Monday, April 19, 2010

Boychuk scores game winner as Albany sweeps Wilkes-Barre

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. --- The Albany River Rats playoff series drought is history.
Rookie Zach Boychuk scored the game-winning goal in the third period to lift Albany past Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 5-3 to complete a four-game sweep of an East Division semifinal series on Monday at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
Goalie Justin Peters made 26 saves and defenseman Jamie McBain scored twice for the Rats, who won their first playoff series in 12 years.
Even at 2-2 entering the final period, the Rats erupted for three goals --- with Boychuk tallying the deciding goal on an unassisted effort. After sending a shot towards goalie John Curry, the puck caromed back to Boychuk and he scored on a backhander with 6:48 remaining in regulation.
"(Drayson) Bowman and (Jacob) Micflikier in front, all alone and just waiting for me to pass it to them," Boychuk said with a grin. "But I wanted that game-winning goal. I couldn't believe it, all of a sudden it was right on my stick and I was like 'I'm going to put this one in,' and luckily I was able to do so."
Albany won its first playoff series since 1998 --- which was also a sweep (4-0 against the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Empire Division final to reach the Western Conference final).
The Rats will now face the winner of the Hershey-Bridgeport series in the East Division final. The Bears will carry a 3-1 series lead into Game 5 on Wednesday.
Albany rebounded from three one-goal deficits against Wilkes-Barre to draw even and finally broke through in the final period.
"The guys deserve a lot of credit for just battling back," Albany coach Jeff Daniels said. "Every time we got down by a goal, we battled back and never got frustrated."
Right wing Nick Johnson scored on a one-timer from the high slot just 28 seconds into the third period for a 4-3 Wilkes-Barre advantage.
Just 1:21 later, Mike Angeldis skated around the net in a wraparound attempt and Samson swept in the rebound to draw Albany even at 3-3 at 1:49.
"Just like all series, we just kept fighting back," Angelidis said.
Boychuk then followed with the deciding goal and the game nearly finished as the fourth one-goal outcome of the series, but McBain followed with an empty-net goal at 19:55.
"It certainly summed up the series," Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach Todd Reirden said. "We started to make a little bit of a push and get some momentum and score some goals, but if not a shift or a couple shifts after, we had some missed coverages and some breakdowns and they were able to convert on them."
Curry stopped 34 of 38 shots faced for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which not lost a first-round playoff series for the first time in franchise history, it was also swept for the first time in the playoffs.


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