There’s a reason that Ken Gernander was the most popular player in Hartford Wolf Pack history. The ingredient that made him that, is what has made him the winningest coach in franchise history as well. Gernander is an honest, no-nonsense straight-shooter.
A stretch of four games in five days that included a highly emotional win Friday and a very physical game Saturday finally caught up with them as the Whale dropped a 4-2 decision to a Providence Bruins team looking to stave off playoff elimination in front of 8,405 at the Dunkin Donuts Center Sunday afternoon.
Despite getting two goals from Derek Couture and two helpers from newcomer Tommy Grant, playing in his first game since signing an Amateur Try-Out contract on Friday, the Whale could not match either the intensity or battle effort the Bruins put on the ice.
The Whale also had no answer for Trent Whitfield, who had a goal and two assists and was all over the ice. Kirk MacDonald added two goals and Bruins netminder Anton Khudobin was stellar when tested stopping 31 of the 33 shots he faced for his 26th win of the season (26-14-2).
Gernander had no alibis for his team’s performance. “Obviously we made some mistakes and we took some penalties again tonight. There were some more penalties tonight that we took that I wasn’t crazy about and then too little too late. It started with some poor decisions with the puck as far as turnovers. Sometimes when you turn the puck over, the transition is in the offensive zone, and a quick read can flick a switch and go on the offensive and create some back-pressure and you can squelch some of those penalties in the neutral zone before it even becomes a scoring chance. ”
Worcester recaptured two of the six points they trail the Whale by for the last guaranteed playoff spot in the Atlantic Division when the Sharks beat the Adirondack Phantoms 3-1 at home. Meanwhile, Binghamton moved three points ahead of the Whale by knocking off the Springfield Falcons 4-1 at the MassMutual Center. Due to the AHL crossover rule, either the fourth place Atlantic or the East Division fifth place team with the higher season point total will be the team to play in the tournament for the Calder Cup, while the other will head to the golf course.
“The onus is on us to win our games,” Gernander said. “That’s how sports works. You win your games. You win your way into the playoffs. you don’t rely on help from others. We should be focused on playing our best hockey and winning games. It’s what our focus should be.”
It was a rather lifeless first period for both teams as both teams played with caution looking to avoid making big mistakes. However, the lack of energy did produce some decent chances for both sides that both goaltenders neutralized.
Khudobin stopped Ryan Garlock twice at 10:15 and 16:29, while Dov Grumet-Morris (40 saves, 11-4-1), who had a career high seven game winning streak stopped, had a battle with Whitfield. Grumet-Morris stopped him with two chances at 11:58 and then again a few moments later. Grumet-Morris’ stellar stop at 14:47 left Whitfield with nothing to do but raise his stick in the air while skating away in frustration.
With 1:46 left in the first frame, Grumet Morris had pressure in front of the net and got knocked down in the crease and David Warsofsky got hooked by Couture. Warsofsky threw the puck into the net, but Terry and his nephew Jaime Koharski calling the game conferred and waived off the goal claiming the whistle was blown before the goal as they felt the Whale had had possession.
At 3:49 of the second, the puck was deep in the Whale zone. Lane MacDermid battled Stu Bickel for the puck and won it advancing it up the left wing side to Whitfield. The Bruins’ centerman fired a shot on goal while David Ling was in front of the net. Ling redirected the shot through Grumet-Morris’ 5-hole for his eighth goal of the season.
Bickel took a tripping call at 6:59 which sent the Bruins to their second power play. At 7:26 they capitalized when David Laliberte quickly moved the puck over to Jaime Arniel. The Bruin centerman saw Whitfield all alone in the left circle and got him the puck. Whitfield blazed the puck into the back of the net short side.
In the third, the Whale came out strong and at just 50 seconds into the period Dale Weise took a feed from Kris Newbury on a 3-on-1 odd-man rush and hit the outside of the goalpost.
With Zach Hamill in the penalty box for a slashing call at 7:12, the Bruins took advantage of poor puck handling and added a shorthanded goal from MacDonald that would prove to be the game winner at 8:11.
The Whale got the first of Couture’s two goals at 15:10 when he told a feed from Grant and banked in a shot from low on the left side off Khudobin’s left pad. The goal kept Couture red-hot as it was his third goal in four games. For Grant it was his first professional point.
Connecticut’s team continued to press and with 1:15 left and Grumet-Morris on the bench for a sixth attacker, the puck was moved around looking for an opening for a shot. The puck wound up on the left point and Wade Redden simply froze and lost the puck to Colby Cohen who flipped it ahead to MacDonald for a rush up ice and a puck in an empty net.
If there’s one thing about a Ken Gernander coached team, they don’t give up and with just a single second to go, Couture again took a Grant feed and fired one past Khudobin from in front of the net for the game’s final tally.
Shots were 44-33 to the Bruins’ advantage.
“We didn’t play as well as we could have,” Grumet-Morris said summing it up so succinctly. “(The Bruins) won. They got three goals and an empty net. They earned their goals. They had opportunities to score more. It happens.”
“We’ve got a week off.” Gernander said. “We’ve got some work to do.”
Couture expounded on Gernander’s thought. “We’ve got a week off. We’ll regroup, rest tired bodies, do what we need to do, come back for the last six games and get hot going into the playoffs.”
Bruce Berlet is on vacation for a week, so Bob Crawford pulls double-duty with the story at CTWhale.com. The Providence Journal, as usual it seems, ignored the game and the only perspective comes from the Bruins themselves at ProvidenceBruins.com.
(Standings via theahl.com)
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
* Kevan Miller’s fight with Jared Nightingale was the first of his career. For Nightingale it was his first fight…of the game.
* The Whale have not lost two straight since 5-1 and 1-0 losses on Feb. 24-26 to the Charlotte Checkers.
* Since going scoreless in his first seven games since signing with the team on March 1st, Couture has points in five of his last six games (5g, 1a, 6pts).
* Francis Lemieux is scoreless in his last five games
* The Whale power play has one goal in it’s last 17 man-advantage opportunities over the past five games and has two in it’s last 28 over eight games.
Dupont – Newbury – Weise
Grachev – Tessier – Couture
Niemi – Lemieux – Williams
Soryal – Garlock – Grant
Valentenko – Parlett
Redden – Nightingale
Bickel – Kundratek
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Devin DiDiomete – Lower Body – Day-to-Day
John Mitchell – Lower Body – Day-to-Day
Chad Kolarik – Hamstring – Day-to-Day
Kale Kerbashian– Healthy Scratch
Michael Del Zotto – Broken Finger, 2-3 weeks
Todd White – Concussion – Indefinite
Chris McKelvie – Foot Surgery, Season
1. PRO – T. Whitfield
2. PRO – K. MacDonald
3. PRO – A. Khudobin
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Terry Koharski (10)
Jamie Koharski (84)
Ed Boyle (81)
Todd Whittemore (70)
Round Two of the back-to-back in Providence Friday night. The puck drops at 7pm with Bob Crawford handling the play-by-play with the pregame a half an hour before game time.
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 Providence Bruins 4 – Status: Final
Sunday, March 27, 2011 – Dunkin’ Donuts Center
Connecticut 0 0 2 – 2
Providence 0 2 2 – 4
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Couture Ct (hooking), 18:14; Nightingale Ct (fighting), 18:14; Miller Pro (fighting), 18:14.
2nd Period-1, Providence, Ling 8 (Whitfield, MacDermid), 3:49. 2, Providence, Whitfield 17 (Arniel, Laliberte), 7:26 (PP). Penalties-Bickel Ct (tripping), 6:59; Hamill Pro (hooking), 11:03; Bartkowski Pro (holding), 14:26; Newbury Ct (slashing), 18:10.
3rd Period-3, Providence, MacDonald 14 (Bodnarchuk), 8:11 (SH). 4, Connecticut, Couture 4 (Grant), 15:10. 5, Providence, MacDonald 15 (Cohen, Whitfield), 19:17 (EN). 6, Connecticut, Couture 5 (Grant), 19:59. Penalties-Hamill Pro (roughing), 1:46; Weise Ct (cross-checking), 1:53; Hamill Pro (slashing), 7:12; Warsofsky Pro (cross-checking), 8:50; Soryal Ct (fighting), 11:44; MacDermid Pro (fighting), 11:44; Bickel Ct (elbowing, roughing), 12:34; LaVallee-Smotherman Pro (roughing), 12:34.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 10-9-14-33. Providence 14-13-17-44.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 0 / 5; Providence 1 / 5.
Goalies-Connecticut, Grumet-Morris 11-4-1 (43 shots-40 saves). Providence, Khudobin 26-14-2 (33 shots-31 saves).
Referees-Terry Koharski (10), Jamie Koharski (84).
Linesmen-Ed Boyle (81), Todd Whittemore (70).