It was the common theme of the season…penalties, penalties, penalties and the price for taking too many of them finally caught up with the New York Ranger’s top farm team, the Connecticut Whale as they were defeated by the Portland Pirates 6-4 at the XL Center in front of 4,514 and lost their best-of-seven series 4-games to two.
The Whale came out of the blocks like gangbusters and truly dominated the game. They pinned the Pirates back in their own zone and they could not escape.
Connecticut was taking the issue right to them and it forced the Pirates into taking penalties.
Tomas Kundratek had a mini-breakaway just 2:33 in, but David Leggio (4-2-0, 30 saves) flashed the glove and erased the threat.
But just nine seconds later, Alex Biega took a hooking call giving the Whale their first of seven power plays of the game and just 23 seconds into the man-advantage, Jeremy Williams, the Whale’s leading goal scorer all season, wristed a perfect shot from the right circle using Nick Crawford as a screen and rifled a shot over Leggio’s blocker.
Dov Grumet-Morris (2-3-0, 24 saves), after a shaky performance in his last start, was crisp and effective. he caught a break on Paul Byron’s shot at 6:38 that hit the outside post where he had a wide open net to shoot at but at 8:25, he stoned veteran Mark Parrish some impressive work between the pipes.
Things got sloppy for both teams as Pavel Valentenko took an interference call for the Whale at 9:44 and then Dennis McCauley answered with one of his own at 11:05 which created a 4-on-4 for 40 seconds.
Stu Bickel took a very hard shot from in close at 11:28 and was denied by Leggio’s glove.
In game four, Luke Adam took an egregious run at Whale right winger Dale Weise injuring the Whale forward causing him to miss Game Five. At 12:15 it was payback time as Weise saw an opportunity to hit Adam in much the same way as he was hit and sent the Rookie-Of-the-Year to the ice for several minutes. It was awfully amazing how the two referees missed it the first time and called nothing when it happened to Weise with the puck, but a hit, not nearly as severe as the one imposed on the St. John’s, Newfoundland put Weise in the box for two minutes at 12:15.
After Chad Kolarik hit a post with a shot at 17:27, Matt Voakes, who was with the Whale in training camp and spent much of the season in Greenville with the Road Warriors, was called for boarding Kris Newbury giving the Whale their third power play.
At 18:42, the Weise ripped a shot from the left circle. With Brodie Dupont in front of Leggio and using Crawford as a screen Weise’s shot found the back of the net for the 2-0 lead.
When the Whale entered the locker room, walking around there was talk everywhere of trips to Portland on Monday for a Game Seven. However in the Whale locker-room, the message from Head Coach Ken Gernander was to stick to the game plan and to have discipline and stay out of the penalty box.
Unfortunately they did neither.
Just 33 seconds into the second period came the turning point of the game.
A puck was not sent deep and one of the Whale defenseman jumped onto the ice too soon as the puck made it’s way up to the bench causing an obvious call of Too Many Men on the ice. It was the Whale’s fourth penalty of the game and it cost them the series.
1:27 later, at exactly 2:00 Byron took a hard shot using Stu Bickel as a screen and beat Grumet-Morris over the blocker into the short side of the net to make it a 2-1 game.
You could just see as the players skated back that this was an ominous sign. The Pirates had energy and new life and the Whale bench looked like a procession at a funeral home.
It only took 2:05 for the inevitable equalizer as Parrish took a Colin Stuart deflection of a Dennis Persson shot from the the left point and put it into the back of the net after picking it out of Grumet-Morris’ pad.
The Pirates started to pour the pressure on and it just seemed like the back was bending but wasn’t ready to break when McCauley’s backdoor attempt didn’t go in at 8:19. A scrum in front of the net at 9:27 produced the Pirates’ first lead of the game after Adam won a faceoff in the left circle from John Mitchell and the puck was advanced along the goal line by Derek Whitmore to Mark Mancari. The Pirate right winger who’s been shuttling back-and-forth between Buffalo and Portland during the playoffs found the puck on the right side and stuffed it in.
The Whale fought back one more time as Carl Hagelin got his first professional goal at 10:47 when a Tomas Kundratek shot from the left side of the high slot hit his skate and went past Leggio.
The Whale looked for a go-ahead chance with Voakes in the penalty box for the second time in the game for putting the puck in the stands and earning a Delay of Game penalty at 11:24. The Whale almost got the lead, but Leggio somehow was able to snag a Newbury one-timer from dead-red off a Redden feed at 12:34.
But Portland just kept on coming.
After getting out of solitary, Voakes had a chance in front at 14:07 but missed the net and then 51 seconds later a strong defensive play by Kundratek broke up a 2-on-1 in the Whale zone.
But it was just a temporary reprieve for the home team as the Pirates had momentum and continued to take the game right at their hosts.
With 2:58 left in the period, an odd man rush by the Pirates resulted in in Byron, Parrish and Biega leading a 4-on-2 into the Whale zone. Parrish laid a drop a pass for the trailing Biega in the high slot just above the hash marks. The Pirate defenseman rocketed a shot to the stick side of Grumet-Morris for the go-ahead goal. It was 4-3.
The Pirates went into the second intermission having scored four times in the frame to one for the Whale and turned a two-goal deficit into a one goal lead heading into the third period.
While the Whale came out with some desperate hockey, it was a case of too little, too late and when the Whale failed on their sixth power play, they just seemed to let up and that was all the break in concentration that the Pirates would need.
What proved to be the game winner came when Bickel and Kundratek ran into each other like a pair of cartoon characters it created a two-on-none for Byron and Parrish which the latter started and the former finished on despite a valiant effort by Kolarik to get back and make a difference at 10:57. It gave the Pirates a 5-3 lead.
A little over three minutes later, Corey Tropp put the icing on the cake with a shot from the left circle wristed past Grumet-Morris at 14:14.
The Whale valiantly fought back and to Gernander’s credit didn’t quit and with 16.1 left the final score of the season came when Kolarik redirected a shot from Redden from the right post past Leggio.
(Editor’s note… We decided that given the terrific and more experienced writers out there having written such great pieces on the game, that rather than giving you more of the same we focused more on the plays themselves. We also felt that rather than our writing the quotes from all the players involved, that it would mean more for you the readers to hear them for yourself especially given the occasion. You can hear them all below.)
Bruce Berlet does a masterful job in summing it all up and you’ll find it right here at Howlings. Jeff Jacobs was on hand and filed this report on the Hartford Courant’s website. Dom Amore was also there from the Courant.
Jason Chaimovitch, Vice President of Communications for the AHL was in the house and reports for TheAHL.com
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
* You can’t observe a team this up close and personal as you do as a writer and not be rooting a bit for them to do well. I mean who sits there and wants to write about a team that doesn’t win? So it’s not hard to comprehend a fan’s frustration when their team loses a series.
Everyone knows that ”fan” is short for fanatic, and with most fanaticism logic usually goes out the window, but for those “fans” who were so loudly screaming in the sections surrounding the press box for Ken Gernander’s head at the end of the game, well that just showed an incredible lack of intelligence about the game and the team and hopefully was just the result of an over-abundance of visits to the beer stand.
Ken Gernander did not lead his team to the promised land and that’s what every fan…and some reporters too…are hoping for, but he had an exceptional season behind the bench for the Whale. Gernander was cited numerous times by name throughout the regular season by New York Rangers head coach by John Tortorella for the exceptional job that Kenny and J.J. Daigneault and Pat Boller were doing in sending up kids ready to contribute. Tortorella several times stated that the reason the Rangers were able to stay competitive was in no small part due to job done by the Connecticut staff this year
At the AHL level, Gernander’s number one responsibility on his job description is to prepare players for the Rangers who can compete…second is winning. The Whale staff has done that and then some.
Had it been permitted for the media to put the name of a person we cover on the ballot we submit as one of our three choices for “Coach of the Year,” Gernander would most certainly would have been among the Top Three on our ballot. It’s not out of loyalty either. It was earned.
* Break up day should come on Monday. Howlings will let the players tell their own stories and have you share it all
* Thank you Chris Roy for the audio from Kevin Dineen.
Hagelin – Newbury – Kolarik
Grachev – Mitchell – Weise
Dupont – Tessier – Williams
Grant – Garlock – Couture
Redden – Nightingale
Valentenko – Parlett
Bickel – Kundratek
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Todd White – Concussion – Season
Devin DiDiomete – Hip – Season
Mats Zuccarello – Broken Hand – Season
Michael Del Zotto – Broken Finger – Day-to-Day
Justin Soryal – Undisclosed – Day-to-Day
Dylan McIlrath – Healthy Scratch
Jason Missiaen – Healthy Scratch
Kale Kerbashian – Healthy Scratch
Andrew Yogan – Healthy Scratch
Shayne Wiebe – Healthy Scratch
Jyri Niemi – Healthy Scratch
1. POR – P. Byron
2. POR – M. Parrish
3. CT – W. Redden
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Jamie Koharski (84)
Ghislain Hebert (49)
Jim Briggs (83)
Paul Simeon (66
Bob Crawford will have all the action starting up in early October.
To watch any of the rest of the playoffs, they can purchased it for $9.99 at AHL-live.
For Ticket information for all home games, call (860) 548-2000.
Portland Pirates 6 at Connecticut Whale 4 – Status: Final
Saturday, April 23, 2011 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Portland 0 4 2 – 6
Connecticut 2 1 1 – 4
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Williams 1 (Redden, Mitchell), 3:45 (PP). 2, Connecticut, Weise 2 (Redden, Dupont), 18:42 (PP). Penalties-Biega Por (hooking), 3:22; Kundratek Ct (interference), 5:24; Valentenko Ct (interference), 9:44; McCauley Por (goaltender interference), 11:05; Weise Ct (boarding), 12:15; Voakes Por (boarding), 17:38.
2nd Period-3, Portland, Byron 1 (Mancari, Tropp), 2:00 (PP). 4, Portland, Parrish 2 (Stuart, Persson), 4:05. 5, Portland, Mancari 2 (Whitmore, Adam), 9:25. 6, Connecticut, Hagelin 1 (Kundratek, Kolarik), 10:47. 7, Portland, Biega 1 (Parrish, Byron), 17:08. Penalties-served by Kolarik Ct (bench minor – too many men), 0:33; Voakes Por (delay of game), 11:24; Whitmore Por (tripping), 17:22; Bickel Ct (roughing), 19:59.
3rd Period-8, Portland, Byron 2 (Parrish), 10:56. 9, Portland, Tropp 2 (McCauley), 14:14. 10, Connecticut, Kolarik 3 (Redden, Newbury), 19:43 (PP). Penalties-O’Hanley Por (hooking), 5:28; Tropp Por (tripping), 19:21.
Shots on Goal-Portland 6-18-6-30. Connecticut 12-7-15-34.
Power Play Opportunities-Portland 1 / 5; Connecticut 3 / 7.
Goalies-Portland, Leggio 4-2-0 (34 shots-30 saves). Connecticut, Grumet-Morris 2-3-0 (30 shots-24 saves).
Referees-Jamie Koharski (84), Ghislain Hebert (49).
Linesmen-Jim Briggs (83), Paul Simeon (66).