By Mike Buskus
Albany Week in Review #22
The road woes continue. Despite support from about 80 members of the Albany River Rats Booster Club, who made the trip to Portland, Manchester and Saint John (New Brunswick), the Albany River Rats failed to win a game on their recent road trip. The Rats took an overtime loss in Portland (3-2), tied in Manchester (4-4), and were soundly defeated at Harbour Station in Saint John, New Brunswick (6-2).
The current road troubles bring the winless streak away from home to ten games, the second time this season that the River Rats have traveled 10 games in a row without a win. The earlier winless on the road streak ran from October 5, 2001 (the season opener in Providence) to December 1, 2001. The current streak, of equal length, started on January 26 and, at the moment anyway, continues. Only the Cleveland Barons (at 11 in a row without a win) and the Hershey Bears (same number) have had worse road winless streaks this season. However, it is the second time this season for the Rats in the winless-in-ten situation.
The game in Portland went into overtime thanks to a late third-period goal by Steve Guolla (his 21st, leading the team). Jiri Bicek had opened the scoring early in the first, but a pair of Portland goals gave the Pirates the lead. With only seven seconds left in overtime, Trent Whitfield of the Pirates got his second of the night, to send away the Rats, 3-2.
In Manchester, at the new Verizon Arena, pairs of goals by Richard Rochefort and Jiri Bicek enabled the Rats to skate away with a 4-4 tie. For the second time in as many nights, the Rats were widely out-shot. Portland had edged Albany in shots, 47-27, and Manchester’s shot output led Albany’s, 41-29.
Fatigue caught up to the Rats after they crossed the border. Jean-Francois Damphousse got pulled after the Flames scored five times on 39 shots. Scott Clemmensen faced 21 shots and allowed one Saint John marker. Stan Gron and Ted Drury had the Albany goals.
AWIR player of the week
Coach Bob Carpenter named Richard Rochefort as the team nominee for the Sherwood Player of the Week, with two goals and one assist. Rocky Rochefort was under consideration by Albany Week in Review, and the veteran was solid for the Rats.
However, AWIR instead selected Christian Berglund as player of the week. With four points (all assists) on the week, but, more importantly an impact on the scoreboard in every game that week, the feisty forward is selected as AWIR’s player of the week. Berglund had one assist in the Portland game, two against the Monarchs and one against the Flames.
Since Albany only had eight goals on the week and Berglund figured in the scoring on four of them (half the team’s output), Berglund is the AWIR player of the week. (He was a net “even” on plus/minus.)
Here and there
On Monday, veteran Ted Drury was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, then sent to Lowell. Drury trailed the River Rats’ plus/minus standings, at minus-27 in 51 games. However, he added some intensity and was decent on face-offs. AWIR wishes Drury well with his new team.
In his place, the Devils acquired defenseman, Mike Rucinski. The blueliner who most recently played for the Lowell LockMonsters, was chosen by the Hartford Whalers as #217 overall in the 9th round in the 1995 entry draft. (Stats courtesy of hockeydb.com, www.hockeydb.com )
Rucinski has been connected with the Carolina organization for a number of years, with stops in New Haven and the Cincinnati Cyclones of the now-defunct IHL. He has also played 26 NHL games.
Rucinski had his River Rats’ debut in the 4-2 loss to the St. Johns’ Maple Leafs on Tuesday of this week. He played capably on defense, was “even” in plus/minus and recorded four shots on goal.
Rucinski suited up wearing number “4”, the jersey number most recently worn by Andre Lakos, but used for many years by Geordie Kinnear.
Albany Week in Review welcomes Mike Rucinski to the River Rats. The 26-year-old blueliner should add some veteran experience on the blue line.
As the NHL trade deadline approaches (March 19), speculation continues about whether one of the River Rats’ netminders might be packaged in a deal. Ari Ahonen and Scott Clemmensen each have 5 wins on the season, and J.F. Damphousse (who backed up Brodeur much of the season) has 2 victories in Albany. All three have played well for the Rats. The stats for the goaltenders have suffered, as Albany has allowed a league-high 35.68 shots per game. In Saint John last Saturday, the River Rats were out-shot, 60-18, by the Flames. Goaltenders pay a price when that happens, but all three Albany netminders have been sharp this year.