GLENS FALLS -- Rivalries brew in a number of ways. Sometimes there is a trophy on the line. Other times it’s because teams have clashed in a playoff run. And sometimes it’s just about familiarity.
When it comes to the Adirondack Phantoms and the Albany Devils there is the Time Warner Cup, but it’s more about the frequency with which they play.
The Phantoms and Devils met 10 times last season. Friday will be their first of 12 games this season. That’s four more games than the Phantoms play against any other team.
They already played two preseason games, but the rosters are a little different now, and these games count.
“We won’t play each other for a month and a half and then we play each other twice in a week. There’s definitely a rivalry,” Brandon Manning said. “When you’re playing the same guys, it’s a lot easier to have that competition.”
Last year, six of those 10 games were decided by a single goal and three went into overtime.
“I think that’s a credit to each player knowing how everyone is going to play the game,” Eric Wellwood said. “It’s more of a chess match than full-out pond hockey.”
Manning added that it’s a matter of getting comfortable with the opponent. Some of it can be as simple as getting used to the arena, with so many trips to Albany, but also getting to know players’ tendencies. As the Phantoms get to know the Devils, so do the Devils get to know the Phantoms, making it both a good and bad thing.
“You have to watch video and change things up, but at the same time you have to go and play hockey, you have to rely on your systems,” Manning said.
As the players get to know each other they develop individual, personal rivalries — something Ben Holmstrom said happens all too often.
That can mean more fights, something that has tended to be the case between these two teams. Manning pointed out that in hockey, if you fight a guy once, you seem to fight him more than once.
Wellwood suggested that this season games might be even more intense, as both teams have playoff-caliber rosters, unlike when they finished 28th and 30th in the league in 2010-11, and these head-to-head division contests could have a bearing on the end of their seasons.
No matter where they fall in the standings, the Phantoms know to expect a battle down in Albany and then again next weekend when the Devils come up to the Civic Center, and again the week after that.
“Whether it’s an overtime game or a 5-1 game, it doesn’t ever seem like it’s easy. It’s always hard-fought games,” Ben Holmstrom said. “It’s going to be the first time for real this season, I’m sure it’s going to be intense.”