Devils Earn Preseason Sweep
If a two-game sweep over the Utica Comets over the weekend is any indication, Binghamton fans may be in for a treat as the Devils begin their second season on Saturday.
On Friday night at the Adirondack Bank Center, the Devils picked up a 4-2 win. Blake Pietila scored twice while rookie Yegor Sharangovich, a 2018 5 th round draft pick by New Jersey out of Belarus, scored in his first North American appearance. Former first rounder Michael McLeod and second year defenseman Colton White each had two assists and Nathan Bastian added a goal. Goaltenders Cam Johnson and Colton Phinney, a camp invitee who will be spending most of the season in the ECHL with Adirondack, combined for 26 saves on 28 shots.
The two teams then headed to Binghamton for Saturday’s rematch, with Johnson again getting the starting nod. After falling behind by a goal early in the first period, McLeod scored his first of the preseason to knot things up at 1. Forward Kurtis Gabriel scored his first early in the second period to put the Devils up 2-1. Johnson came up big in the middle period, stopping all 16 of Utica's shots on goal. In the third, rookie forward Joey Anderson scored an impressive first goal, coming in alone and firing past Utica goaltender Ivan Kulbakov for a 3-1 Devil lead.
The Comets cut the lead to 3-2 with just over 12 minutes remaining in regulation, but a Blake Speers empty netter sealed the 4-2 win and gave the Devils a 2-0 preseason mark. Johnson was impressive again between the pipes, stopping 36 of 38 Utica shots. Rookie Marian Studenic also added two assists.
A Look at the Opening Roster
With Eddie Lack staying in New Jersey to back up Keith Kinkaid until Cory Schneider returns from injury, Johnson and Mackenzie Blackwood will be the tandem to start out. After his strong preseason performance, Johnson may have the edge for the starting role until Lack returns.
Binghamton will have a young defensive corps, led by veterans Brian Strait and free agent signing John Ramage. Josh Jacobs returns for his third season, while Colton White and Michael Kapla return for their second pro seasons. Tariq Hammond will be starting his first full pro year after appearing in five games at the end of the 2017-18 season. Colby Sissons makes the jump from the Western Hockey League, while free agent signing Yegor Yakolev will make his North American debut after playing in the KHL last season. This group will have big shoes to fill, after last year’s leading scorer Jacob MacDonald signed with the Florida Panthers as a free agent.
Only three out of the top ten scorers from last season return: Nick Lappin, who lead all Devils skaters with 31 goals, Kevin Rooney, who had a solid second season with 14 goals and 20 assists and Blake Pietila, who finished last season with 12 goals. They will be joined by free agent signing Eric Tangradi, who had 64 points in 74 games for Grand Rapids last season. Blake Speers and Nathan Bastian will return for their second full seasons, while Michael McLeod will start his first full pro season after appearing in six games last April. Brandon Gignac looks to make a comeback after a knee injury derailed his rookie season in mid-December. Brett Seney will also be starting his first full season as a pro after playing twelve games last spring, where he impressed with eight points. Joey Anderson, Marian Studenic, and Yegor Sharangovich will be making their professional debuts. One name to keep an eye on is AHL free agent Ryan Schmelzer, who made a splash in the Kelly Cup playoffs with Adirondack last spring. Free agent signing Kurtis Gabriel and third year pro Brandon Baddock are also in the mix.
The new look Devils will have a test in their first game on Saturday night, as they take on the defending Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies.