseum were able to stop the bleeding.
Unfortunately for the River Rats, they were not able to capitalize on any momentum when they traveled to Springfield on Friday. Despite a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes, and a 2-0 lead after 40, they surrendered a pair of goals in the final six minutes of regulation. In overtime, Jean-Guy Trudel of Springfield (2G), got the game-winner in a four-on-three power play situation.
The loss in Springfield was particularly disappointing as the Rats had outplayed the Falcons most of the game. Also, Springfield is in the same (East) division in the same (Eastern) conference, so a potential gain in the standings in the quest for a playoff spot took a setback.
Albany finished the week at home, emerging victorious, 3-2, in overtime against division-leading Providence. Coach Bob Carpenter had enthusiastic words of praise about equal in intensity to his harsh words of criticism after the loss the night before in Springfield.
Fans of rookie Brian Gionta saw the rookie from Boston College skate for the first time in five games. An injury to his right knee (originally reported as an ankle injury) had healed enough to permit him to return to action. Though he did not register a point, his fearless style of skating through traffic generated excitement and scoring chances.
The most satisfying part of the game against Providence was the intensity of the defensive effort. Save only for a gap in coverage of about two minutes (when Sean Haggerty of the Bruins bagged a pair of goals off of behind-the-net feeds), Albany played a solid defensive effort against Providence. The Rats limited the Bruins to 28 regular-session shots, 20% fewer than the customary number allowed this season.
Scott Clemmensen earned his second victory of the year (2-8-1; 2.97 GAA; .913 save percentage), and his first on home ice. It was, of course, familiar to him nonetheless, as he was Boston College?s netminder this spring when he and teammate Brian Gionta won the NCAA title at the Frozen Four at Pepsi Arena in Albany.
Veteran linesman retires
Harry Ammian will never forget this game. How could he, receiving as he did a bunch of stitches to repair a cut below his ear. Ammian, a veteran of 22 seasons, 800 regular campaign games and 100 playoff contests, was honored before the Providence game in an on-ice ceremony. American Hockey League President, Dave Andrews, presented a ring and Ammian, an Albany area native, received a standing ovation.
Ten minutes into the game, it was unclear whether Ammian would finish the game. He got sandwiched between a pair of high sticks at the blue line and was cut below the ear, bleeding profusely. He went to the locker room for repairs.
Seconds before the end of the first period, Ammian returned to the ice, to more applause from the fans. In his absence during part of the first period, NHL linesman (and long-time AHL official, Tony Sericolo) worked the lines.
At games? end, Harry Ammian received the media?s award for ?second star.? Reportedly, he would have bagged first star, but the traditional honor to the overtime game-winner went to Joel Bouchard, whose tally with 20 seconds left in the extra session brought two standings points to Albany.
For his career of over two decades, which included 14 Calder Cup finals, Albany Week in Review salutes Harry Ammian. A fine linesman, he went out in style. Thanks for a job well done.
AWIR player of the week
Albany Week in Review has selected forward Bruce Gardiner as the player of the week. He scored one goal, but assisted on four others, including Joel Bouchard?s overtime game-winner against Providence.
With 10 points (2G; 8A) in 15 games, and an ?even? status in the plus/minus category, Gardiner has been a steadying veteran influence on the team.
Others with strong performances for Albany this week included Daryl Andrews, with very strong positional and physical play on defense; forward Steve Guolla, with four assists; defenseman Joel Bouchard with two goals and two assists; and rookie defenseman Mikko Jokela with two goals and three assists. It was a very close call in picking the player of the week and Jokela was a close second in the selection process.
The week ahead
The Rats host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Wednesday, travel to Providence on Friday, and return home on Saturday to entertain the St. Johns? Maple Leafs.