Senators vote to play Rats more often

By Mike Buskus

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 5, 2003). 8,144 fans (some with free tickets from season ticket holder redemptions) braved the end of an ice storm, and some may have sought refuge from houses without power, to watch the season finale for the Albany River Rats at Pepsi Arena. The power was with the Binghamton Senators, including lengthy 5-on-3s, and the Senators prevailed, 4-2, including a Binghamton empty-net goal in the waning seconds.

It was a scoreless first period, with Alex Brooks of the Rats ringing one off the post, Mike Rupp driving hard to the net, but nothing getting past Ray Emery of Binghamton. At the other end, Scott Clemmensen foiled Bob Wren on a decent chance in close.

Midway through the second period, David Hymovitz fired a harmless looking shot from the boards at the edge of the right wing circle. However, Scott Clemmensen, partially screened by his own defenseman, Krisjanis Redlihs, never saw it in time as it snuck through the pads.

A few minutes later, a major penalty changed the game, to the advantage of the Senators. Albany defenseman, Mike Matteucci, was given a five minute major and a game misconduct for boarding Antoine Vermette, who was cut when driven into the boards. During the ensuing major penalty, things got worse with a Sutton tripping penalty (giving Binghamton a full two minutes of 5-on-3). No sooner was that double-short-handed situation killed off by the Rats when defenseman Victor Uchevatov inadvertently cleared the puck over the glass. Thus, another two minutes of 5-on-3 started.

This time, the tired Albany penalty killers were unable to stop the Senators. Working with the two-man advantage, Joe Murphy of Binghamton redirected a shot by Josh Langfield past Clemmensen, to give the Senators a 2-0 lead.

When the Rats finally killed off what was left of the five minute major, the one truly bogus call of the night went against the Rats. Mike Rupp was called for tripping by referee Jeff Smith. Video replay showed that Chris Bala of the Senators fell on his own, losing an edge and that Rupp never got closer than five feet to Bala. The Rats did kill off this penalty.

The Senators got what appeared to be an insurmountable 3-0 lead shortly after a River Rats power play expired early in the third period. Jeff Ulmer went five-hole against Clemmensen from the left wing circle.

The River Rats were able to avoid the embarrassment of being shut out twice in the same week by Ray Emery. Craig Darby won an offensive zone face-off after a Binghamton icing. After giving it to Steve Kariya, the latter fed Mike Rupp, whose shot from the left side went in off Darby in front of the net.

The Rats made it interesting when they garnered a power play goal late in the third period. Steve Kariya pounced on a rebound of a Craig Darby shot and the deficit was a single goal.

Going for broke, the Rats pulled the goalie with over two minutes remaining, when Albany had a power play after a Binghamton delay of game penalty. Things never clicked, though, and defenseman Julien Vauclair of the Senators got an unassisted, empty-net goal with 32 seconds remaining. Some would have questioned the wisdom of Vauclair’s three-quarter length rink shot, though, since if it had not gone in it would have been icing. However, the empty-netter gave the Senators their 4-2 margin of victory.

The Albany River Rats failed to register a single victory against the Binghamton Senators in the Senators’ first AHL campaign. Binghamton won the series, 6-0-2.

The three stars, as selected by Albany media: third, to the entire Albany River Rats’ 2002-2003 team, second, to Steve Kariya of the Rats, with a goal and an assist and some speedy play that drew a penalty late in the game; and, first, to Jeff Ulmer of the Senators for the game-winning goal.

The River Rats ended their season tonight, with 25 wins, 37 losses, 11 ties, and 7 overtime losses, for 68 points, a tangible improvement from the 14-win, 52-point disaster last year. However, for the third straight campaign, the River Rats failed to qualify for post-season play.