ALBANY, NY – In a perfect world, the Albany Devils will win their third straight game against the Utica Comets and skate into the Division Finals. The Devils own a 2-0 series advantage with an elimination game Tuesday on the road looming.
Albany was able to take care of business on home ice, winning, 3-2, Friday and, 5-1, Saturday. Now the team heads into a hostile environment at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Not only will Albany have to deal with a rowdy crowd in the AHL’s smallest building, but there are other disadvantages of playing on the road.
“Face-offs,” Head Coach Rick Kowalsky was quick to point out. “They’re a good face off team and we’ve been able to use some guys, obviously [Jim O’Brien] is our only right-hand center, so not being able to get him out on some situations with them having last change. We may have to put him and Rod Pelley on no matter what because we don’t know what matchup we’re going to get.
“Then just the overall matchups, whether it’s a defensive pairing playing against some of our top guys, or line match ups. Expect to see more of that in Utica. They’re pretty consistent the way they play, but they’re aggressive in that building — a very good fore-checking building. They should have a good crowd. I think getting over the atmosphere certainly early on is going to be key for us.”
The Devils need one more victory to advance to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time in their 10-year history. The team has never had the opportunity to play in an clinching game while leading in a playoff series.
“We know this is the toughest game to win,” Kowalsky said. “They’re going back to their building where they play very well. Our guys have done a good job all year of kind of just focusing on the next task and I feel confident that our group knows what’s ahead of us. We’ve talked about the fact that this, in any series, is the hardest game to win. I think our guys will be ready knowing that they certainly will be.”
The Devils are 6-0-1-0 all time at the “Aud” during the regular season, including a 3-0-1-0 mark this past year.