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Rats edge Pens as Calder Cup visits Albany

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04-01-2005, 09:33 PM
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MIKE4DEVILS
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Rats edge Pens as Calder Cup visits Albany

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 1, 2005). The Albany River Rats were as close to the Calder Cup as they have been in years. Literally speaking, the players were within 150 feet of the cup, which was on display in the Pepsi Arena, as part of the American Hockey League's road show to display the silver chalice that some AHL club will hoist in June.

Sadly, for the fifth consecutive season, the River Rats will not qualify for post-season play.

But, for one night at least, they re-lived some old glories from their Calder Cup winning season in 1994-95, which was a decade ago. With Geordie Kinnear and Scott Pellerin on hand from that team, and former Rats (and current Devils') radio broadcaster, John Hennessy, also present, fans were able to line up for photographs with the Calder Cup.

In the actual game tonight, the Rats prevailed, 2-1, against a relentless Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins squad. As it happened, the Rats got all the offense they would need in a 13-second burst of activity late in the first period. They then hung on for dear life, being out-shot, 15-3 in the second period, and 9-2 in the third period.

It just goes to show that some good, old-fashioned work habits pay dividends. Ilkka Pikkarainen (who had the Rats' only, and therefore, game-winning tally six days ago in a 1-0 win over Springfield) kept poking and poking at a loose puck in front of Danny Sabourin. It went past the Penguins' netminder t 13:54 of the first period to give the Rats the lead.

Thirteen seconds later, and before the first goal was even announced on the public address system, Ahren Nittel found himself on his favorite spot on the ice: at the right-wing face-off circle, with nothing but open ice between him and the opposing goalie. The Albany forward, who leads the team in shooting accuracy at 18.9%, carded his 22nd goal of the season in only his 40th game of the campaign. (Injuries have sidelined him.) Nittel rifled a one-timer past Sabourin, over his shoulder. Pikkarainen drew the primary assist.

The Rats played defense the rest of the way, with the Penguins silencing some good scoring chances from the line of Brian Gionta, Dean McAmmond and Aleksander Suglobov.

However, the Rats only mustered 5 shots in the final 40 minutes, to 24 for the visiting Pens. Ari Ahonen was beaten only once, and not one that could be blamed on him, in 30 shots for the Penguins. Midway through the second period, after the Rats had failed to take advantage of an easy "out" for the puck, faced a lengthy WBS puck possession in the zone, with an extended scramble. Then, Michel Ouellet slid the puck out to Rob Scuderi in the high slot. His shot through a screen bested Ahonen stick side low.

The third period gave Wilkes-Barre/Scranton some real scoring opportunities that included a four-minute power play after Dean McAmmond was whistled for a double-minor. Some energetic penalty killing, including outstanding work by Tuomas Pihlman of Albany, helped the Rats weather the storm.

Ari Ahonen was solid, stopping Ramzi Abid in the final seconds of the second period; Kenny Corupe early in the third; and, finally, Maxime Talbot later in the third.

On the negative side, Aleksander Suglobov made a sloppy drop pass that Matt DeMarchi was not expecting near the Rats' blue line, forcing DeMarchi to hook Erik Christensen down to thwart what would have been a Pens' short-handed bid.

The three stars: third, to Matt Hussey of the Pens, with four shots and some promising scoring chances; second, to Ahren Nittel of Albany, with the game-winning goal; and, first, to Ari Ahonen of the Rats with 29 saves on 30 shots. (Ahonen has only allowed 1 goal in his last three games.)

Others deserving recognition for excellent performances tonight include defenseman Alain Nasreddine of the Pens for strong physical play; and Tuomas Pihlman of the Rats, both for his excellent penalty kill work and for digging and grinding in the corners.

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04-01-2005, 09:46 PM
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Nittel has some real knack for putting the puck in the net.

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04-02-2005, 09:43 AM
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Big McLargehuge
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WBS = hopeless

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