The Albany River Rats and Norfolk Admirals went at each other twice in a set of back-to-back clashes this past weekend and an old friend of the blog, C-Leaguer attended both games. He was nice enough to write up a review after each game to share with Canes Country readers. He also focused his attention on some of the key prospects in Carolina's system.
(If you missed the recap of the first game, you can check it out here. )
Once again, we would like to thank C-Leaguer for his time and effort. Here is his report for Saturday night.
Rats Sink Admirals, Take Game 4 – 2
On Saturday night the Albany River Rats were able to defeat the Norfolk Admirals by a score of 4-2 at the Scopes Center in Norfolk, Virginia. The win gave the Rats two critical points and three of a possible four points out of the two game series against a divisional opponent.
The action got off to a feverish pace at the opening face off. There would be no replay of the sloppy play that dominated much of the first two periods of the game between these teams just the night prior.
The Admirals opened the scoring at 10:44 in the first with Dana Tyrell was able to beat Casey Borer to the crease and chip a puck past Pogge. Play was set up by Adam Hall who took the puck around behind the far side of the net and only to dump the puck back in front with a nifty no look pass. Borer charged hard to try and prevent Tyrell from getting to the puck, but the chemistry between the two team mates was too much for Borer to overcome.
Luckily for the Rats the lead was short lived. Samson scored at the 17:23 mark to knot the game at 1. The play began when Jamie McBain got the puck at the near point and took the puck to the half boards. That move sucked in two Admirals and recent acquisition Oskar Osala was left wide open at the point as McBain dropped the puck back. Osala fired a slap pass to an uncovered Jerome Samson on the far side post where Samson was able to beat Dustin Tokarski on the short side.
Just over ninety seconds later Drayson Bowman was the beneficiary of a rebound on a Jacob MicFlikier shot. After a few missed shots and long rebounds MicFlikeier ended up with the puck on his stick driving towards the near slot. His shot bounced off the goaltender to the far side slot where Bowman was waiting uncovered to put in a wide open rebound opportunity.
With that the first ended with the Rats up 2 to 1 and outshooting the Admirals 14 to 8.
In a very interesting moment Jeff Daniels held Osala back for a few seconds as the rest of the boys headed to the locker room for the first intermission. It appeared as if Daniels was giving Osala tips on his wrist shot and outlet passes to avoid taking icing calls. It was one of the moments that makes AHL hockey completely different and unique from NHL hockey.
The second period started off just as the first ended with the Rats continuing to roll. Jerome Samson got his second goal of the night when he was able to score at the 1:55 mark of the second. Nick Dodge carried the puck in deep, drawing two men to him as he got in between the circles. Dodge then dumped the puck to an open Samson who beat Tokarski with a nice shot.
The Rats would score their fourth goal of the night just a few minutes later when Chaput scored on a seeing eye shot from just above the red line. The play was set up by some strong physical play by Osala who used his size to gain possession and draw defenders.
At that point the game settled in to a lower gear as the Rats focused on shutting down the Admirals. The Admirals seemed okay to play out the string until about the 12:00 minute mark of the third. At that point they began to play with some heart, beating Pogge for their second goal of the night at 14:01 mark on a play that began when Drayson Bowman’s stick broke when he was attempting to clear the zone. The effort proved too little too late as the Rats were able to keep the Admirals at bay for the rest of the game and finish out the contest up 4 - 2.
One of the most surprising elements I noticed over both nights was how similar the River Rats played to the Hurricanes. While it was difficult to see the system being run during much of the game on Friday, the skill and system of the team were on full display all night Saturday. It’s clear that Jeff Daniels is on the same page as the brain trust in Raleigh. Many times during the game Saturday it was easy to see why the call ups from Albany were able to come right in this year and play the system of the big league club. For anyone wanting more info about the game just think back to any Canes game where they went up 4 – 1 early and then shut down their opponent. It looked like that right down to the short shifts, puck dumping, and single man forecheck.
Oskar Osala continued to impress. On Saturday night he played bigger. On Friday night Osala was hitting to send a message to his team mates. On Saturday he was hitting as part of the flow of the game, delivering the hits when the play called for them and using skill to avoid hits when need be. For his efforts he was rewarded with the second star of the night.
Jeff Daniels worked with Osala all night, giving him advice on the bench seemingly every time Osala came off. Osala seemed to fade in to the background late when the Rats shifted focus from scoring to shutting down the Admirals, but he wasn’t the only one to sort of fade to the background.
Jamie McBain continued to look good. He’s playing at NHL speed. He was able to go from receiving a pass to firing a shot faster than anyone on the ice. He was able to move pucks out of the zone and send pucks to open areas of the ice, be it on an offensive dump or a defensive clear. He was also taking the time he had while being pressured. On the ice he seemed to want to be in every situation; be it power play, penalty kill, late situations, or early scoring runs. His eyes were always taking in the play, even on the bench. He seems to be soaking up game situations like a sponge.
Bowman had a much better game Saturday than he did on Friday. He was able to display his speed and skill and showcase the talent that made him a top goal scorer in major juniors. It would have been nice to see him differentiate himself from the sloppy play early on Friday.
Justin Pogge looked better on Saturday than he did on Friday, but still not great. His rebound control was better, but he faced far fewer high quality shots and Norfolk didn’t pressure the net the same way they did on Friday. At times his play reminded me of Wade Dubielewicz. Whether Pogge can progress to a player of that caliber of play remains to be seen. He certainly has the size, but whether he can develop the skill is unknown. Frequently I felt that Pogge was playing like a goaltender who was able to get by on his size alone at lower levels of hockey and had not yet fully adapted to the level of talent in the AHL.
Jerome Samson had a fantastic night, scoring two goals and earning an assist on another
goal. He put himself in open areas of the ice and in position to score. For his efforts he was named the first star of the night.
Chaput showed quite a bit of skill on Saturday, helping with many of the scoring plays and earning third star honors.
As with the game on Friday no player for the Rats dominated the game. McBain played very well, and clearly is making the case for a spot on the big league roster next season. It would be nice to see Albany in the playoffs and how McBain elevated his game. He’s very close to being ready, and a good series against the Hershey Bears could be the final stepping stone he needs to get to the NHL. A playoff series against the best in the AHL could also do well for Osala, Borer, and Rodney.
All in all I was fairly impressed with the players in the Hurricane’s system and highly impressed with the ability of the coaching staff in Albany to know and implement the system the big league club plays. The roster looked promising, especially so considering Dwyer, Sutter and Boychuk are all up with the big league team. I’m not certain that anyone in Albany other than McBain will be pushing for a roster spot come the start of the season, but I do think Osala and Bowman have an outside chance.