It’s so cliché to use it to describe anything these days, but it truly did describe Saturday’s Whale Bowl at Rentscheler Field that saw the Connecticut Whale’s three game winning streak stopped via a skills competition shootout 5-4 in front of, what will go down in the record books anyway, an AHL record 21,673.
With temperatures in the teens, and win chills that had it feeling like it was below zero, only about 12,000 max were actually in “The Rent,” the home of the University of Connecticut Husky football program.
“It was just too cold,” one fan who had bought tickets told Howlings. “We bought tickets, sat down and left five minutes later. We just couldn’t stay.”
At least they showed up.
The Baldwins announced that 15,234 tickets were actually scanned. They confirmed that 28,600 tickets were distributed of which 21,600 were paid for. That contradicted reports of numbers over 25,000 being sold that were circulating during the week.
“The weather is out of my control, but it was cold out there,” Baldwin, Sr. said. “But the fact this many people came out in these elements is amazing to me. Now we have to keep going. We’re in the hockey business twelve months a year, so we finish out the season, we get some crowds for the team and the playoffs and sell season tickets (for 2011-12).”
Whatever anyone thought of the weather or the ticket issues, the organization DID put on a game and it was quite a game.
It was still a very entertaining hockey game despite the fact that the actual playing surface was horrible. The ice on the rink itself looked more like the two teams were playing on a neighborhood pond rather than a professionally groomed and manicured hockey rink. The intense cold and high winds literally created sizeable snow drifts at the far end of the ice and there were cracks and divots all over the place. But despite all of that, Whale forward Brodie Dupont said, “You had to keep your feet going to get your body warm, but once you did, the conditions were the same for both teams so (the ice conditions) wasn’t a factor.”
(Photo by Chris Rutsch)
It was just like indoor,” Maxime Sauve of the P-Bruins said after scoring the game winner in the shootout. “You have to play the same. Do the same thing you would do in an indoor rink. Control the puck.”
Whale assistant captain Kris Newbury agreed. “The lights didn’t bother me. The puck was bouncing a bit, but other than that, I thought it was fine,” He said. “It was a little bit windy on the one side, but once you got used to it, I guess you were either skating into it so it wasn’t such a big deal. But right at the beginning it was kind of different to get used to.”
However, Whale goaltender Dov Grumet Morris, who was solid throughout had to make adjustments. “It definitely was different than normal circumstances with all the environmental factors,” Grumet-Morris (28 saves, 4-2-1) said. “The puck was bouncing, so it was a little more like a ground ball situation. The lighting wasn’t too bad, but there weren’t too many high plays from like 100 feet.”
In the shootout, none of the Whale players who Head Coach Ken Gernander sent out to try and win it for the home team, Tim Kennedy, Dale Weise, Kris Newbury, Kelsey Tessier and Jeremy Williams, were able to slip one past P-Bruins starter Michael Hutchinson (28 saves, 9-7-0).
Sauve, who has killed the Whale all season long scoring with five goals in three games, including one in this one, was the only player of either side to put one in the net.
“He took a shot fake and with a quick move, went to my glove side,” the Whale netminder said. “I thought that was the side he was committing to, and he ended up pulling it quickly to the other side. It was a very good move, and he beat me wide. It was unfortunate. Trust me, I wish I could have had it, but I have to tip my cap to him. He made a very good move.”
The Whale started off the game quickly and built a 2-0 lead on goals by Kennedy and Jyri Niemi and seemed to be in complete control entering the second period, but then as has been the case all season long, a let down by the team allowed the P-Bruins to put three behind Morris in a span of 8:01.
“We had momentum after the first period,” Gernander said. “I thought it was one of our better periods. We made some mistakes and took some penalties in the second period and gave them a bit of life. Then you know it’s game on.”
Weise agree. “I thought we came out with a good start and we kind of faltered a little bit and let them back in the game. I don’t think we played well in that span. It shouldn’t be that way. We’re playing with the wind. It should be easy for us to get on our horse and get going and that wasn’t the case at all. They took it to us we made some dumb plays turning the pucks over and it seems to be the case all year, soon as a team gets one on us, they keep rolling and rolling and we don’t seem to have a way to counter it. We gotta find a way to or it’s going to be a slippery slope to try and get into the play-offs.”
1:21 into the second, Sauve rushed up the slot and in front of Pavel Valentenko and took a centering pass from Jamie Arniel and redirected the puck through Grumet-Morris’ five hole. “I know he’s a fast guy,” Arniel said. “I knew he was breaking to the net and he made a great play to tip it in.
“We’ve been playing together for awhile and were roommates. We have had our ups and downs,” Arniel said of playing with Sauve.” “But lately we have been getting more chances and making them.”
5:04 later after a veteran Denis Hamel got the puck behind the Whale net, Jordan LaValle-Smotherman took the puck from the right side and came around the left on the wraparound and with a lot of traffic in front of Grumet-Morris, who seemed to have that side covered, slipped it in past him to knot the score.
Less than three minutes later, the P-Bruins took the lead on Jeremy Reich’s 12th of the season off a rebound of an Arniel pass. “(Right wing, Jordan) Caron called for a back door play,” Arniel said. “I made the pass, but it hit the defenseman’s skate (Stu Bickel) and Reichy was able to bang it in.”
The Whale did manage to get it back even at three on the power play.
Devin DiDiomete and Nathan McIver got matching roughing calls after a high stick by Yury Alexandrov clipped him, and gave the Whale their second man advantage of the game.
38 seconds into the power play, Kennedy on the left sent the puck up to the point to Wade Redden. The 14 year NHL veteran then sent a cross ice feed over to Williams on the right. The Whale’s lone All-Star representative tried to one-time it, but semi-fanned on the shot and put a relatively slow moving puck on net, but with the help of the wind and a deflection off a P-Bruin defender’s stick changed it’s direction enough that it got past Hutchinson.
The Whale regained the lead 59 seconds later when Evgeny Grachev dumped the puck into the left corner behind the net. Ryan Garlock moved it over to the right side behind the net and saw Jared Nightingale come crashing in from his spot on the right point. Garlock made a perfect pass and Nightingale buried the shot over Hutchinson’s blocker shoulder for his second of the season.
The Whale had two more golden opportunities in the period that both came up empty.
Weise had a clean breakaway with 3:13 to go and then Grachev missed a wide open net with 2:52 in the period.
Despite trailing entering the final period, Arniel said that the P-Bruins were still quite confident they could get an equalizer and eventually win the game. “We had a bad start and let them get ahead, but we got the three goals in the second and that gave us confidence for the third period.”
In the third, Grumet-Morris denied LaValle-Smotherman all alone in front after Blake Parlett had fallen down and a pass in front found the P-Bruin left winger wide open.
Grumet-Morris stood tall again just 51 seconds later when he denied Jeremy Reich in front.
On what would prove to be a decisive tying goal, off a time-out, referee Ghislain Hebert dropped the puck before the Whale seemed totally set. Sauve won a Whale defensive zone faceoff back to David Ling. Ling then sent it to Arniel along the right side who buried it from the bad angle for a very quick goal.
“I didn’t really see the last goal there,” Weise said, “But coming off a little bit of a timeout, we have to be prepared and I don’t think we were ready off the draw, I don’t think anyone was ready and with 6 minutes left (6:08 to be exact) that just can’t happen.”
The Whale did manage to get a point by bringing the game to overtime.
In the extended frame, the Whale and P-Bruins did play a rare 3-on-3 for 1:48 when Dupont (slashing) and newly acquired defenseman Boris Valabik (roughing) exchanged penalties. When Colby Cohen was called for holding Weise trying to cut across the slot, it set up a 4-on-3 but the Whale could not get anything going on the power play.
“Obviously two points are critical for us,” Gernander said. “Given where we are in the standings and our playoff push, so it was a pretty important point to give up.”
“We have to find a way to kind of close them out,” a clearly disappointed Newbury, who celebrated his 29th birthday on Saturday, said. “When you’re up two goals, you have to shut the door and kind of put them asleep and at the same time not let off the gas and just play our game. But we let them back in the game, and that was the turning point when we let them back in the game.”
“We would have liked to win the game, but it was a good experience,” Kennedy said from his locker. “I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to go with the wind, but it really wasn’t a factor. Each team got kind of a fluky goal, and the shootout is kind of a crapshoot. Sometimes you win like (Friday) night, sometimes you lose.
“It’s just tough when you think you should have got the two points because the goal they scored in the third was kind of fluky through bodies, but that’s how it goes sometimes. We had some mistakes in the second period not taking care of the puck and they found a way to get it in the back of our net. Then we had a breakdown here or there, and there’s your little stretch of time that really kill us.”
Grumet-Morris, despite the outcome was glad to have been a part of the experience. “It was definitely a carnival atmosphere,” he said. “It looked like it took a lot of people a lot of work, and even today people working all day and through the night tonight they’re going to be working. We don’t, as players, get to see a lot of that, so we’re definitely appreciative of everything that everyone put into it, from our ownership group all the way down to the guys who are cleaning the stuff in the stands and try to make sure it’s warm in our locker room.
“Our trainers have slept about two hours in the last 48, so there are a lot of people who work behind the scenes and we do appreciate it. And from their perspective and from ours, we probably wouldn’t want to play every game outdoors.”
The Whale’s first goal came at 11:13 when Kennedy stole the puck in the offensive zone on the forecheck and rushed in alone on Hutchinson. Kennedy fired it over the blocker and into the back of the net for his 12th of the season unassisted.
Niemi’s goal was possibly the best played goal of the entire contest.
After DiDiomete won a battle with Reich along the right side boards he slid it to his right to Kelsey Tessier who had joined the battle along the wall. DiDiomete pealed off and Tessier with his back to his right winger, passed back to him. DiDiomete made a bee line for the net and made a perfect cross crease pass to Niemi who had gotten in front of his man and fired the puck into the open net. Hutchinson tried in vain to get over to Niemi but had no chance.
For Niemi, playing on the left wing for the second consecutive game with Chad Kolarik out with a hamstring injury, it was his second goal of the season.
So while Whalers Sports and Entertainment looked to score points with the NHL about the strength of hockey in Hartford and the team looked to put two points up in the standings, both appeared to come up short a bit when all was said and done. Certainly not the best of times, by any stretch, but definitely not the worst either.
As you might imagine, there was the most amount of coverage ever for a Connecticut Whale game.
Bruce Berlet was the leader of the “Pack” (pardon the intentional pun). His unabridged report can be found here at Howlings. The Hartford Courant was certainly represented (for a change). Jeff Jacobs has his tale, while Paul Doyle authors a story on the attendance and talked to both Howard Baldwin Sr. and Junior. Both contributed to their WhaleBowl Notebook. WTNH-TV sent out a reporter for this story that also has video. Here’s a report from Fox61 from earlier in the day. Lots of great coverage at CTNow.com. Shawn Courchesne has a story as well. Mike DeMauro is just brutal and may be a bit over the top at TheDay.com Jesse Spector was in town from the NY Daily News.
Dan Hickling appears to be the only reporter that was sent to get the story from inside the Providence locker room at Projo.com. WPRI used a WTNH report and the Providence Bruins own story as their coverage.
Lindsay Kramer wasn’t there but has a little sore feelings about the record being broken at Syracuse.com.
That should give you a REALLY strong flavor of the coverage.
BRIAN LEETCH –
KEN GERNANDER –
DOV GRUMET MORRIS –
KRIS NEWBURY –
TIM KENNEDY –
BRODIE DUPONT –
DALE WEISE –
(Standings via theahl.com)
* LaVallee-Smotherman was the only player on either side to have taken part in last year’s AHL outdoor game as a member of the Crunch.
* 15,234 were reported as having had their tickets scanned. 28,600 tickets were distributed of which 21,600 were paid for.
ALUMNI GAME ROSTERS:
* if you’re having difficulty reading it, just double click to enlarge. Also, in the game but not on the roster were…The Hanson Brothers…
Dupont – Newbury – Williams
Grachev – Kennedy – Weise
Niemi – Tessier – DiDiomete
Soryal – Garlock – Eizenman
Redden – Nightingale
Valentenko – Parlett
Baldwin – Bickel
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Chad Kolarik – Hamstring, Day-to-Day
Tomas Kundratek – Flu, Day-to-Day
Cam Talbot – High Ankle Sprain, Undetermined
Chris McKelvie – Foot Surgery, Undetermined
Todd White – Concussion – Undetermined
1. CT – T. Kennedy
2. PRO – J. Arniel
3. PRO – M. Sauve
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Ghislain Hebert (49)
David Spannaus (8)
Luke Galvin (2)
The road trip continues with a Monday afternoon holiday treat as the Whale travel to Portland to take on the Pirates. The puck drops at 1pm. 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.
Providence Bruins 5 (SO) at Connecticut Whale 4 – Status: Final SO
Saturday, February 19, 2011 – Rentschler Field
Providence 0 3 1 0 – 5
Connecticut 2 2 0 0 – 4
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Kennedy 12 11:13. 2, Connecticut, Niemi 2 (DiDiomete, Tessier), 19:38. Penalties-Roussel Pro (roughing), 5:16; DiDiomete Ct (roughing), 5:16; Alexandrov Pro (hooking), 6:21; Whitfield Pro (delay of game), 8:10; Reich Pro (roughing), 8:49; Newbury Ct (roughing), 8:49.
2nd Period-3, Providence, Sauve 14 (Arniel, Ling), 1:21. 4, Providence, LaVallee-Smotherman 7 (Hamill, Roussel), 6:25. 5, Providence, Reich 12 (Arniel, Hamill), 9:42 (PP). 6, Connecticut, Williams 25 (Redden, Kennedy), 12:15 (PP). 7, Connecticut, Nightingale 2 (Garlock, Grachev), 13:14. Penalties-McIver Pro (fighting), 7:14; Grachev Ct (hooking), 7:14; Nightingale Ct (fighting), 7:14; Valentenko Ct (hooking), 9:06; Alexandrov Pro (high-sticking), 11:37.
3rd Period-8, Providence, Arniel 16 13:52. Penalties-No Penalties
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Valabik Pro (roughing), 1:52; Dupont Ct (slashing), 1:52; Penner Pro (holding), 3:50.
Shootout – Providence 1 (Hamill NG, Arniel NG, Whitfield NG, Sauve G), Connecticut 0 (Kennedy NG, Weise NG, Newbury NG, Tessier NG, Williams NG).
Shots on Goal-Providence 8-14-10-0-1-33. Connecticut 13-12-6-1-0-32.
Power Play Opportunities-Providence 1 / 2; Connecticut 1 / 4.
Goalies-Providence, Hutchinson 9-7-0 (32 shots-28 saves). Connecticut, Grumet-Morris 4-2-1 (32 shots-28 saves).
Referees-Ghislain Hebert (49).
Linesmen-David Spannaus (8), Luke Galvin (2).