By Mike Buskus
Albany Week in Review
It was a tough week, by any standards. For the players (5 games in 7 nights) and for the fans (no wins; two overtime losses, one against Hartford, reported last week in AWIR).
Since Albany Week in Review last did a weekly recap, the River Rats have not won a game. They lost a home-and-home series with the Worcester IceCats, losing on the road in Worcester on Wednesday (2-1) and then in overtime at home (3-2). On the road in Lowell with a full bus-load of Booster Club supporters to cheer them on, the Rats lost a one-goal game (2-1) to the Lowell Lock Monsters.
Then came Sunday. With many of those holding tickets staying home to watch the Olympic gold-medal game between Team Canada and Team U.S.A., the Albany River Rats were pummeled, 5-0, at home in Pepsi Arena, for the seventh time this year the Rats have failed to score a goal.
With 22 games to go, the Rats are 19 points out of a playoff spot. However, with Springfield between the Rats and a playoff spot (not to mention Portland and Saint John), the prospects of play in April past tax day are dim at best.
Special teams were just awful this week. The River Rats were zero for 19 on the power play in four games. On the penalty kill, the Rats allowed three opponents’ goals on 16 opportunities.
Using the “last ten games” as a measure of current effectiveness, the River Rats are playing worse than all but one squad in this 27-team league: only the Cleveland Barons (1-8-1) are less effective lately than the River Rats.
By most statistical measures, the River Rats are simply not competitive. The team ranks dead last in goals-for (2.26 per game); fourth from the bottom in most goals allowed (3.43); dead last in shots for (25.28); third from the bottom in shots allowed (35.03); third from last on the power play overall (13.4%); second from last in penalty kill overall (79.8%).
Measured by the ability to come back from behind in a game, the River Rats are near the bottom of the barrel. Only once in 26 games have the River Rats gone on to win a game when trailing after the first period (1-23-2). Only twice has the team emerged victorious when behind after two periods (2-29-1). Even leading after two periods, the team still fails to win more than half the time (8-6-3).
Albany Week in Review player of the week
In truth, not too many River Rats had very good weeks this week. Red ink saturated the page in toting up the plus/minus numbers. Of the players still here at the end of the week (Brian Gionta, Andreas Salomonsson and Mike Commodore joined the Devils on Thursday), only one (Lucas Nehrling) was in the “plus” (at +1) for the week.
AWIR had no trouble selecting Steve Guolla as player of the week. Despite being sidelined recently by two injuries (first, a broken face bone above his upper lip and under his nose; then, an ankle injury), Guolla is the most dependable player wearing a River Rats’ uniform.
Guolla scored the lone goal for the River Rats twice this week: on Wednesday in Worcester, in a 2-1 loss; and again on Saturday in Lowell, as Albany lost by an identical score. But his worth to the team is a lot more than just raw statistics or numbers. He is one of the best face-off artists on the team, is dependable on the penalty kill and is the most conscientious back-checker on the squad.
Guolla’s three points (2G; 1A) led the team this week. For his unflagging efforts despite injuries, and his total commitment to the team despite adversity, AWIR salutes Steve Guolla for his continued leadership and efforts.
Hennessy out for the season; in Devils’ broadcast booth
The New Jersey Devils’ web site announced tonight (Monday, February 25, 2002), that Albany River Rats’ radio play-by-play announcer, John Hennessy, has been appointed as Devils’ radio announcer for the duration of this season.
Hennessy replaces Mike Miller, who left recently to accept a management position with the Toledo (OH) minor league hockey club. Hennessy joins Randy Velischek, the color commentator, at WABC, 770-AM.
Albany Week in Review congratulates John Hennessy on this appointment. For the past nine seasons, Hennessy has been the voice of the Albany River Rats, a job he discharged with distinction. Last season, in mid-year, he was called up to New Jersey to fill in for Mike Miller during Miller’s treatment for throat cancer. Miller returned to the microphone just in time for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Hennessy will be replaced at WTRY, 980-AM, in Albany, by Jonathan Scherzer, the Rats’ head of media relations, who filled in for Hennessy at the end of last season when Hennessy was filling in for Miller in New Jersey.
AWIR congratulates Hennessy and Scherzer and wishes both of them well with their new broadcasting responsibilities.