What words can possibly be written without sounding unnecessarily vicious and yet accurately describe what happened on the ice after the Connecticut Whale and were so embarrassingly bad Wednesday morning as the Toronto Marlies destroyed them 9-2 on the road in their second school-day special game of the season?
Beginning a stretch where they will play 7-of-their-next-8 and 8-of-their-next-10 on the road, including this stretch of four straight, this lack of virtually any kind of effort or passion about their game had to infuriate Head Coach Ken Gernander. After a poor showing against the Portland Pirates in their last game and then this was not a good omen for a team that is back at full strength and is sitting one point out of the playoffs as of Wednesday morning.
To put it another way, the Rangers’ top affiliate were horrible just about everywhere on the ice.
The first period was exceptionally brutal as the Whale spotted the Marlies five-goals including four coming in a span of just 5:54.
The first came as Ryan Hamilton rushed up the right wing side and drove past Pavel Valentenko who waved as he went by allowing a free pass to goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris making his third start of the season. Grumet-Morris made a great initial stop reaching back with the left pad to keep the puck out. The puck rebounded in front and Nazem Kadri beat Dale Weise to the loose puck and knocked it over a helpless (get used to that one) Grumet-Morris at 4:08.
After an Evgeny Grachev giveaway in his own zone that was only kept out of the net by a strong save by Grumet-Morris, Jared Nightingale took a hooking call at 5:29 for the first of what would be six power plays the Whale handed over to their opponent.
The Whale penalty kill, about the only thing doing well these past few games, kept the puck out of the net…for the moment.
Greg Scott and Stu Bickel followed up the PK with a skirmish as they dropped the gloves. On your scorecard give the unanimous decision to Bickel as the 6’ Scott essentially held on and took a bunch of shots from the 6’4” Whale defenseman. Both off for cooling down at 7:58.
Eight minutes into the contest, the Whale were being out-everything-ed and the shots stood at 5-1. The Whale clearly looked out of sync and the avalanche was about to begin.
At 10:32, a 2-on-1 developed as Alex Foster and Marcel Mueller came up ice off a turnover. The lone defenseman was Nightingale. Christian Hanson, the game’s First Star with five points (1g, 4a) in the game, got his first with a breakout pass to Foster. The Marlie centerman, the game’s Second Star, got a helper, his first of four points (2g, 2a) when Nightingale challenged him and did not cut off the passing lane. As he’s taught to do, Grumet-Morris “stayed with the shooter,” but Nightingale’s coverage error allowed Foster to slide the puck over to Mueller who, despite Jeremy Williams’ effort to get back and cover him, had ample time to put it home into the open net.
Then just 21 seconds later after Grumet-Morris (1-2, 25 saves) was hopping around making a bunch of strong stops, one rebound failed to get picked up by any of the defensive bystanders and Hamilton buried a wide open shot to send Grumet-Morris to the bench after allowing three goals on eight shots none of which were really his fault.
Enter Chad Johnson (7 saves) at 10:53.
12:26 sees the Whale get their first power play as Matt Lashoff goes off for an Interference call but the AHL”s fifth best power play (21.3%) could not crack the league’s best penalty killers (87%).
Devin DiDiomete, hoping to wake his teammates from their coma-like play, dropped the gloves with defenseman Mike Brennan for what proved to be an uninspiring wrestling match at 14:30.
13 seconds later the puck was back in the Whale net.
Mike Zigomanis‘s shot hit Johnson’s pad but rebounded right to Jeff Cowan who was completely alone in front and put it right into the net making it 4-0.
The Whale nightmare continued as Jason Williams took a tripping call at 15:47. 39 seconds later, the puck was behind Johnson.
Simon Gyspers took a shot from the right point that looked like it changed direction deflecting off of Wade Redden’s stick. Helpers to Danny Richmond for his first of four on the day en route to a Third Star performance and Mueller.
Shots for the period were 16-4 and the Whale trailed 5-0.
At this point it was no longer as to whether or not they were going to come back, but if they could stop the bleeding.
Jonas Gustavsson, who is on a conditioning stint after struggling in the NHL, started the game. “The Monster,” as he is known, made four saves and ended up with the win, but was pulled to start the second period as a precautionary measure when the team was concerned that his heart rate was unusually high. Jussi Rynnas (20 saves), the team’s regular starter entered the game.
Johnson looks like Denis Lemieux, the goaltender in Slapshot as the period starts.
Just 1:19 into the period Bickel screened his own goaltender as Foster shoots from down low on the left side and the puck hits Johnson’s arm and goes into the back of the net. 6-0.
No shutout for Toronto for the 7, 779 attending the midday matinee on Wednesday afternoon. The Marlies center Matt Caruana took a tripping call sending the Whale to their second power play.
Dale Weise, who along with Valentenko would finish the day an ugly minus-5, broke through when his shot from the middle of the slot beat Rynnas. Weise came from the right side and went across to the left. As he crossed the slot he shot back to the right and fooled Rynnas high to the glove side at 4:19.
The celebration didn’t last long as just 40 seconds later Foster scores off a 2-on-1 beating Johnson to the stick side and it’s 7-1. Johnson allows four goals on eleven shots and he’s back to the bench. Grumet-Morris, back in for the Whale.
After a Hamilton and Nightingale scrap at 5:46, Jason Williams takes a totally undisciplined Holding The Stick penalty in the offensive zone. You could feel Ken Gernander fuming on the Whale bench!
Cowan takes a goaltender interference call at 8:47 followed by Brennan going off for a high sticking call at 15:55.
But it just keeps getting worse as Hanson scores on a perfect shot from the right side beating Grumet-Morris for a goal he would love to have back with just 10.8 left.
The Whale outshot the Marlies 14-9 for the period but still got outscored 3-1 sending the Marlies into the final period with an 8-1 lead.
Starting the third, the march to the penalty box took off in earnest as DiDiomete got it started with a completely unnecessary boarding call at 3:18.
Grumet-Morris was solid on the PK keeping the puck out of the net despite several good chances by the home team.
Then Nightingale took a cross-checking call, another bad penalty at 6:43 and Kris Newbury, in his homecoming (Newbury spent four seasons with the Marlies) decided to get into the act and took a retaliatory slashing call putting the Whale down two men for 1:11.
Grumet-Morris was strong between the pipes since returning to the game, not that he was bad before he got pulled, despite the goals that were scored. Grumet-Morris’s excellent effort stopping shots kept the puck out of the net for the 5-on-3 power play.
At 10:29, Chad Kolarik got the Whale’s best scoring chance of the period, but Rynnas rose to the occasion and stoned the Whale winger who looked to finish a rebound of a Tim Kennedy shot in front of the net.
Referees Darcy Burchell and David Banfield must have had some sympathy for the visitors and called Richmond for a hooking call at 10:21 and then returned the 5-on-3 favor to the Whale when they called Lashoff for a High Sticking call at 11:27 for a 54 second two-man advantage.
Unfortunately, the Whale couldn’t do anything on either end of their PP and would finish 1-6 on the day.
Kennedy would get a late goal off a nice shot from the left circle beating Rynnas high over the blocker with 2:25 remaining, but to add insult to injury, Richmond beats Grumet-Morris high over the glove with just 31 seconds left.
When the Whale needed to buckle down in the third they still allowed a goal and were outshot 16-8 in the third period.
Gernander and his staff will need to get this game out of the team’s psyche pronto as it doesn’t get any easier as the team travels to Hamilton for a Friday night tilt with the second place in the North Division, Bulldogs.
If the Whale are going to get themselves into the playoffs, the push needs to start Friday night. If the effort doesn’t improve immediately the only way the Whale will see the playoffs is on AHL-Live.
* Only Jyri Niemi, Tim Kennedy and Justin Soryal only players who weren’t a minus in the game. Weise and Valentenko were an ugly minus-5 each (a Whale record outshining Corey Locke’s minus-4 versus Hershey on Dec. 6, 2009)
* This is the fourth time the franchise has allowed nine goals, and it’s the fifth time they lost by seven goals.
* The five goals the Whale granted Toronto in the first period was one more than the four shots they put on Gustavsson.
* Weise and Valentenko’s minus-5 is a team record for a game.
Dupont – Newbury – Weise
Grachev – Kennedy – Kolarik
Jason Williams – Tessier – Jeremy Williams
DiDiomete – Garlock – Soryal
Redden – Nightingale
Valentenko – Bickel
Niemi – Kundratek
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Oren Eizenman – Healthy Scratch
Cam Talbot – High Ankle Sprain, Day-to-Day
Chris McKelvie – Foot Surgery, Undetermined
Todd White – Concussion – Undetermined
1. TOR – C. Hanson
2. TOR – A. Foster
3. TOR – D. Richmond
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Darcy Burchell (50)
David Banfield (44)
Matt Traub (88)
Jesse Wilmot (19)
Game two in Canada, on the Whale’s four game road trip is in Hamilton on Friday at 7pm. Then it’s off to Providence on Sunday at 4:05 and then the team is off until Friday at Adirondack at 7:30. Bob Crawford has the pregame a half an hour before the puck drops.
To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $6.99 at AHL-live.
For Ticket information for all home games, call (860) 548-2000.
Connecticut Whale 2 at Toronto Marlies 9 – Status: Final
Wednesday, February 9, 2011 – Ricoh Coliseum
Connecticut 0 1 1 – 2
Toronto 5 3 1 – 9
1st Period-1, Toronto, Kadri 10 (Hamilton, Brennan), 4:08. 2, Toronto, Mueller 9 (Foster, Hanson), 10:22. 3, Toronto, Hamilton 4 (Gysbers, Hanson), 10:53. 4, Toronto, Cowan 6 (Zigomanis, Brunnstrom), 14:43. 5, Toronto, Gysbers 6 (Richmond, Foster), 16:26 (PP). Penalties-Nightingale Ct (hooking), 5:29; Bickel Ct (fighting), 7:58; Scott Tor (fighting), 7:58; Lashoff Tor (interference), 12:26; DiDiomete Ct (fighting), 14:30; Brennan Tor (fighting), 14:30; Williams Ct (tripping), 15:47.
2nd Period-6, Toronto, Foster 6 (Mueller, Hanson), 1:19. 7, Connecticut, Weise 11 (Niemi, Dupont), 4:19 (PP). 8, Toronto, Foster 7 (Richmond, Hanson), 4:59. 9, Toronto, Hanson 12 (Richmond, Brennan), 19:49. Penalties-Caruana Tor (tripping), 2:40; Nightingale Ct (fighting), 5:46; Hamilton Tor (fighting), 5:46; Williams Ct (holding the stick), 6:27; Cowan Tor (goaltender interference), 8:47; Brennan Tor (high-sticking), 15:55.
3rd Period-10, Connecticut, Kennedy 11 (Nightingale, Grachev), 17:35. 11, Toronto, Engel 10 (Richmond, Caruana), 19:29. Penalties-DiDiomete Ct (boarding), 3:18; Nightingale Ct (cross-checking), 6:43; Newbury Ct (slashing), 7:32; Richmond Tor (hooking), 10:21; Lashoff Tor (high-sticking), 11:27.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 4-14-8-26. Toronto 16-9-16-41.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 1 / 6; Toronto 1 / 6.
Goalies-Connecticut, Grumet-Morris 1-2-0 (30 shots-25 saves); Johnson 15-18-3 (11 shots-7 saves). Toronto, Gustavsson 2-0-0 (4 shots-4 saves); Rynnas 9-13-3 (22 shots-20 saves).
Referees-Darcy Burchell (50), David Banfield (44).
Linesmen-Matt Traub (88), Jesse Wilmot (19).