Enter Keith Kinkaid.
After a week filled with frustration from a pair of losses to St. John’s and Binghamton, the Phantoms were hoping to stop the bleeding against the last place Albany Devils.
And while for much of the night the Phantoms were the better team on the ice, only one thing mattered, and that was that Kinkaid was pretty special in goal.
The Devils goalie made 44 saves, several that were incredible – especially in the first period – and Albany sneaked out of Glens Falls with a 3-2 victory over the Phantoms, sending Adirondack to their third loss in a row, marking a season-worst skid.
“He made some 10-bell saves in the firs period,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said. “Some really outstanding saves. We had our looks in the offensive zone and we gave ourselves a chance, but we’re not scoring right now. It’s not like they were shutting us down. We got 40-some shots in the game but their goaltender was outstanding. When you go on the road, sometimes to win games you need your goalie to be the first star of the game.”
And Kinkaid was all that and more. Heck, he made enough “how-did-he-do-that” saves to make David Copperfield blush.
He pulled a rabbit out of a hat to stone Eric Wellwood on a first period breakaway. He made a save on Tye McGinn that would have been akin to sawing in half the Flyers’ Ice Girls who were performing at the Glens Falls Civic Center this weekend, only to have them put back together minutes later.
And then his save on Brayden Schenn – that was basically making the Statue of Liberty, disappear from New York Harbor and then reappear in a photograph atop Mount Rushmore. With the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot waving to the camera holding signs that said “Wish You Were Here.”
Yeah, it was that unbelievable.
“It’s been a tough week for me,” Schenn said. “I’ve had a few chances that I haven’t been able to capitalize on. He made a great save. I thought he was down and out.”
He wasn’t. Instead he was lunging all over the crease – sometimes with a stick and sometimes without – doing everything he could to deny the Phantoms – and it worked.
And after Kinkaid dazzled in his opening act, it looked like the Phantoms were going to head into the first intermission scoreless, but the defense sagged in the final seconds, allowing Bobby Butler to fire a shot that hit Cal Heeter on his shoulder.
The puck dropped to the ice in front of Heeter, but he couldn’t cover it before the diminutive Joe Whitney poked it past him with three seconds left in the period, sending the Phantoms to the locker room without a first intermission lead for the nineteenth time in 20 games.
The second period didn’t start much better as 31 seconds into the period Jacob Josefson was credited with a goal that he kicked into the net.
Murray argued the call and asked for a replay, but wasn’t given the satisfaction by the referees.
“That puck was kicked in and it’s an illegal goal,” Murray said. “It’s allowed. That’s the way it is in the AHL. It’s not reviewable – that’s what the referee said. I don’t understand that one.”
But it’s indicative of the bad breaks that have befallen the Phantoms (9-11-0, 18 points) of late.
Adirondack answered with a power play goal by Erik Gustafsson that was made possible by a brilliant screen by McGinn – proving that as well as Kinkaid was playing in net, he couldn’t stop pucks that he couldn’t see.
But early in the third period, another bad break went against the Phantoms as a wrap around attempt by Mattias Tedenby rolled along Heeter’s pad and skipped over his skate and into the net to make it 3-1.
McGinn was able to get a power play marker in the final minutes, banking a shot off of Kinkaid from behind the net, but the Phantoms, once again, couldn’t find the equalizer.
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“[It’s tough] on the young guys,” Murray said. “Because they don’t know how to deal with the frustration. You have to work through it. You have to battle through with hard work and intensity and stick with it and at the end of the day, you become a better player and a better team when you get through to the other side.”
Getting there is not easy though, and it will be incumbent upon the leaders of the team to help keep things spirited and optimistic both in the locker room and on the ice.
“You look around the room and do what you can,” said alternate captain Brandon Manning, who played much better Saturday after a subpar outing 24 hours earlier. “It starts with guys like us to make sure the morale is there and the energy is there because the next game is as important as the last one.”
The Phantoms have five days off before that next game next Friday in Rochester and they should be getting some reinforcements. They played Saturday without Zac Rinaldo, who missed the game after blocking a shot with his foot Friday.
He was hurting when he tried to skate Saturday morning, but x-rays were negative and he should be back by Friday. Also, Marc-Andre Bourdon missed the game because he was ill.
“It’s an important time for young players on our team to realize that there are not a lot of things wrong,” Murray said. “We’re out-shooting teams by a wide margin and getting good territorial play and good opportunities. There’s not a lot of things that need to be changed or worked at. We just need to stay with the program and things will turn around for us.”
Murray is right. But a quarter of the season is now gone, and the Phantoms certainly aren’t where they envisioned they’d be at this point.
“It wasn’t a very good week for us,” Schenn said. “We played pretty well tonight and just ran into a hot goalie. But the previous two games weren’t too great. Bouncing back is going to be key for us. If we keep on slipping, obviously we’re going to have some big problems. We need to climb back into the playoff race. Every game matters.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37