Top to bottom the Whale’s visit to Charlotte for the first time against the team that for 17 years was their ECHL affiliate ended as badly as it started as the visit resulted in a, hard-to-watch, 5-1 loss in front of 4,511 at the Time-Warner Cable Arena Thursday night.
Chad Johnson’s (11 saves, 16-19-3) struggles between the pipes continued as he surrendered five goals on sixteen shots. In his last 11 appearances, Johnson has allowed 36 goals on 296 shots for a 3.05GAA and a .878 save percentage over the span. For the season, Johnson has allowed 103 goals on 1,040 shots for a 2.72GAA and a .901%. It’s just not good enough.
Thursday, Johnson only allowed one bad goal while the remainder were the result of pathetic effort by his teammates who, over the first 40 minutes, played with less spirit than they did when they took a 9-2 shellacking in Toronto to start this road trip.
Head Coach Ken Gernander was not on the trip as he was hospitalized overnight in an area hospital as a precaution after experiencing pain and swelling in his lower legs earlier in the day. For his sake, hopefully he won’t have to watch the tape from this one. If there’s one thing that sends Gernander’s blood to a boil, it’s a lack of effort in losses and this one would have turned his blood to steam.
Just 1:30 into the game, Jacob Micflicker had a breakaway off some sloppy play on the backend in the offensive zone. The Whale caught a break when Micflicker lost control of the puck on the way to the net, but it a sign of things to come.
After spending most of the early part of the contest in the Whale zone with control of the puck, at 8:57 the Checkers broke through.
Sloppy puck handling again plagued the Whale as Zac Dalpe lead a 3-on-2 odd-man rush into the Connecticut zone. Dalpe passed across ice to Drayson Bowman on the left side who fed Matthew Pistilli who was wide open in the slot for a shot that beat Johnson over the blocker shoulder for a 1-0 lead.
18 seconds after the Whale had killed off a Stu Bickel interference call at 11:55, ex-Wolf –Pack defenseman Ethan Graham fed Micflicker who gave the puck on the left side to Bowman. The Checker left wing was left completely alone as he skated from one side of the ice to the other and given FAR too much room as he spun back and fired a shot through traffic that beat Johnson low to the blocker side from the right wing circle. 2-0.
Johnson did manage to stop Riley Nash all alone in front of the net and then Chris Terry on a rush, but Blake Partlett was called for a slash on the play with 1:15 to go in the period.
The Whale killed off the remaining penalty time to start the second, but it only took 53 seconds for the Checkers to get their field goal lead after goaltender Mike Murphy (26 saves, 18-8-3) handed the puck to Dalpe and watched him rush end-to-end completely untouched and unimpeded by a single Whale defender. When the rookie center got to Johnson’s left, he just sort of dropped the puck in on him and it slid between the Whale netminder’s skates and behind him. Totally unacceptable.
Bickel stood up for Tim Kennedy after the smallish skilled forward was handed a crushing hit from Terry along the Checker’s bench at 1:47. The hit on Kennedy left him dazed for a bit, but he got up and continued.
But the waves of offensive attack continued as the Whale watched the Checkers pick them apart without much of a response.
Around the seven minute mark, Jon Matsumoto was stopped by Johnson and that was followed by Johnson’s best save of the game denying Brett Sutter from dead-red off a 2-on-1 odd-man rush.
Oren Eizenman took a lazy hooking call at 11:25 for the team’s fourth shorthanded opportunity and it cost them as Terry made them pay just 18 seconds later.
Terry took a Dalpe pass along the right side half boards. Pavel Valentenko stood and watched him skate by, as Terry came to the front of the net and fired a shot that beat Johnson low to the glove side for the 4-0 lead.
26 seconds later Terry scored again.
Terry moved through Whale defenders like you would see in a skills competition skating through traffic cones and firing a shot. Wade Redden and Jared Nightingale, playing for the first time in Charlotte since playing for the ECHL Checkers last season, played the part of the traffic cones and from almost the same spot as the previous goal fired the shot and beat Johnson through the five-hole for the second bad goal of the game by the Whale netminder.
After the next stoppage at 15:51, Johnson’s night was over.
Dov Grumet-Morris entered the game and while his defense wasn’t doing much more than they’d done for Johnson, Grumet-Morris kept the puck out of the net stopping all 14 shots he faced in the contest.
Brodie Dupont, who after a great streak of 4g, 6a in 8 games after being returned from his first career call-up with the Rangers, had cooled and held pointless in his last three contests, almost got back on the board late in the first when he tried to follow up on a Valentenko shot, but was snuffed out by Murphy for likely his best stop of the game.
The third period, the Whale had been humiliated enough that they decided collectively to do something about it. But the Checkers, who had dazzled with their offensive skill, were not shy when it came to the rough stuff either.
After Jeremy Williams took a holding call along the right wing while rushing the puck up ice, the right winger fired a shot on Murphy after the whistle. As he skated through the crease, Brett Bellemore and Michal Jordan clobbered him.
Nicolas Blanchard got called for roughing in the ensuing scrum while Williams was given an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty to go with the original holding call at 7:43.
The game devolved after that.
At 8:27, Zach Boychuk and Nightingale got into a tango while Dale Weise and Terry got into a fight. Boychuk was given a double roughing minor while Nightingale got a single roughing call and Weise and Terry went for the standard five minutes for fighting.
But old habits die hard, and the defense was asleep at the wheel again at 9:17 when Matsumoto was left all alone in front of the net only to be denied on both attempts but Grumet-Morris.
20 seconds later, it was penalty time again as Bickel and Matsumoto went off for matching minors.
Blanchard and Devin DiDiomete got into a scrap at 12:10. Nothing new for DiDiomete who leads the AHL in fighting majors. What made this fight memorable was that when the fight moved to the front of the Checkers bench, DiDiomete was practically ignoring Blanchard altogether and was having a yelling match with a very animated Brad Herauf who openly was mocking him. It’s a safe bet that these two will somehow tangle in the team’s next meeting Saturday night.
Bellemore was called for a trip at 12:22 and it would cost Murphy his shutout as the Whale’s 4th ranked power play over took the Checker’s sixth ranked penalty kill for the tally.
The Whale moved the puck well along the perimeter and it wound up on Redden’s stick at the right point. Redden threw the puck down low to Grachev. The Russian rookie moved in on net and slid it into the crease. Meanwhile simultaneously to Grachev coming in close, Dupont was knocked down and managed to redirect the puck from the ice and past Murphy for his 13th of the season and the Whale’s only goal of the game.
More rough stuff the rest of the way highlighted by a play in the corner where after watching Micflicker board a teammate, Weise crushed Kyle Lawson into the boards, then picked up the fallen defenseman and smacked him around and got up in his face.
If the Whale can play with that level of intensity and have some heart Saturday night, they’d have a heck of a better chance of a better flight back to Connecticut and Gernander might be able to rest a bit easier.
Bruce Berlet is on a well-deserved vacation and didn’t make the road trip so that leaves Bob Crawford once again to pull double-duty both, calling the game and writing the CTWhale.com recap. Jack Horan has the story on the Checkers at CharlotteObserver.com.
Here is the Charlotte tale of the game:
CHECKERS SCORE FIVE STRAIGHT TO DROWN WHALE
Terry tallies twice; Murphy earns seventh win in eight games
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Charlotte Checkers scored five straight goals and Mike Murphy continued his stellar play as they downed the Connecticut Whale, 5-1, on Thursday evening.
Murphy stopped all but one of Connecticut’s 30 shots to improve to 7-0-1, including a shutout, in his last eight games. Chris Terry scored two second-period goals to supplement tallies by Matthew Pistilli, Drayson Bowman and Zac Dalpe.
Along with his goal, Dalpe added a pair of assists for his 10th multi-point game of the season. Bryan Rodney led the way on defense for Charlotte with two assists and a plus-3 rating.
Whale goaltender Chad Johnson had a rough night, allowing five goals on 16 shots before being replaced by DovGrumet-Morris with 4:09 left in the second period.
At 8:57 of the first period, the Checkers got on the board first with a goal by Pistilli. Bowman drove down the left-wing side, found Pistilli trailing the play and the winger blasted a slap shot into the upper left corner of the net.
Bowman then extended the Charlotte lead to 2-0, with 5:47 remaining in the opening period. The Colorado native collected a loose puck at the top of the right-wing circle and ripped a slap shot off of the far post and in.
In the opening minute of the second period, the Checkers padded their lead with a goal by Dalpe. The AHL rookie scoring leader took a bad angle shot from the right-wing side that squeaked between Johnson’s skate and the post.
Later in the second, Terry tacked on a pair of goals, including a power-play tally, to drive his season total to 25, the most on the Checkers’ active roster.
In an attempt to reverse their fortunes, Connecticut relieved Johnson in favor of Grumet-Morris late in the second period.
The Whale denied Murphy his second shutout of the week with a late-third period goal by Brodie Dupont but it wasn’t enough as the Checkers won, 5-1.
The Checkers (33-20-2-5) travel to Norfolk to take on the Admirals on Friday night before returning to Charlotte on Saturday to battle Connecticut for the second time in three nights. The puck drops at 7 p.m. at Time Warner Cable Arena. For ticket information, call 704-342-4423 or visit www.gocheckers.com. The first 3,000 fans at Saturday’s game will receive a free Checkers backpack.
Zac Dalpe leads all rookies with 41 (18g, 23a) points in just 41 games… Chris Terry has five goals in his last four games and is on a five game point streak (5g, 3a)… Matthew Pistilli has scored three goals in his last four games… Drayson Bowman has scored goals in three straight games… Bryan Rodney has six (1g, 5a) points in his last three games… Mike Murphy is 7-0-1 in his last eight games and has recorded two assists in his last three games.
(Standings via theahl.com)
* In Gernander’s absence, J.J. Daigneault acted as head coach with Pat Boller assisting.
* Mike Murphy may be the backup in Charlotte, but he’s red hot. The Checkers netminder has won seven of his last eight games.
* Both Wade Redden and Brodie Dupont had points in this game and are fifth and sixth in scoring on the Whale with 32 (5, 27) and 31 (13, 18) respectively.
* To tell you how bad things are after that, Mats Zuccarello, who hasn’t played for the Whale in the last 26 games because he graduated to the NHL, is seventh with 25 points, (13, 12) one more than Evgeny Grachev who has played in 52.
* 21 games remain in the Whale season, 11 home games and 10 on the road. After completing this road trip they play 7-of-9 at home and then finish the season playing four on the road and three at home.
* This was game six of the Whale’s span of playing 10 of 12 on the road. They are 4-2 on the trip to this point. Still to go are games against Charlotte again Saturday night before returning to the XL Center for the first time in nearly a month, then visit Springfield, Worcester and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to close out the run of road games.
Grachev – Kennedy – Williams
Dupont – Tessier – Weise
DiDiomete – Lemieux– Imbeault
Soryal – Garlock – Eizenman
Redden – Nightingale
Valentenko – Parlett
Baldwin – Bickel
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Chad Kolarik – Hamstring, 1-2 Weeks
Tomas Kundratek – Flu, Day-to-Day
Jyri Niemi – Separated Shoulder – Four – Six Weeks
Chris McKelvie – Foot Surgery, Season
Todd White – Concussion – Undetermined
Head Coach Ken Gernander – Lower body pain – Day-to-Day
1. CHA – C. Terry
2. CHA – B. Rodney
3. CHA – M. Murphy
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Jeff Smith (49)
Ghislain Hebert (49)
Paul Carnathan (93)
Terry Wicklum (58)
Whale look to bounce back in Charlotte for the second of their two with the team that was last season’s ECHL affiliate before they moved up to become Carolina’s AHL team. Saturday the puck drops at 7pm. Bob Crawford has the pregame a half an hour before game time and he and the injured Chad Kolarik will have the play-by-play.
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 1 at Charlotte Checkers 5 – Status: Final
Thursday, February 24, 2011 – Time Warner Cable Arena
Connecticut 0 0 1 – 1
Charlotte 2 3 0 – 5
1st Period-1, Charlotte, Pistilli 4 (Bowman, Dalpe), 8:57. 2, Charlotte, Bowman 11 (Micflikier, Graham), 14:13. Penalties-Bickel Ct (interference), 11:55; Parlett Ct (slashing), 18:45.
2nd Period-3, Charlotte, Dalpe 18 (Rodney, Murphy), 0:53. 4, Charlotte, Terry 24 (Dalpe, Rodney), 11:47 (PP). 5, Charlotte, Terry 25 (Sutter), 15:13. Penalties-Bickel Ct (roughing), 1:47; Eizenman Ct (hooking), 11:25.
3rd Period-6, Connecticut, Grachev 15 (Dupont, Redden), 13:54 (PP). Penalties-McKenzie Cha (tripping), 2:51; Williams Ct (holding, unsportsmanlike conduct), 7:43; Blanchard Cha (roughing), 7:43; Nightingale Ct (roughing), 8:27; Weise Ct (fighting), 8:27; Boychuk Cha (roughing, roughing), 8:27; Terry Cha (fighting), 8:27; Bickel Ct (roughing), 9:35; Matsumoto Cha (slashing), 9:35; DiDiomete Ct (fighting), 12:10; Blanchard Cha (fighting), 12:10; Bellemore Cha (slashing), 12:22; Weise Ct (roughing), 14:50; Micflikier Cha (boarding), 14:50; FitzGerald Cha (slashing), 19:42.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 9-8-10-27. Charlotte 10-6-14-30.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 1 / 4; Charlotte 1 / 5.
Goalies-Connecticut, Johnson 16-19-3 (16 shots-11 saves); Grumet-Morris 4-2-1 (14 shots-14 saves). Charlotte, Murphy 18-9-3 (27 shots-26 saves).
Referees-Jeff Smith (49), Ghislain Hebert (49).
Linesmen-Paul Carnathan (93), Terry Wicklum (58).