2021 Prospects Challenge: Devils Inch by Bruins, 4-3

The Devils did not have their best game in their first contest of the 2021 Prospects Challenge. They got into some penalty trouble in their loss to the Buffalo Sabres and were not as decisive as they could have been in the 3-0 defeat.

But game two was another game and another chance to show what they could do.

They came to play in their 4-3 victory over the Boston Bruins, cleaning up their game and shooting when the situation called for, passing when the situation called for that.

Akira Schmid got the start between the pipes for the Devils, with Nico Daws backing him up. Schmid made 27 saves on 30 Boston shots against for a .900 save percentage.

Down the rink from him was an old friend for the Devils. Jeremy Brodeur, son of Devils’ GOAT Martin and former member of the Binghamton Devils, went for the B’s. He was even still wearing his black-and-red equipment as pointed out by broadcaster Matt Loughlin. Brodeur made 28 saves on 32 shots against for an .875 percentage.

Boston was coming off of a 5-2 win over the Sabres yesterday and continued their hot streak when they got on the board first.

It came on the power play, as all of their goals were scored today, when Joe Masonius took a holding call about five minutes in.

At 11:58 of the first, Jakub Lauko took a shot from the far half wall. Jesper Froden, a 26-year-old out of Sweden, cut through the slot and tipped the shot from Lauko past Schmid to make it 1-0 Bruins.

A little bit after the Boston goal, with 9:10 gone by in the first, Masonius was called for an elbow against Ian McKinnon. He would answer the bell for that against McKinnon. They squared off, but Masonius was tripped up by an errant stick and there was no scrap. The teams did play four-on-four, though, due to Hudson taking a tripping penalty as well.

Before the first frame was up, New Jersey would tie up the game when Dawson Mercer scored at the 2:21 mark. It developed when Nolan Foote jarred a puck loose behind the Boston net and Alexander Holtz picked up the puck. He then quickly centered it to Mercer in the slot, who scored. It was the first goal of the tournament for the Devils and knotted the game at one apiece going into the second period.

The Devils would take the lead less than five minutes into the new frame when Holtz scored on the power play. Mercer got the puck to Nikita Okhotyuk, who whipped it to Holtz at the far half wall. Holtz, who is known for his shot, snapped one on net and beat Brodeur, exploding the water bottle on the net apart in the process. That gave the Devils their first lead of the tournament at 2-1.

Boston tied things six or so minutes after that when Froden scored again on the power play. Lauko and Froden played give-and-go along the right wall, with Froden giving it to Lauko and then heading for the net. He got it back scored from the slot. Fabian Lysell had the secondary assist on the goal that tied the game at two.

Less than a minute after Froden’s second goal, Foote made it 3-2 Devils when they recovered a turnover and headed for the Bruins’ zone. Mercer fed Foote, who was camped out at the near half wall. Foote let loose with a one-time bomb that blew past Brodeur to put the Devils up by one..

New Jersey would grab one more before the second was up to double up their lead.

Patrick Grasso made it 4-2 when the Devils crashed the net after Brodeur made the initial save on Tyler Irvine. The rebound came right out to Grasso, who buried it to give the Devils the two-goal lead with just 37 second to play in the second period.

The third period would see Boston grab another power play goal when Lauko, with 4:47 to play in regulation, took a pass from Lysell and snapped it by Schmid. Jack Ahcan had the secondary assist.

Brodeur was pulled for the extra skater with about two minutes to go in the game, but nothing came of it and our final was 4-3 Devils.

There was some pushing, shoving and grappling following the final whistle, but everyone cleared off of the ice in time and the tournament was over.

Mercer led the Devils in scoring with three points (a goal and two assists), while Spring Lake native Masonius led in penalty minutes with nine.

Next up, the Devils will return home via bus and, this week, training camp – the big camp – will begin!

We will see you Wednesday, the 29th as the Devils open the preseason against the Washington Capitals down in DC.

2021 Prospects Challenge: Devils Fall to Sabres 3-0

The Devils began the final segment of rookie camp tonight when they traveled up to Western New York to participate in the Prospects Challenge hosted by the Buffalo Sabres. They fell in the opening game to those same hosts, 3-0 with the Sabres scoring one goal in each period.

The Devils only had one practice and the morning skate going into the tournament according to Catherine Bogart, one of the hosts (along with Chris Wescott) of the pregame, postgame and intermission reports. With this tournament starting later in the month of September due to COVID wreaking havoc on last season, those were all they could get prior to the game starting.

Kevin Dineen, new coach of the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League, was behind the bench tonight for the Devils with head coach of the big club Lindy Ruff and general manager Tom Fitzgerald watching from the stands.

Nico Daws got the nod in nets tonight for the Devils with Mareks Mitens backing him up. Daws played well, making a few big saves to keep the Devils in, and only giving up goals on a defensive breakdown, a turnover and an empty net resulting in the third goal.

Buffalo was the visiting team while the Devils slotted in as the home team for this contest.

Matt Loughlin and Chico Resch had the call on the main broadcast. On a related note, if you are planning on watching on Sunday, watch on the feed on YouTube. The Devils’ website feed was slower, unreliable and of poorer resolution. YouTube had the crisper, more stable feed.

The story for the Devils tonight was penalties. The officials (from the AHL) were calling everything and the Devils did not show a whole lot of discipline.

New Jersey was on the power play, coincidentally, just about four minutes into the game when things got a little bit dicey for Daws. On a Buffalo clear, he came out to cut the puck off from a Sabres forechecker and whiffed. The puck went past him and behind the net, luckily, but it could have gotten ugly.

The Sabres got on the board first on the power play at 6:02 of the first. Joe Masonius (a Spring Lake, New Jersey native who played last season in the Southern Professional Hockey League with the Macon Mayhem) was in the box for a hook.

On the ensuing man advantage, Oskari Laaksonen got a shot on net in close on Daws. The rebound came right out to Brett Murray, who chipped the puck over a prone Daws and into the net. That made it 1-0 Buffalo.

Late in the first, Nikita Okhotyuk took a roughing penalty, a double minor, on a strange play where the Sabres’ player punched the referee in the face twice, albeit accidentally, and Okhotyuk received the penalty. The Devils killed that penalty, as they would the rest of the night. The Sabres were 1-for-4 on the power play while the Devils were 0-for-4.

The Buffalo power play worked at a 25-percent clip while the Devils’ penalty kill was 75-percent.

Okhotyuk would be a target throughout the night for the Sabres and with good reason. He played a very physical game.

The Devils played a good first period, really pushing the pace and keeping the puck largely in the Buffalo zone, but somehow only mustered four shots in the opening frame.

In the second period, the Sabres doubled their lead when JJ Peterka scored at even strength from Murray – who notched his second point of the night.

The goal materialized when Reilly Walsh turned over the puck inside the Devils’ blueline and Murray was in on a 2-on-1 odd man rush with Peterka. Peterka took the pass as the trailer and buried a pass backdoor, which gave Buffalo the 2-0 lead.

Buffalo had now scored two goals two different ways (on the power play and at even strength) the team hat trick would be completed in the third.

Daws was pulled with about two minutes to go in the game for the extra attacker. With 1:29 left in the game, Murray of the Sabres would take a high-sticking call, putting the Devils on the power play.

The Devils elected to keep Daws out of the crease for the extra skater and the Sabres’ Peter Tischke cleared the puck into the empty cage with less than one minute to go (52 exactly).

With that, the Sabres had scored a power play goal, an even strength goal and a shorthanded/empty net goal, giving us our final of 3-0.

And that was it. Stats were kind of limited for this game, so I do not have much else to work with. Also, I apologize if this recap was poorly written. I, too, am in preseason form. We will work out the kinks (hopefully) by the time the preseason wraps up and the Devils open the season against Chicago.

The Devils play next on Sunday. That game is part of this Prospects Challenge and is against the Boston Bruins. See you then!