If “the wheels on the bus go round-and-round” as the children’s song goes, then the wheels on the Connecticut Whale bus have gone flat and Head Coach Ken Gernander and his staff are running out of time to get the bus moving again as the Whale dropped their fourth straight for the second time this season with a 6-2 shellacking by the Springfield Falcons Saturday night.
“We didn’t play our game tonight.” Kris Newbury said summing it up succinctly. “We gotta find a way to get this all back on track because we don’t have many games left.”
As they have during this four-game slide, the Whale allowed a player on the opposition to dominate them. It was David Ullstrom and Rob Hisey in the 5-1 loss to Bridgeport. Kirk MacDonald the first game against Providence and Jaime Arniel the second. Saturday it was defenseman David Savard who lit up the Whale for a paid of goals and a helper with Cam Atkinson, Denny Kearney and Steven Goertzen each adding a goal and an assist each.
As off as they looked through two periods, the Whale were still trailed by just a single goal going into the third period, but a total team collapse led to five pucks getting past Whale starter Cam Talbot (19 saves, 11-7-2).
“We gave ourselves a chance to win until the third and we put some pucks on net and their goalie made some good saves. I really don’t know what else to say.” Talbot said. “I guess it starts goaltending out, the backend has gotta be better. Our top lines are not getting the points they were getting. They were all racking up the points at that point (during the streak of 10 wins in 12 games) and right now we’re struggling to score on every line. We need to start firing on all cylinders again and playing a sound defensive system and do the basics.”
If the Whale had a chance coming into the period, the Falcons put that fire out quickly as Savard scored just 38 seconds into the period as he was wide open on the left side and took a cross ice feed from Trevor Frischmon that was partially knocked down by a Whale defender. Savard still managed to get the puck in stride and blasted it past the short side of the net past Talbot.
Just eight seconds later, Jared Nightingale took an undisciplined roughing call and gave the Falcons a power play. Nine seconds before the power play was over, Kearney would score his first professional goal off a rebound of a Jonathan Sigalet shot past a defenseless Talbot to make it a two-goal deficit.
The Whale fought back though and some terrific puck movement by Tomas Kundratek to newcomer Tommy Grant, playing in just his third professional game, took Nick Tarnasky wide to the left side and put the puck right in the crease and on the tape of a streaking Kelsey Tessier who easily redirected it past Allen York (28 saves 2-0-0) for his tenth of the season and Grant’s third assist to make it 3-1 at 3:33.
Then came the turning point.
At 6:18 Ben Guite went to the penalty box for a slashing call for the home Falcons. 1:05 later Theo Ruth joined him when he flipped the puck into the stands for a Delay of Game penalty giving the Whale a 55 second 5-on-3 power play. The Whale could not settle things down and looked very indecisive on both the two-man and single man-advantages and only managed two shots, the best coming when Newbury fired a shot in close that York brilliantly got a glove on and knocked into the netting at 8:17.
Exactly 5 minutes after Ruth took his penalty, John Moore simply undressed Kundratek going wide and fired a shot that hit Talbot and rebounded right to Steven Goertzen who was completely ignored by Pavel Valentenko and fired it into the 4×6 for his seventh of the season.
To their credit, the Whale did not quit. At 15:13 Jeremy Williams took a terrific pass from Mats Zuccarello, playing in his second game since being returned to Hartford from the New York Rangers, from the left side to cut it to a two-goal deficit.
Atkinson added a goal with 2:02 left and Bogozian added a nail in the coffin with 59.9 for the final tally.
12:30 into the first period Savard took advantage of the Whale’s inability to clear the puck and took a Frischmon pass and beat Talbot over the blocker.
“There’s a fine line between winning and losing,” Williams said. “It’s as little as chipping pucks or finishing hits or not turning pucks over. There’s a lot of little parts that not everybody sees but as a team we need to do. It’s gotta get turned around quick because we don’t want to be sitting on the outside looking in at the end of the year. That’s something that no team needs.
“We’re just not working smart enough. The game of hockey (in North America) isn’t played on Olympic ice. An East-West game is not going to work especially with teams that clog up the middle you’ve got fresh guys being signed everywhere. The game changes and it’s playoff hockey out there and you gotta do simple things and find ways to win.”
“We’re not where we want to be,” Tessier said. “We just gotta be positive and play simple hockey. We’re just doing a little too much. We’ve just gotta go back to the basics. We’ve been through this stretch before at the start of the year and we got out of it and we did very well, so we gotta go back to the basics and play hockey the way the Whale do and know it’s going to come out well.”
“This time of year you have to be doing all the little things right,” Gernander said afterwards. “The games are going to be one goal games, they’re going to be tight, so you can’t give anyone a freebie. You can’t make those kinds of mistakes and then someone is going to have to step up and have a big game and be a difference maker.”
“One of the disappointing things to me is that our offense has been largely secondary scoring lately. If you look at the scoring leaders on our team over the last five games it’s been the guys that are more support guys, the more unexpected sources, granted they should contribute and they should be difference makers, but we’re not diligent enough to defensively to keep it at one goal games that their scores had bigger impact and we’re not getting enough contribution from the top end guys.”
Of the Top six forwards, Newbury has been the most productive since returning from a run with the Rangers. The Brampton, Ontario native has 7g, 8a over the last 15 games, but over the last four as the team has been struggling, Newbury has just a single goal. Meanwhile, Dupont has 1g, 1a in eight games and that lone goal is over the last four. Weise has just one helper over the last four and over the last 12 has 3g, 2a. Grachev and Williams have no points in their last five games. Grachev had tallied 1g, 3a in the previous three and Williams had 5g, 1a over his last 17 games.
Gernander has always been an emotional person and a man of action as a leader. He was as the Wolf Pack’s first captain and he’s been that way as head coach the past four seasons. Watching his team struggle has been difficult. “It hasn’t been easy, but we’ll get through it. you always knock on wood we’ve still got a two-point lead…and we’re down to four games to play. So we gotta get some big wins here comin’ down the stretch and get this ship righted…”
Bruce Berlet is finishing up his vacation so Bob Crawford pulls double duty with the story at CTWhale.com. Jason Remillard, a big Howlings supporter and a good friend, has the story from inside the Springfield locker room at MassLive.com.
(Standings via theahl.com)
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
* The Whale’s other four game losing streak came Oct. 30 – Nov. 6 as part of a span where the team was mired in a 1-9-2-1 streak. The Whale rebounded with back-to-back road wins over Springfield and Binghamton.
* Michael Del Zotto has missed 15 games with a broken finger. Del Zotto told Howlings that he hopes to be able to return by the first round of the playoffs or the second at the latest, if the Whale get that far.
* Wade Redden has cooled off. After 6 points (3g, 3a) in four games, the veteran has just two assists in his last 10 games.
* With 16.4 left to go in the game, Anton Blomqvist, playing in his first game blatantly boarded Dale Weise. That’s a mistake he won’t make again as Weise got up and beat the Swede to a pulp. Blomqvist got a boarding, fighting and game misconduct on the play.
Zuccarello – Grachev – Williams
Dupont – Newbury – Weise
Grant – Tessier – Couture
Niemi –Garlock – Soryal
Valentenko – Parlett
Redden – Nightingale
Bickel – Kundratek
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Devin DiDiomete – Lower Body – Day-to-Day
Francis Lemieux – Undisclosed – 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. SPR – D. Savard
2. SPR – A. York
3. SPR – S. Goertzen
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Terry Koharski (10)
Brent Colby (7)
Luke Galvin (2)
It’s backs up against the wall time for the Connecticut Whale who come home for the biggest game of the season. Worcester is just two points behind them and they trail Binghamton by three. Enter Kevin Dineen and the First Place Portland Pirates who also lost Saturday night. The puck drops at 3pm with Bob Crawford handling the play-by-play and Mark Bailey with color commentary. 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 Springfield Falcons 6 – Status: Final
Saturday, April 2, 2011 – MassMutual Center
Connecticut 0 0 2 – 2
Springfield 1 0 5 – 6
1st Period-1, Springfield, Savard 9 (Frischmon, Tarnasky), 12:30. Penalties-MacLeod Spr (tripping), 13:59.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Nightingale Ct (fighting), 14:34; Bogosian Spr (fighting), 14:34.
3rd Period-2, Springfield, Savard 10 (Frischmon, Goertzen), 0:38. 3, Springfield, Kearney 1 (Sigalet, Atkinson), 2:37 (PP). 4, Connecticut, Tessier 10 (Grant, Kundratek), 3:33. 5, Springfield, Goertzen 7 (Moore, Tarnasky), 12:23. 6, Connecticut, Williams 30 (Zuccarello), 15:13. 7, Springfield, Atkinson 2 (Guite, Kearney), 17:58 (PP). 8, Springfield, Bogosian 2 (Savard), 19:00. Penalties-Nightingale Ct (roughing), 0:46; Guite Spr (slashing), 6:18; Ruth Spr (delay of game), 7:23; Grant Ct (hooking), 17:21; Weise Ct (fighting), 19:43; Blomqvist Spr (boarding, fighting, game misconduct – jersey), 19:43.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 9-10-11-30. Springfield 5-7-13-25.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 0 / 4; Springfield 2 / 2.
Goalies-Connecticut, Talbot 11-7-2 (25 shots-19 saves). Springfield, York 2-0-0 (30 shots-28 saves).
Referees-Terry Koharski (10).
Linesmen-Brent Colby (7), Luke Galvin (2).