GLENS FALLS -- They had just won in the Times-Union Center for the first time this season and bested an opponent which had had their number all year, but the Adirondack Phantoms were not in a celebratory mood after Sunday’s game.
The 4-2 win over Albany, in which Blake Kessel scored his first two AHL goals of the season, did not change the fact that they were finishing the season as the last team in the conference and had not made the playoffs … again.
“Everyone knows that we missed our goal this year,” Marcel Noebels said.
The Phantoms moved to Glens Falls in 2009 and have played four seasons in the Civic Center without a single playoff game. They are the only team in the AHL that has not made the playoffs at least once in the past four years.
“It’s a tough break to miss the playoffs,” Noebels. “Its always something you want to play, it’s what we work for all summer and all season and then you’re going to miss the best part of your season.
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The season began with a lot of hype and promise. They had a new coach with more than 1,000 NHL games under his belt. The NHL lockout was sending some real NHL-caliber talent to the team.
Instead, it was the worst season ever for any Phantoms, Philadelphia or Adirondack.
“It’s kinda a disappointing season because we have a really good team in here and to not make the playoffs is tough,” Tye McGinn said.
No one could come up with an answer as to what went wrong, what went right at the end, or why it took so long.
Head coach Terry Murray pointed to his team’s youth and suggested that in a developmental league, an organization has to decide if it’s going to focus on developing players or playing more veterans to try for a Calder Cup.
“I look at us as a team that is a development group,” he said. “We’re feeding the parent club and that’s what’s most important, that’s our priority. We’re aware that fans are coming and paying their dollars and we have private owners that want to get extended runs into the playoffs so they can recoup a little of their investments too. We’re trying to accomplish both and it’s not always easy.”
A team like last year’s Norfolk Admirals may demonstrate that it doesn’t have to be a decision between development and a Cup. Nine players on last year’s Calder Cup championship team have played for the Tampa Bay Lightning this year, most of them seeing significant playing time.
Murray said that examples like that or the 1997 Philadelphia Phantoms are exceptions to the rule.
“There’s always a possibility of winning with a young group of guys if you have very special players,” Murray said. “But when you have a group of young guys that are trying to learn the ropes and are trying to play the right way every night it might take a little more push than the teams we’re talking about.”
For Murray, the Phantoms needed to build a foundation this year. They finally did that and started winning in the final quarter of the season and he said he sees that as a good indicator for next season.
Next season, however, is five months away. Right now, the Phantoms are packing their bags and will be heading home, still without having played a single playoff game.
Adirondack 0 3 1 — 4
Albany 1 0 1 — 2
First Period — 1, Albany, Pesonen 14 (Severson, Wohlberg), 18:28. Penalties — Harper Adk (tripping), 11:21.
Second Period — 2, Adirondack, Noebels 13 (Flanagan), 6:09 (pp). 3, Adirondack, Bordson 12 (Roe, Sim), 15:27. 4, Adirondack, Kessel 1 (Alderson, Noebels), 19:02. Penalties — Helgeson, Alb (hooking), 4:24; Lilja, Adk (hooking), 6:49; Roe, Adk (roughing), 11:00; Hoeffel, Alb (roughing, roughing), 11:00; Sislo, Alb (delay of game), 12:33; served by Laughton, Adk (bench minor — unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:36.
Third Period — 5, Adirondack, Kessel 2 (Syvret, Cousins), 3:02. 6, Albany, Hoeffel 5 (Sestito), 16:18 (sh). Penalties — Mathers, Adk (roughing), 14:31; Janssen, Alb (roughing, charging), 14:31.
Shots on Goal — Adirondack 3-13-9—25. Albany 9-9-5—23.
Power Plays — Adirondack 1-4; Albany 0-3.
Goalies — Adirondack, Heeter 12-16-3 (23 shots-21 saves). Albany, Kinkaid 21-17-6 (17 shots-13 saves); Wedgewood 2-2-0 (8 shots-8 saves).
A — 5,118
Referees — Darcy Burchell, Ryan Hersey.