On the 80’s TV show, “The ‘A’ Team,” the team’s leader John “Hannibal” Smith would always say the phrase, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
If Connecticut Whale coach Ken Gernander were that kind of boisterous sort, he might have said that after his troops dismantled the first place Manchester Monarchs 5-1 at the XL Center Saturday night.
Mats Zuccarello continues to soar with two goals, his second multi-goal game and his seventh multi-point game of the season. Kris Newbury, who after struggling early in the season is clearly in a groove had a goal and an assist. Over the last five games, Newbury has assists in all of them as well as 2g and 8a overall. Evgeny Grachev’s game seems to be picking up as he added a tally and rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh got his first goal as a professional. Chad Johnson (23 saves, 8-10-3) was also extremely sharp between the pipes, surrendering just a lone goal on a redirected shot that he had no chance to stop.
“The second period was a little back and forth or sloppy, but aside from that, yeah I thought it was a pretty good solid game,” Gernander said. “I thought we were pretty good tonight. I thought the PP was pretty sharp with the way they were moving the puck, there were a lot of positives.”
Where some teams could come out flat after having a week off, the Whale were jumping right from the drop of the puck.
It only took 3:32 for the action to begin as it was the “Battle of the Justins” as Johnson form Manchester dropped the mitts with Soryal of the Whale. Soryal came out on top in a close fight but the fisticuffs ignited an already fired up Whale bench.
Zuccarello got his first of six shots on the game right in front of starter Jeff Zatkoff (32 saves, 9-9-1), but the Monarch’s netminder was up to the challenge.
At 9:06, David Kolomatis took a Delay of the Game penalty and then 44 seconds later, former Ranger draft pick Marc-Andre Cliché took a high sticking double minor. The Whale had a 1:17 of 5-on-3 power play time but couldn’t do much with it. They came really close at 10:45 of breaking through but a loose puck in the low slot could not be reached by the sticks of Zuccarello or Newbury.
Chad Kolarik then had a terrific chance from the right side at 11:53 but his shot hit the far post.
The puck then made its way around the perimeter and Tim Kennedy found Grachev coming up the slot. The puck slid into Zatkoff and bounced back out. Richard Clune had a chance to clear the puck, but Wade Redden made another of the fine keep-ins that he’s been making regularly since coming to Hartford. Redden then moved the puck from the right point over to the left where McDonagh was waiting. McDonagh put everything into his one timer and the puck launched into the far corner of the net for his first goal a s a professional.
Given it was the ever popular “Teddy Bear Toss” night, several hundred stuffed animals flew down to the ice in a warm gesture of support for children in need.
“That was a big goal for us to get on the board first with the power play opportunities that we had.” Gernander
12 seconds later the Whale doubled their lead when Newbury won the ensuing faceoff back to Jyri Niemi. The Finnish native then shot the puck from the right side of the defensive zone and banked it off the far left side wall past Brodie Dupont. Newbury raced by Justin Azevedo and then beat Thomas Hickey to the puck and put it on net. Zatkoff got a lot of it but it snuck in through the five-hole for Newbury’s third of the season.
The Whale didn’t lighten up as they have in the past when they’ve taken a lead. They kept on coming.
Just 3:34 after McDonagh’s goal, Zuccarello got his first of two when he executed a perfectly in the offensive zone. Zuccarello fired a shot from the left circle that hit Zatkoff and bounced behind the net. Newbury, who had a lot of jump in this contest, again beat Kolomatis and then Andrew Campbell behind the net. Newbury flung his stick wide and got a piece of the puck, enough to get it to the streaking Zuccarello who beat Zatkoff with a backhander over the glove.
it looked at that point that the Whale were going to cruise to the locker room with a 3-0 lead, but a Redden turnover in his own end got moved around the outside perimeter quickly by the Monarchs. Hickey found Azevedo in the left corner. The Monarch’s center through the puck at the net. Niemi charged at Azevedo and looks like he got a piece of it and it changed directions on Johnson and wound up in the net with 20.1 seconds left in the period. The teams were skating four-on-four as Devin DiDiomete and Clune were off for roughing just 26 seconds earlier.
The Whale outshot the Monarch’s 14-6 in the period and were in total control.
Just 1:40 into the second period, Clune charged and put a devastating hit on Pavel Valentenko. Redden who was the closest to the play, immediately jumped in and fought Clune and won the fight. That’s two fights for Redden in his last two games.
“It would be easy for a guy like that turn and let somebody else handle it. This one tonight he’s sticking up for his teammate. So that’s great.” Gernander said.
Zatkoff made a sparkling save on a wide open Newbury at 10:42 coming across the crease to rob the Whale center of his second goal.
Johnson wasn’t too shabby either when he snuffed out a great chance getting in front of a Corey Elkins shot from the front of the crease.
But the Whale were not going to be denied in this one.
With 8:03 left in the second frame, Zuccarello got tripped up in the offensive zone and threw the puck into the right corner. Newbury hustled down the puck, surveyed the landscape and then found “The Norwegian Hobbit” all alone in the crease and put the puck right on his stick for the one timer that the rookie embedded into the back twine of the cage.
“When I get the puck most of the time I look to pass,” Newbury said. “He’s a guy he tries to find space being so little, he’s got a good shot, so when I get out I try and look for his stick while he’s driving to the net, so if I give him a good pass, it usually winds up in the back of the net.”
1:12 later the Whale would strike for the final time when Grachev brought the puck into the offensive zone and left a drop pass for Dale Weise. The right winger then put a missile on Zatkoff that hit the goaltender and dropped into the crease. Grachev got around went inside on Campbell and in front of Elkins and knocked the puck into the back of the net.
The third period saw a lot of player frustration boil over.
At 11:01, after Jordan Nolan cross—checked Soryal behind the head, Soryal made a real athletic leap to avoid crushing Zatkoff. Nolan then jumped on Soryal. When DiDIomete grabbed him to pull him off, Nolan kicked with his skate at DiDIomete.
The two battled and words continued to be exchanged while they served time in the box.
With 1:08 left, Hickey challenged DiDiomete and the Whale winger agreed and promptly destroyed the Monarch defenseman and had to be pulled away before he would have hurt him far worse.
But the action wasn’t over.
With just 10.4 left in the contest, Justin Johnson ran one of the Whale players into the boards. The whale were furious, none more so than Justin Soryal who continued after Johnson while he was in the box.
After the final horn had sounded both teams gathered at center ice and it was looking like it could get really ugly, but Monarch’s coach Mark Morris rounded up his team and sent them off to the locker room.
The win for the Whale was their first in four tries this season against the first place Monarchs.
If Gernander is Hannibal, then Newbury could easily pass for Templeton “Faceman” Peck. He summed up up pretty well. “We’re sticking together and we have good goaltending and if you put that together it makes for a good team game and we’re putting the puck in the back of the net a lot more than we were in the beginning of the year, so that helps a little.”
Bruce Berlet, the Beethoven of the keyboard, puts on another sports writer’s clinic at CTWhale.com. Couldn’t find a story on the game at the Union Leader who usually does cover the story, so there’s only this piece at ManchesterMonarchs.com.
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
* The win put the Whale in a points tie for fourth place in the division with the Sound Tigers, who also won. Bridgeport holds onto fourth though by way of a game in hand on the Whale.
* Attendance was announced at 5,321, The Whale have moved up to 16th overall at 4,307 per game.
* Newbury is now in the Top 20 scorers in the league at 18th with 26 points (3g, 23a) and is fourth overall in assists.
* Devin DiDiomete leads the AHL with 12 major penalties in 22 games. Justin Soryal is second with the same 12 but in 27 games. DiDiomete also leads the AHL in PIM with 132.
* Chad Johnson is third in total losses among netminders with 10 and is third in minutes with 1,252
* Mats Zuccarello is third among rookies in scoring with 20 points (12g, 8a). second in shots among rookies with 84, second in goals with 12.
* Wade Redden is 20th in scoring among defenseman with 16 points (2g, 14a)
* Jared Nightingale is tops in PIM by a D-man with 92
* Whale are 15th on the PP at 17.4% and 9th on the PK at 84.2%. They have not scored or allowed a shorthanded goal. Only Manitoba can claim that as well.
* The Whale are 7-1-2 in their last ten games.
Grachev – Kennedy – Weise
Dupont – Newbury – Zuccarello
Kolarik – Eizenman – Williams
Soryal – Garlock – DiDiomete
McDonagh – Bickel
Redden – Niemi
Valentenko – Kundratek
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Jared Nightingale – Healthy Scratch
Kelsey Tessier – Healthy Scratch
Lee Baldwin – Healthy Scratch
1. CT – M. Zuccarello
2. CT – K. Newbury
3. CT – R. McDonagh
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Chris Brown (86)
Luke Galvin (2)
Paul Simeon (66)
Back in action today for a mid afternoon tilt with the visiting Adirondack Phantoms in the first of a home and home with the Flyers AHL affiliate. Bob Crawford and the pregame go on the air at 2:30pm.
To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $6.99 at AHL-live.
For Ticket information call (860) 548-2000.
Manchester Monarchs 1 at Connecticut Whale 5 – Status: Final
Saturday, December 11, 2010 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Manchester 1 0 0 – 1
Connecticut 3 2 0 – 5
1st Period-1, Connecticut, McDonagh 1 (Redden), 12:11 (PP). 2, Connecticut, Newbury 3 (Niemi), 12:23. 3, Connecticut, Zuccarello 11 (Newbury, Dupont), 15:45. 4, Manchester, Azevedo 9 (Hickey, Voynov), 19:39. Penalties-Johnson Mch (fighting), 3:32; Soryal Ct (fighting), 3:32; Kolomatis Mch (delay of game), 9:06; Cliche Mch (double minor – high-sticking), 9:50; Clune Mch (roughing), 19:13; DiDiomete Ct (roughing), 19:13.
2nd Period-5, Connecticut, Zuccarello 12 (Newbury), 11:57. 6, Connecticut, Grachev 4 (Weise, Kennedy), 13:09. Penalties-Clune Mch (boarding, fighting), 1:40; Redden Ct (roughing, fighting), 1:40; Holloway Mch (boarding), 3:04; Nolan Mch (fighting), 8:12; Redden Ct (fighting), 8:12; Johnson Mch (delay of game), 14:30; Kundratek Ct (holding the stick), 17:12.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Hickey Mch (hooking), 7:38; Nolan Mch (roughing, cross-checking), 11:01; DiDiomete Ct (roughing), 11:01; Hickey Mch (fighting), 18:52; DiDiomete Ct (boarding, fighting), 18:52; Johnson Mch (boarding), 19:49; Clune Mch (misconduct – unsportsmanlike conduct), 20:00; DiDiomete Ct (misconduct – unsportsmanlike conduct), 20:00.
Shots on Goal-Manchester 6-9-9-24. Connecticut 14-12-11-37.
Power Play Opportunities-Manchester 0 / 2; Connecticut 1 / 7.
Goalies-Manchester, Zatkoff 9-9-1 (37 shots-32 saves). Connecticut, Johnson 8-10-3 (24 shots-23 saves).
Referees-Chris Brown (86).
Linesmen-Luke Galvin (2), Paul Simeon (66).