ALBANY, N.Y. – Cal Heeter said he is a perfectionist.
If that’s the case, then the only way the Phantoms would have won Friday is if Heeter was, in fact, perfect.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t. The score or his statistics won’t show it, but Heeter was the best player on the ice for the Phantoms in their disappointing 5-1 loss to the Albany Devils.
It is the third loss in four games for the Phantoms (2-3-0), who return to the ice Saturday at home in Glens Falls to face the high scoring Rochester Americans, top affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres.
The Amerks boast the highest scoring offense in the AHL so far, and if the Phantoms are going to defeat them, they’re going to have to do a complete 180 degree turn from the way they played Friday.
“I felt bad for Heeter because that was his second start (as a pro) and we came up with an unacceptable performance,” said Phantoms coach Terry Murray. “It’s too bad because he did battle and compete and make some big saves for us.”
That he did, but goalies, unless they’re named Ron Hextall, can’t score goals for you, and you can’t score goals if you don’t shoot the puck.
The Phantoms didn’t really register a shot until the 14:42 mark of the first period (they were credited with one a couple minutes earlier that never reached the goalie) and by that point they were already behind 2-0.
It marked the fifth straight game to start the season that the Phantoms allowed the first goal of the game.
“That was a team that played the game they wanted to play,” Murray said of the Devils. “They beat us to pucks and did the things they wanted to do along the boards. The board game was an easy game for them. That’s a team that taught us a lesson here tonight.”
The Devils were also opportunistic, taking advantage of Phantoms mistakes to account for four of their goals.
Erik Gustafsson couldn’t corral a loose puck in front of Heeter in the first period, allowing Jacob Josefson to slam dunk the puck into an open net to make it 1-0.
Danny Syvret then turned the puck over in front of his own net, leading to a 2-on-0 situation to which Heeter had no chance to thwart as Matt Anderson scored to make it 2-0.
After Zac Rinaldo scored on a penalty shot (you read that correctly) the Devils got a penalty shot of their own.
Marc-Andre Bourdon, who was back in the lineup after missing the last two games with an injury, hooked Adam Henrique’s stick.
Referee Chris Brown awarded Henrique with a penalty shot, even though he wasn’t free and clear on Heeter – and got off a good shot too.
Henrique didn’t fail, and after two periods it was 3-1.
“It was a tough call because he still got his shot off and had a pretty good scoring chance,” said Heeter, who made a nice save on Henrique on the play. “There’s not really much you can do about that though. It’s my job to make saves and I tried to step up on the penalty shot there and I came away a little short.”
Syvret got beat again in the third period when Phil DeSimone weaved around him and slid a shot through Heeter’s five-hole to make it 4-1, and all but eliminate any chance the Phantoms had of getting back in the game.
Darcy Zajac re-directed an Adam Larsson shot past Heeter a few minutes later to round out the scoring.
“I’m not really happy when I have a goal scored on me, no matter what kind of shot it is,” said Heeter, who made 25 saves. “It doesn’t matter if it was a penalty shot, or a screened tip-in like the fifth goal. The fourth one I’d like to have back because it squeezed in through the five-hole. You can take positives from every game, but you have to be realistic too and realize that you still need to get better.”
The Phantoms couldn’t have been much worse. With the exception of Heeter, Rinaldo, Harry Zolnierczyk and a line that was put together in the third period consisting of Andrew Johnston, Matt Mangene and Garrett Roe, there weren’t too many Phantoms who could feel good about how they played.
“We have to come out tomorrow with a whole different attitude,” said Rinaldo, who had several bug hits in the game, including a clean, open-ice check on Adam Larsson that left the big-bodied Devils defenseman shaken. “We have to come out with guns firing. We have to get pucks to the net, pucks deep. We’ll bounce back though.”