In the 13 years as the Hartford Wolf Pack, each team presented a different challenge to the coach…even in the good years. The name has changed now from the Hartford Wolf Pack to the Connecticut Whale, and for Ken Gernander’s team, the problems they had in the past are resurfacing again in the present. Finding consistency and goals.
The last three games, two with Bridgeport and one with the hapless Adirondack Phantoms have been a real challenge for the coaches.
Same old, same old.
They lost to an injured-plagued, talent-strapped Sound Tigers squad by blowing a three-goal lead with under seven minutes remaining and then beat them in a dramatic shootout the next night but only after blowing two leads, the second one with just 2:12 left.
The Whale then went out and played a team who’s own head coach, John Paddock, yes that John Paddock; the only Bench Boss to win a Calder Cup with the Wolf Pack, essentially said had lousy goaltending and can’t score goals. After playing two periods of lackluster hockey, some line changes woke them up long enough to score three goals in the third period and won 3-0.
Wednesday night the team took to the road to face a Worcester Sharks team that HAS talent. That knows how to win and found a way to do it with a 2-1 shootout victory in front of a “crowd” of 2,171 at the DCU Center.
The Whale did manager to put a solid twenty minutes together in the third period and a Tomas Kundratek goal with 4:20 remaining sent the game into overtime and eventually the shootout, but it was once again, same old, same old.
“I thought we were a little stubborn offensively,” Whale coach Ken Gernander told reporters afterwards. “Instead of chipping pucks deep and working to recover them, we were trying to make one-on-one, stick-handling moves and force passes. We had some chances but had only 23 shots. We had some good forechecking pressures and possession, but we just didn’t get enough shots to the net. I would have liked to see a little more desperation.”
In the film “Bull Durham,” the manager in a tirade says “This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. You got that?!”
Well, hockey isn’t quite that simple, but you could say, “This is a team game. You skate. You defend, You shoot the puck.”
For some odd reason this team is just not doing that…at least not consistently.
They are also not capitalizing on gift opportunities as good teams do. Just ten seconds into the contest The Whale were given a power play when Andrew Desjardins tripped Mats Zuccarello. The team just had no life on the power play and got no shots. Unacceptable.
The game became very defensive in nature without any real flow as it seemed like neither team could get into any sort of offensive rhythm.
While some teams can turn it on and off and this isn’t a big concern, this team doesn’t have that luxury. As Gernander has stressed after many of the games this season, they need to be putting pucks on net, and they just aren’t doing it.
At 11:36, Worcester capitalized on a Whale mistake.
Mats Zuccarello took a hard hit behind the net in the offensive zone. While he was clearing the bats from his belfry, Worcester center Cory Quirk, gained possession of the puck, and with Brodie Dupont bearing down on him quickly advanced the puck up ice with an outlet pass off the half-boards. The puck took a favorable carom and bounced out to Henderson past the pinching Valentenko. With the Whale trapped up ice, it created a 3-on-1 odd man rush with just Kundratek back. Kevin Henderson came up the right wing, Jody Peterson up the middle and Nick Schaus trailing on the right. Henderson fired a shot from the right circle. The puck hit Chad Johnson (18 saves, 6-10-3) awkwardly in the upper arm/shoulder and went straight up into the air. Kundratek tried to help his netminder who had lost sight of it, but instead knocked the puck down into the net. The goal was Henderson’s second of the season.
The Whale put seven shots on net in the first period and repeated that number in the second. But while they couldn’t generate any offense, fortunately for them, neither could the Sharks who only put five on Johnson.
As the buzzer sounded in the second, defenseman Joe Loprieno, who was moved up to forward for the fourth game to cover for Worcester’s injured forwards, Cam MacIntyre, Tony Lucia, and Frazer McLaren, knocked down Ryan Garlock with a cheap shot. Jared Nightingale was having nothing to do with that. The Whale defenseman jumped all over Loprieno. While Loprieno did manage to land a good shot or two, Nightingale landed a hard right that knocked the 6’3, 220-pounder down to the ice.
Nightingale received 2 minutes for instigating, five for fighting and a ten minute misconduct for Instigating.
Chad Kolarik had strong chances in the third period especially while the Whale were shorthanded when the 6’4 Stu Bickel was sent to the penalty box for throwing an elbow to the 5’8” James Marcou. Kolarik’s first shot came off the left wing side and then with a juicy rebound left by Alex Staylock (22 saves, 10-8-1), missed in front. They would be the only shots for either team on the power play.
“It was ridiculous,” Kolarik said in his post game comments. Kolarik has been all he was billed to be when he came to the Whale for Dane Byers on Nov. 11th. Since then he’s put five goals and three assists in eight games, but was unable to generate much in this contest. “The goals were going in the last eight games but then nothing tonight. But I thought we played a good game, but we were a little snake-bitten.”
Then with time closing in on The Whale and still trailing, Kris Newbury looked to feed the dangerous Zuccarello in front, but “The Norwegian Hobbit’s” stick had been lifted and the puck slid out towards the blue line. There, Kundratek stepped into it and blasted the pill high over Staylock’s glove and into the upper corner of the net.
The Whale killed off a Bickel holding the stick call with just 1:49 to go.
The team also was forced to kill off a 1:08 penalty as the OT expired when Wade Redden was forced to take a hooking call to prevent a scoring chance as defenseman Sean Sullivan had a breakaway opportunity.
Then as they have done so many times, in the shootout they could just not find the net.
Jonathan Cheechoo, the one-time NHL 50 goal scorer, beat Johnson with relative ease, but only Kundratek was able to solve Staylock as Zuccarello, Williams, Kolarik, Kennedy and Grachev were all denied.
DaSilva, the sixth shooter for the Sharks, sealed the victory for the home team when his cross body shot flew into the net over Johnson’s stick.
It’s not like this team doesn’t have the talent to compete and to win games. They clearly do.
It’s not like the team doesn’t have the talent behind the bench to win games. They clearly do.
The question then is why can’t this team find a way to put a consistent 60 minutes together?
It’s a question that General Manager Jim Schoenfeld, Gernander and the staff will need to figure out soon if they hope to still be playing past April 10th.
* Nothing is harder in hockey than pulling out a victory when trailing after two periods. If you were to study it, the number would likely come into the mid to high 90’s is our guess. The Whale are 1-10-0-2
* Johnson has stopped 18 of 23 and is 1-3 in shootouts. Stalock had stopped only 3 of 7 but was 5-for-6 tonight.
* Three of the last four Whale games have gone to the shootout and have lost four of five on the season.
* The Whale are on a five-game point streak (2-0-0-2). They have strung a 4-1-0-2 mark since a 1-9-2-1 slide that included a franchise-record, nine-game losing streak (0-7-0-2).
Dupont – Kennedy – Zuccarello
Grachev – Newbury – Kolarik
DiDiomete – Eizenman – J. Williams
Soryal – Garlock – Tessier
Redden – Nightingale McDonagh
McDonagh – Bickel
Valentenko – Kundratek
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Dale Weise – Hand, Day-to-Day
Jyri Niemi – Healthy Scratch
Lee Baldwin – Healthy Scratch
Chris McKelvie – Healthy Scratch
1. WOR – D. DaSilva
2. WOR – K. Henderson
3. CT – T. Kundratek
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Jean Hebert (43)
Terry Koharski (10)
Todd Whittemore (70)
Jack Millea (23)
Friday night The Connecticut Whale will hope to get back to the winning side of the ledger as they travel to Providence to the Dunkin Donuts Center to battle with the Bruins. Bob Crawford will have the pregame at 6:35 with game time at 7:05pm.
To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $6.99 at AHL-live.
For Ticket information call (860) 548-2000.
Connecticut Whale 1 at Worcester Sharks 2 (SO) – Status: Final SO
Wednesday, December 1, 2010 – DCU Center
Connecticut 0 0 1 0 – 1
Worcester 1 0 0 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Worcester, Henderson 2 (DaSilva, Quirk), 11:36. Penalties-Desjardins Wor (tripping), 0:10; Nightingale Ct (roughing, roughing), 8:39; Desjardins Wor (roughing, roughing), 8:39; Loprieno Wor (boarding), 14:49; Bickel Ct (roughing), 19:10.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Quirk Wor (tripping), 13:36; Newbury Ct (cross-checking), 14:36; Nightingale Ct (instigating, fighting, misconduct – instigating), 20:00; Loprieno Wor (roughing, fighting), 20:00.
3rd Period-2, Connecticut, Kundratek 2 (Newbury, Valentenko), 15:40. Penalties-Bickel Ct (elbowing), 11:06; Bickel Ct (holding the stick), 18:11.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Redden Ct (hooking), 3:52.
Shootout – Connecticut 1 (Zuccarello NG, Williams NG, Kolarik NG, Kundratek G, Kennedy NG, Grachev NG), Worcester 2 (Cheechoo G, Trevelyan NG, Mashinter NG, Wingels NG, Zalewski NG, DaSilva G).
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 7-7-9-0-0-23. Worcester 7-5-7-0-1-20.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 0 / 3; Worcester 0 / 5.
Goalies-Connecticut, Johnson 6-10-2 (19 shots-18 saves). Worcester, Stalock 9-8-1 (23 shots-22 saves).
Referees-Jean Hebert (43), Terry Koharski (10).
Linesmen-Todd Whittemore (70), Jack Millea (23).