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Dwyer's Two-Goals Lead Albany Over Crunch

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Rats-Crunch pregame

By Phil Janack

Sunday, March 8, 2009

http://www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/janack...crunch-pregame/

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It's a beautiful, spring-like day here in Glens Falls, a perfect day for hockey (aren't they all?) as the River Rats get ready for their game this afternoon with Syracuse, the third of four trips to the Civic Center this season.

Albany (27-28-3-3) has won three consecutive "home" games here, including both this season. The Rats beat Worcester, 5-4, on Oct. 17 and edged Portland in a shootout, 3-2, on Feb. 7, before a sellout crowd of 5,462.

The team estimates today's crowd will top 5,000, which is outstanding. Albany's average attendance here this season is 4,625, which is 96 percent of capacity (listed at 4,806).

Today is rookie Brandon Sutter's last game in his two-week conditioning stint from the Carolina Hurricanes. He has four points (3g, 1a) and is plus-2 in six games with the Rats.

While Pat Dwyer will continue to wear the 'C' in the absence of Rats captain Tim Conboy, on recall to Carolina, defenseman Bryan Rodney has joined Mike Angelidis as one of two alternates. Until he was summoned by the Canes last week, Dwight Helminen had been wearing the second 'A.'

Former Adirondack Red Wings legend Glenn Merkosky is in the house today. He'll be honored next weekend with induction into the Binghamton Hockey Hall of Fame. Merk is joined in the press box "luxury suite" by Columbus scout Pete Dineen, his Calder Cup-winning teammate in 1989, and New Jersey Devils head coach Brent Sutter.

Ex-Rat forward Steve Kelly is scoreless and plus-2 in three games against Albany this season. The Rats are 2-3-0-1 vs. the Crunch in 2008-09.

To the game. Daniel Manzato is getting the start in goal today for Albany, his first since beating Norfolk last Sunday in the Rats emotional return to the former Knickerbocker Arena following their Feb. 19 bus crash. It is just Manzato's seventh start in 2009, but he is 5-1 in the previous six. He'll be opposed by Dan LaCosta.

The Rats continue to play with 17 skaters, one under the limit, meaning a player from one of top three lines will rotate through on the fourth line. From warmups, here are Albany's combinations:

Jakub Petruzalek-Nick Dodge-Harrison Reed; Pat Dwyer ©-Brandon Sutter-Jerome Samson; Aaron Clarke-Mike Angelidis (A)-Ryan Weston; Brad Herauf-Yannick Tifu.

Defense pairings: Bryan Rodney (A)-Brett Carson; Ryan McGinnis-Mark Flood; Benn Olson-Noah Babin.

Scratches: Stefan Chaput, Bobby Hughes, Joe Jensen, Nicolas Blanchard, Jonathan Paiement, Casey Borer, Trevor Gillies.

For Syracuse, lines were: Steve Kelly-Craig MacDonald (A)-Michael Blunden; Mike York-Derek MacKenzie (A)-Alexandre Picard; Tom Sestito-Trevor Frischmon-Maksim Mayorov; Kevin Harvey-Brian McGuirk-Stefan Legein.

Defense pairings: Andrey Plekhanov-Nick Holden; Dan Spang-Dan Smith ©; Johann Kroll-Grant Clitsome.

Scratches: Jonathan Sigalet, Kyle Wharton, Ryan Garlock, Jon Mirasty, Nikita Filatov.

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Rats 1, Crunch 1 after 2

By Phil Janack

Sunday, March 8, 2009

http://www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/janack...unch-1-after-2/

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River Rats forward Jakub Petruzalek snapped an off-wing wrist shot from the left circle through a screen in front of goalie Dan LaCosta with 2:48 left in the second period to forge a 1-1 tie through 40 minutes.

The goal was Petruzalek's 17th of the season, third in four games and fourth in six, and came on Albany's 25th shot of the game. Alexandre Picard scored for Syracuse with 3:05 left in the first period.

Another sold out crowd today at the Glens Falls Civic Center, numbering 5,151. That brings total attendance for three North Country games to 14,401 this season, an average of 4,800 (and 1/3). Nice. I'm told seating capacity is actually around 4,755, so the crowd is well into standing room.

Daniel Manzato has 23 saves for Albany, LaCosta has 26 for the Crunch.

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Rats 4, Crunch 1

By Phil Janack

Sunday, March 8, 2009

http://www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/janack...ats-4-crunch-1/

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Interim captain Pat Dwyer scored two goals, including the game-winner midway through the third period, to lead the Rats past the Syracuse Crunch.

It is Albany's fourth straight win at the Glens Falls Civic Center dating back to last season. The Rats are 3-0 here in 2008-09.

Aaron Clarke and Jakub Petruzalek also scored for Albany, and Daniel Manzato had 32 saves.

Syracuse 1 0 0

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I will say I thought this was one of there best performances of the season. They were skating hard tonight. They were hitting and hitting really hard tonight. There was 4 or 5 hard hits by the Rats tonight just in the third period that I counted that a Syracuse player took a couple of seconds to get up and went to the bench bent over in pain. They were just all over the place tonight. Very proud of them tonight,.

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It was tremendous to see 5,151 fans pack the Glens Falls Civic Center for the River Rats third of four trips up the Northway, and Albany sent them home happy with a 4-1 victory.

Albany is now 3-0 this season in its home away from home, and has won four straight dating back to last season. In fact, its streak began exactly one year to the day from tonight's win.

The common denominator in each victory has been Pat Dwyer. The Rats current interim captain has had the game-winning goal, whether in regulation, overtime or shootout, in all four wins. Dwyer has five points (4g, 1a) on 20 shots and is a plus-4 in those games.

Albany had lost each of its five previous games in Glens Falls, including being swept out of the 2007 playoffs by Hershey.

"It's something," Dwyer said. "It started at the end of last year. It seems like I've been having some luck in this rink, and it seems like the team's found a way to win here, too, so it's nice."

Dwyer has been one of the veterans that head coach-GM Jeff Daniels has leaned on since the team bus crash of Feb. 19. With several players still hurt, and three more with the Carolina Hurricanes, Dwyer has embraced the challenge.

"With the injuries we have and the callups in Carolina, he's stepped his game up," Daniels said. "That's one reason why he wears the 'C' on his jersey. He steps up for games like this. He's not a big, vocal guy, but as you watch him on the ice, he definitely leads by example."

Dwyer had two goals tonight. The first he banked in from a sharp angle off the inside of Crunch goaltender Dan LaCosta's left pad to snap a 1-1 tie midway through the third period. On the second, he was skating with the puck toward an empty net when he was pulled down from behind by Syracuse forward Mike York. Dwyer managed to get off a shot that hit the outside of the net, but referee Chris Brown immediately awarded Dwyer the goal.

The Rats trailed, 1-0, after one period, tied it on Jakub Petruzalek's goal late in the second, and scored three times in the third to pull away. It was the first time during the streak that Albany won by more than one goal.

"We came in here between periods and said, 'Let's go out there and lay it on the line and see what happens,' " Dwyer said. "We went out and played well and got the 'W.' "

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If there was a turning point in the game, it may have been Petruzalek's crushing -- and clean -- hit on Syracuse defenseman Dan Spang late in the second period. Spang's stick went flying and he was slow to get up and return to the bench.

It wasn't 3 1/2 minutes later that Petruzalek netted the tying goal, a wrist shot from the left wing boards through traffic that got between LaCosta's pads.

"That's what we've got to keep doing," Petruzalek said. "Everybody showed up tonight, starting with the goalie. We were banging bodies, we were physical, we were putting pucks to the net ... and that's what got us the win. It was a big win for us."

Petruzalek pushed his team-leading point total to 47 (17g, 30a) in 60 games. Daniels has been equally pleased with other parts of his game.

"Game in and game out, he's probably our top hitter," Daniels said. "For a small guy, he's solid on his skates and he's got great speed. It doesn't matter who you are or how big you are, he's going to finish his checks."

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Today's game marked the end of Brandon Sutter's two-week conditioning stint with the Rats. He finished with four points (3g, 1a) and was plus-2 with two penalty minutes in seven games. Sutter is returning to Carolina on Monday.

Sutter's father, New Jersey Devils head coach Brent Sutter, took in the game from press row's "luxury box."

"It's been great," Brandon Sutter said. "It's obviously been a good chance for me to play a lot. I think the two weeks were pretty useful. I've got to thank the coaching staff and the guys here for allowing me to play. It was a tough two weeks for them, but they battled through it and they're playing well."

Daniels used Sutter in every conceivable situation, at even strength and on the top power play and penalty kill units. He took big faceoffs and made a big play late in the game, diving to block a shot in the defensive zone and then reaching out to sweep the loose puck out to center ice while lying on his stomach.

"Not only did he block it, but he was smart enough to stick with it and get the puck out," Daniels said. "He's gonna be missed. He's a big body that is so smart with the puck. He can control the puck, and he makes plays. He got better as each game went on. The reason he was down here was to play, and he played a lot. We wish him the best back up top."

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With the win, Albany moved within 12 points of idle Binghamton, 74-62, for the fourth and final East Division playoff spot. The Rats have 18 games remaining, the Senators 16, with two head-to-head matchups left.

"It was huge. It's crunch time right now," Daniels said. "Every game's important. One of those games today was a game in hand, and we got the win. The one thing we can control is what happened today, and we did that."

The Rats were able to bounce back from a 4-1 loss in Worcester Saturday night. They are 4-5-0-1 in their last 10 games, and 4-3-0-0 since the bus accident.

"We talked about it," Dwyer said. "At this point of the season, we can't lose two in a row. We're not in a position to do that. To come out and fall down by one and then come back in the second two periods to get a win is huge for us."

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Glens Falls remains very much in the mix for the temporarily relocated Philadelphia Phantoms franchise, starting next season.

The Phantoms new Pittsburgh-based owners have continued conversations with the Civic Center people for their team, which will be in need of a new home once the Spectrum is demolished following this season. Ultimately, they plan to move the team to a yet-to-be-built arena in Allentown, PA within 2 or 3 years.

Richmond, VA is being talked about as another option, and even Springfield isn't out of the question. The Falcons deal with the Edmonton Oilers expires after this season, and the city has flirted with losing its team due to an eroding fan base for the past few years. Edmonton still owns an inactive AHL franchise.

Had a chance to talk to Detroit Red Wings scout, former Adirondack Red Wings legend and Queensbury resident Glenn Merkosky between periods tonight, and got his take on the situation.

"I would like to see it. I think it would be good for the city of Glens Falls," Merkosky said. "In talking to some of the people who are involved in making decisions, their feeling was a little bit, not apologetic, but how will the city respond to the fact that we're only coming in there for two years. My answer was quite simply that I travel around the entire American Hockey League. I see a lot of cities and a lot of venues. If we average over 4,000 people a night, when they move out, somebody else is gonna move in. If we have 2,000 people a night, when they move out nobody else is ever coming back in. We've got a lot of reasons to support a hockey club up here. We've got some things we've got to do with the Civic Center here but certainly from a selfish standpoint, and a civic pride standpoint, I would really like to see a team move in here and call the Glens Falls Civic Center home again."

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The Rats have a busy week ahead. After a day off on Monday, the team will have a short practice Tuesday morning at RPI's Houston Field House and then play four home games in a span of six days: Wednesday vs. Norfolk, Friday vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Saturday vs. Philadelphia and Monday, March 16 vs. WBS, in a makeup from last month .... Defenseman Bryan Rodney, who wore the 'A' as alternate captain this weekend, saw his three-game point streak come to an end (1g, 6a) .... Defenseman Brett Carson extended his to five games (1g, 4a) with a third-period assist, and Yannick Tifu pushed his to three (1g, 2a), setting up Petruzalek .... Albany has now drawn 14,401 to the GFCC this season, an average of 4,800. The final North Country trip is April 3 vs. Worcester .... Goaltender Daniel Manzato stopped 32 of 33 shots for the Rats, improving to 13-7-1-0 this season, including 6-1-0-0 in calendar year 2009 .... ECHL callup Aaron Clarke netted his second AHL goal and first for the Rats, driving the net to stuff in the rebound of Carson's shot. Clarke has four points (1g, 3a) and is plus-3 in seven games. He has also played seven games for Binghamton (1g, 0a, +1) and three for Providence (0g, 1a, +1).

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

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