After flat and chemistry-less play for the first two periods, Head Coach Ken Gernander took the advice of his assistant, J.J. Daigneault and, “Mixed it up a bit,” shifting around his left wingers. The movement awoke a lifeless Connecticut Whale, who put out a solid 20 minute effort in the third period and that was enough to defeat the Adirondack Phantoms 3-0 before a crowd of 3,012 at the XL Center Sunday afternoon.
Before you start declaring them a dynasty with two wins in a row, remember that Adirondack is a team that according to their Head Coach and former Hartford Wolf Pack headman, John Paddock has trouble scoring goals and keeping the puck out of the net. “If your goalie’s save percentage is below 91 (and Adirondack starter Johan Backlund’s is at .876) and you don’t score goals, it ain’t healthy.”
Adirondack is deeply entrenched in last place in the AHL with a record of 3-18-2. The Phantoms have only earned 8 points at nearly the quarter pole of the season. To put it in perspective, just to catch the next lowest teams, Albany, Rockford and Syracuse they’ll need to make up ten points.
“Today was a bad game for us,” third star with two assists Mats Zuccarello said while wiping blood from his nose. “We did win on a bad day. We should play better with more enthusiasm, but at the end the “’W’ is the only thing that counts so we need to be happy with that.”
Two players that have not had pucks in the back of the net finally got on scoresheet.
Kris Newbury ended a 13-game drought with his goal at 4:31 of the final frame off a terrific tic-tac-toe play. Chad Kolarik started it on the rush on the left. Kolarik found Zuccarello in the right circle and then “The Norwegian Hobbit” put the puck right on the tape of Newbury’s stick on the left side of the crease. Newbury didn’t have to do much to flip it past starter Nic Riopel, (18 saves, 0-4-0). Ironically, Riopel is up on recall from the Greenville Road Warriors, who The Whale share with Adirondack as their ECHL affiliate. In fact, Riopel joins three other Road Warriors, Brian Stewart, Cullen Eddy, and Shane Harper on the active Adirondack roster.
“I’ve been shooting a lot more pucks lately before practice than I have in the past,” Newbury said. “It’s frustrating not to score as much as you’d like to, but tonight it felt good to get one, and the main thing that counts is we had a good weekend, five out of six points, so hopefully we can build off that and I can keep scoring.”
4:30 later, Evgeny Grachev scored his first goal in 22 games (including six while on recall with the NY Rangers) and only his third tally in the last 62 back to Jan. 17 of last season.
“It has been a tough stretch for me, but finally a good thing happened for me, so hopefully I’ll get going,” Grachev said. “My defensive play has been getting better, but it’s still something that I have to work on. (The Rangers) told me to go down (to Hartford) and keep improving myself, work hard and play some hockey.”
The third Connecticut lamp-lighter came with 2:34 remaining as Kolarik put a rebound of a Zuccarello shot into the back of net. Newbury had the secondary assist.
The rest was all Cam Talbot (25 saves, 2-2-1) who got his second 3-0 shutout of the season. The first came on Oct. 17 when he did the same to Providence just before the then Wolf Pack went on a nine game winless streak. In that game, Talbot tweaked a groin that caused him to miss seven games. Afterwards, he was asked if was still healthy.
“Damo (Hess) said the same thing. He said, ‘You’re good tonight, right?’ I said, ‘Yeah’”
“Cam obviously played a strong game,” Gernander said. “He made a couple of tricky saves.”
Those “tricky plays” Talbot said came in the second period. “Some points in the second period (Adirondack) had a couple of scrambles in front where we had to battle and knock some guys down and clear the puck out, but other than that, I think the guys did a really good job of keeping it to the outside tonight and cleared out rebounds when I left them there.”
After leaving a point on the table Friday night in Bridgeport where they blew a three-goal lead in the last six-plus minutes of the game, The Whale used that as inspiration to pick up their play as the got five of a possible six points for the weekend.
““We knew we needed some points against teams that maybe aren’t doing as well as they thought they would be doing, just like us. So we hoped we would take some points and hopefully leapfrog some teams.
“After Friday night, no one was really happy with their performance in the third period, especially in the last six minutes,” Talbot said. “We knew we had that game and kind of gave it to them, and we knew we had to come out the next night, show them it was a fluke and maybe that’s not the we play for first (53) minutes of that game. So that was a crucial point. We knew we had to turn it around the rest of the weekend and that’s what we did. Kudo’s to the guys for having a short term memory and leaving that behind playing the rest of the weekend.
“I think we did a heck of job this weekend, and now we’ve got the next three games (against Worcester twice and Providence) we’re chasing these guys, too. So all the games from now until Christmas are big games and every two points are pretty crucial.”
Newbury summed it up. “We switched a couple lines around, and it seemed to work for a short period of time, so we’ll see how they stay. The main thing is no matter who you play with you have to find a way to create more energy than we had in the first two periods and put more pucks on the net. We made a couple of nice plays and got the puck to the net in the third. That’s the good news, but it’s only a short little stint, so we can’t get too high and come ready to work on Tuesday.”
The, now undefeated, Connecticut Whale take the ice on the road for the next two games, Wednesday at Worcester and Friday at Providence before returning for more “Brass Bonanza” on Saturday.
The King of Hartford Sports Reporters, Bruce Berlet CTWhale.com. A day after making the front page, the Whale go back to relative invisibility again at the Hartford Courant. For Adirondack, they don’t have much more than the Courant in this brief tale at PostStar.com.
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
* The Whale are still technically in the Atlantic Division cellar, but they are tied in points with Providence but the Bruins have four games in hand.
* Only the Charlotte Checkers have played as many games to this point (24) as The Whale have.
* The good news though is The Whale, with a little help, are only two points behind Springfield for the final playoff spot and three behind Worcester for third place. Springfield has one game in hand while Worcester has three.
* The Whale are third in overall penalty minutes with 501. Peoria has 507 and Grand Rapids has 531.
*Jeremy Williams has cracked the Top 20 scorers list with his 22 points (12g, 9a). Andrew Gordon of Hershey is first with 30 points (15g, 15a). Williams is also tied for 4th in goals scored trailing Gordon’s 15.
Zuccarello – Kennedy – Weise
Grachev – Newbury – J. Williams
Dupont – Eizenman – Kolarik
DiDiomete – Garlock – Soryal
McDonagh – Kundratek
Redden – Nightingale
Valentenko – Bickel
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Jyri Niemi – Healthy Scratch
Tyler Donati – Healthy Scratch
Lee Baldwin – Healthy Scratch
Chris McKelvie – Healthy Scratch
1. CT – C. Talbot
2. CT – K. Newbury
3. CT – M. Zuccarello
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Mark Lemelin (84)
David Spannaus (8)
Brent Colby (7)
The Connecticut Whale will look to keep their new-found winning ways as they roll into Worcester for a tilt with the Sharks. Bob Crawford will have the pregame at 6:30 with game time at 7pm.
To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $6.99 at AHL-live.
For Ticket information call (860) 548-2000.
Adirondack Phantoms 0 at Connecticut Whale 3 – Status: Final
Sunday, November 28, 2010 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Adirondack 0 0 0 – 0
Connecticut 0 0 3 – 3
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Clackson Adk (roughing), 1:54; Rinaldo Adk (holding), 1:54; Dupont Ct (roughing), 1:54; Rinaldo Adk (fighting), 13:53; DiDiomete Ct (fighting), 13:53; Grachev Ct (hooking), 16:33; Holmstrom Adk (roughing), 18:59; Newbury Ct (roughing), 18:59.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Wellwood Adk (tripping), 0:16; Bordson Adk (hooking), 4:19; Williams Ct (slashing), 8:12.
3rd Period-1, Connecticut, Newbury 2 (Zuccarello, Kolarik), 4:31. 2, Connecticut, Grachev 2 (Williams, Bickel), 9:11. 3, Connecticut, Kolarik 9 (Zuccarello, Newbury), 17:26. Penalties-Zuccarello Ct (tripping), 11:23; Jancevski Adk (tripping), 15:23; Clackson Adk (roughing, roughing), 18:32; Rinaldo Adk (fighting), 18:32; Nightingale Ct (roughing, fighting, misconduct – continuing altercation), 18:32; Redden Ct (roughing, roughing), 18:32.
Shots on Goal-Adirondack 9-11-5-25. Connecticut 6-8-7-21.
Power Play Opportunities-Adirondack 0 / 4; Connecticut 0 / 4.
Goalies-Adirondack, Riopel 0-4-0 (21 shots-18 saves). Connecticut, Talbot 2-2-1 (25 shots-25 saves).
Referees-Mark Lemelin (84).
Linesmen-David Spannaus (8), Brent Colby (7).