Sunday, October 4, 2009

Rats fall in sloppy opener

Pat Dwyer, David Kolomatis
(Photo by J.S. Carras, Troy Record)

Hockey season has officially started. 

Last night a crowd of 6,507 gathered at the Times Union Center for game #1 of the Albany River Rats 2009-10 season. 

The River Rats showed spirit, but defensive breakdowns quashed any chance of victory against the opportunistic Manchester Monarchs. Albany was defeated 6-3. 

The Rats controlled most of the second and third periods, outshooting the Monarchs 38 to 31, but Manchester netminder Jonathan Bernier was sharp and Albany failed to convert on several key chances. 

In the end, it was poor defensive coverage that cost the Rats the game. 

Throughout the night the Monarchs created opportunities on Albany's mistakes. 

The River Rats gambled in the offensive zone, giving up far too many odd-man rushes. 

Manchester was allowed space coming over the blue line, which gave their speedy forwards the jump on the Rats' defenders. 

The Monarchs were also allowed to move the puck down low and across the crease on more than one occasion. 

Suffice it to say, the Rats have some work to do at practice this week. 

Still, the night wasn't all bad. 

The Rats left open some defensive holes, but they dominated large portions of the game with an impressive forecheck. In the future, if the Rats can close the defensive gap and maintain the same offensive pressure, they should be a very powerful team.

The most thrilling moment of the night came at the end of the second. The Rats, having trailed 3-1 since the first, controlled the period but had nothing to show for it. They were finally rewarded with just 0.4 seconds on the clock. Pointman Brett Carson took a pass from Zach Boychuk and roofed it blocker-side. The building was filled with hope.

Bryan Rodney, Brett Carson, Zach Boychuk
(Photo by Jennifer Bock)

The Rats tied the game early in the third, but any chance of finishing on top was erased by three consecutive Manchester goals. 

Scoring for the Rats in addition to Carson were rookies Drayson Bowman and Chris Terry (see videos here and here). It was the first professional goal for both. Bowman played exceptionally well and earned second star honors.

First-year forward Zach Boychuk again displayed unbelievable offensive determination. He helped generate numerous opportunities. He is always dangerous and pursues the puck like a bloodhound.

Zack Fitzgerald deserves accolades for having the courage to go toe-to-toe with Manchester heavyweight Kevin Westgarth. Fitzgerald gave up several inches in height and roughly 40 pounds in weight, yet still held his own (barely). At the time, the Rats were playing sluggish and had just gone down two goals. The fight put the bench back on its feet. The effort was appreciated by Fitzgerald's teammates and by the fans. That's what counts. 

Justin Peters stopped 25 of 31 shots. He allowed six goals, but none were particularly soft. 

Alternate captain Mike Angelidis was injured in the second period after going hard into the boards. He left the ice favoring his shoulder and did not return. 

Harrison Reed, Matthew Pistilli and Benn Olson were scratched. 

The River Rats play again next Friday at home against the Portland Pirates.