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Ryan's Hat-Trick Gives Albany Third Straight Win

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Michael Ryan scored all three goals, including the winner with 1:22 left in overtime, as the River Rats extended their win streak to three games.

Ryan scored 5:10 into the first period for a 1-0 Albany lead, then had Yannick Tifu's sharp-angle shot go in off his skate with 1:53 left in regulation for a 2-1 Rats' edge.

Bridgeport tied it when Sean Bentivoglio swept in a loose puck during a mad scramble in front of Rats goalie Daniel Manzato with 24.8 seconds left and Sound Tigers goalie Nathan Lawson on the bench for an extra attacker.

On the winning goal, defenseman Bryan Rodney made a nice play at the blue line to fake a shot and found Ryan all alone at the right post, where he had a slam dunk into a wide open net.

Manzato stopped 34 of 36 shots for his eighth win of the season, while Lawson had 30 saves and suffered his first loss after seven consecutive wins.

For Ryan, it was his second hat trick of the season. He also had three in a 7-1 win at Manchester on Dec. 12. Until then, Albany's last three-goal game was Jan. 20, 2007, by Cody McLeod.

Bridgeport 0 0 2 0

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Talk about a well-deserved break. After going 4-2-0-0 in a string of six games in eight days -- one that included a 1-0 loss to Lowell and a controversial non-goal call -- the River Rats will get some down time.

Albany beat second-place Bridgeport, 3-2, in overtime for its third straight win, something the Rats haven't done since Nov. 29 to Dec. 5. Their wins have all come against East Division foes in playoff position: Bridgeport, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (third at 21-12-1-1) and Binghamton (fourth at 19-11-3-3).

"It was a gutty effort, and it wasn't just tonight," head coach-GM Jeff Daniels said. "They battled the whole week. Every team probably goes through a stretch like this where you've got a lot of games in a short period of time. I thought it was a great week for us, especially winning the last three games against three teams ahead of us we're trying to catch."

Norfolk won at Portland tonight, so the Admirals and Rats remain tied for last in the East with 33 points, although Albany's points percentage is higher, having played one fewer game.

Most of the Rats will get the next two days off, before gearing up for the next game Jan. 9 in Worcester.

"We definitely need it," Daniels said. "We just played six in eight, and you look back at October and we played seven games the whole month. We'll take advantage of the next couple of days to get some rest for the guys, but we've got some areas to work on, the power play being first on that list.

"We'll skate some guys Monday, more of a goalie session just to get the goalies some work. Nothing high tempo, just a goalie day."

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Daniels and assistant coach Geordie Kinnear have been harping on the players all season to take advantage of shooting opportunities, but neither was going to quibble about Bryan Rodney's decision to pass the puck late in overtime.

Rodney was cranked and ready at Bridgeport's blue line when he did a head-fake and bought some room to get the puck to a wide open Rodney at the right post. Rodney showed his NHL ability, catching the pass and turning it into the winning goal in the blink of an eye.

"It was a great play by Rodney," Daniels said. "I think the whole bench was yelling to shoot, but he's got that great patience with the puck and he was able to see Ryan on the back side of the net. It was an easy goal for him."

Ryan described the events that led to the winning goal.

"We started the shift with Petro (linemate Jakub Petruzalek) and we had a little bit of time in their zone," he said. "He changed and Dodger (Nick Dodge) came in with some fresh legs. I thought about changing, but he looked like he was going to win his battle along the wall, which he did. He was able to get to the net and give it to Rods, and once Rods got it I decided to sit off the back door. He's got good enough vision where I figured he'd be able to see me, and he did.

"I knew he was going to pass. He kind of dropped that shoulder and stalled everyone for a second, and I had enough time to stop it and make sure I fired it in."

It was the third goal for Ryan, his second hat trick of the season. The other came in a 7-1 win at Manchester on Dec. 12, which was the first three-goal game for an Albany player since Cody McLeod on Jan. 20, 2007.

"It'll be nice to have a couple days off and try to regroup," Ryan said. "We kind of sat back on our hands a littlebit the last 10 minutes but we were able to pull through in overtime and get a little confidence back."

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Yannick Tifu was originally credited with Albany's second goal at 18:07 of the third period that gave the Rats a 2-1 lead. Bridgeport goalie Nathan Lawson -- who was 7-0 this season -- stopped Mark Flood's slap shot but appeared to lose sight of the rebound, which landed in the deep left corner.

Tifu, standing along the goal line, got to the puck first and whipped it at the net, trying to bank it in off the surprised goalie. When the puck went in, Tifu celebrated what was his first goal in 15 AHL games this season.

"I was so happy about that goal; first of the year," Tifu said. "Then I came on the bench and Ryan told me he touch it with his skate. I don't care. I'm just happy we got the 2-1 lead. That's all that matters."

Still, Tifu had two assists and was a plus-2 in the game, giving him points in five of six games (0g, 6a) since being recalled from ECHL Florida. He is also a plus-3.

"I'm really happy to be back and part of this right now," he said.

********************

Goalie Daniel Manzato finished with 34 saves to win his second start this week and improve to 8-6-0-1 on the season.

Daniels alternated Justin Peters and Manzato this week, with Peters beating Wilkes-Barre on Friday and losing to Lowell on Tuesday.

"Both guys have been great," Daniels said. "Both seem to be on their game. Petey has been going for a long period of time now, and Danny's stepped up with some big games for us. I'm happy with both guys right now. I'm comfortable with whoever I decide to go in. Now, it will be more of a consideration of who we're playing against and their history against that team, that kind of thing."

Manzato is a native of Switzerland in his second full North American season and first in the AHL. Both he and Peters seem to have settled into a nice rhythm.

"I think it's very good for the team, and very good for us," Manzato said. "We work very hard in practice. With Justin, we have a really good relationship between me and him. We show the coach that we can play and I think it's good for me and good for him and good for the team."

********************

NHL scout Don Helbig texted back tonight and reported that Pat Dwyer -- recalled from Albany today, was, in fact, in the lineup and playing on an all ex-Rats fourth line with Ryan Bayda and Brandon Sutter in Carolina's game tonight at Tampa Bay.

Wearing No. 39, Dwyer took 10 shifts for 5:57 of ice time, 4:32 at even strength and 1:25 on the penalty kill. Sutter played 6:39 and Bayda 5:15.

Dwyer and Bayda each registered one shot in Carolina's 3-2 win.

http://dailygazette.com/weblogs/janack/200...igers-postgame/

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