ALBANY, NY — Despite Ben Johnson’s hat trick, the Albany Devils lost, 5-4, to the Springfield Falcons Saturday at Times Union Center. The Falcons’ offense came alive in the third period scoring four times to take the lead.
Matt Lorito scored Albany’s other goal, while Marc-Andre Gragnani and Paul Thompson each had two assists.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s game:
Send In The Hats!
Go to the net and good things will happen. It’s a mantra that has been repeated by coaches for decades. For Johnson good things happened, he picked up the Devils first hat trick of the season and first since Apr. 4, 2015.
Each goal came the same way: Johnson hovered near the crease and capitalized on bouncing pucks. For his first goal, Johnson dashed in from the corner and slipped a rebound off a hard Jim O’Brien shot behind the goaltender. For his next two, he parked himself squarely in front of the net and waited for an opportunity, when it arrived he pounced.
It was exactly the type of game Kowalsky wanted from his young forward.
“He’s been playing well for the last couple weeks and I’ve rewarded him with keeping him with O’Brien and Paul Thompson, which are top six guys” Kowalsky said. “He’s been playing solid defensively, so he’s earned the right to be there.”
“It felt good,” Johnson said. “It’s funny before the game Rick told us that seven goals in the last three games were from the point, rebound goals. I just threw my stick in the garbage tonight hoping to get a garbage goal. It’s one of those spots you try to get to as much as you can. I tried to focus on going there and got a couple of lucky bounces.”
Power Play Bursts to Life
After six games without a power play goal, the Devils power play unit came alive, scoring three times with the extra skater. Johnson had two power-play tallies and Lorito netted the third. The Devils wanted to focus on getting good chances and creating havoc down low near the goaltender. They succeeded, going 3-4 with three rebound goals on pucks bouncing in and around the crease.
“I challenged them a bit about responding, playing hard, winning some battles and keeping it simple,” Kowalsky said. “We got some different personnel but we shot pucks created secondary chances and three of them ended up as goals.”
Planning for the Playoffs
While Kowalsky wasn’t happy with the outcome, he did see Saturday’s game could be a valuable experience going forward. The loss helps keep the team focused without costing the Devils anything. The benefit of clinching a playoff spot early allows for games where the team can see what they need to work on to improve. Kowalsky felt the game offered an important teaching moment for his team.
“You’ve got to find a way to get pucks and bodies to the front of the net,” Kowalsky said. “It was sort of a learning experience for us offensively and defensively tonight in how you need to play in the playoffs. You have to make sure you’re blocking shots defensively, tying up sticks, getting rid of anything loose in front. On the other side, you just have to crash the net, shoot and create offense that way. Through two periods we played the way we wanted to play.”