Mats Zuccarello may not be the world’s tallest hockey player, but he’s certainly making a case that he might be among it’s toughest.
Listed at 5-7 and 174 pounds, “The Norwegian Hobbit” took a crushing, deliberate elbow to the head from 6’1, 208 pound NHL veteran center Adam Mair early in the third period that had him down on the ice; a play that referee Ryan Hersey allowed to go without any call. Zuccarello shook the cobwebs out of his head and responded with what proved to be the game winning goal from a near impossible angle from behind the goal line off the back of Springfield Falcons netminder Danny Taylor (1-1-0, 26 saves) in the Whale’s come-from-behind 2-1 win Saturday night.
“I tried to get it on net; it was a lucky bounce.” Zuccarello said afterwards. “I stayed there awhile (behind the goal-line), and he probably didn’t expect that so, I caught him off guard.”
Head Coach Ken Gernander was impressed with the goal and how Zuccarello has taken the mantle of the team’s offensive leader, but he was incensed that the Mair hit to the head was allowed to go without a penalty. Gernander was searching for a league official to discuss it with after the game. “It’s disgusting. A marquee player (being targeted). There were a lot of aspects of that play that I didn’t like, not a bit.”
One performance that Gernander was extremely pleased with was Cam Talbot (2-1-0, 33 saves) who followed up his previous night shutout with another stellar performance especially when there were flurries of Falcons pucks flying at him in the second and third periods where the Whale were outshot 26-14. “How about that flurry in the third…? Three great saves in that one flurry and he played great.”
“I felt really well coming off the shutout (Friday) night. The guys played really well in front of me, blocked a lot of shots and stuff . Definitely when it came down to it at the end of the game, (Springfield) could barely get out of their end because we were playing such good defense kept our third guy high. Any time they tried to break out we were right there. So when it came time to shutting them down there at the end, the guys played great.”
The Whale certainly, “played great” in the first period where they dominated control of the puck and dictated tempo. The team made some really terrific passes to keep puck possession for long stretched and they fired 14 shots at Taylor playing most of the period in the Falcons’ zone.
The two teams went into intermission without putting one past either netminder who both were challenged several times. But after the Whale had an early scoring chance when Tommy Grant fed Andreas Thuresson in front of the net with Taylor down-and-out, but the veteran right winger’s attempt clanged off the crossbar denying the veteran his second goal of the season.
But for some unexplainable reason, the Whale took their collective foot off the gas pedal and allowed Springfield to take control of the game, and take control they did.
Ray Macias made a nice play to keep the puck in the zone at the blue line and fed Cam Atkinson along the right half-boards. Atkinson fed the puck down low into the corner to Wade MacLeod. The Falcons’ left winger cruised in off the corner and Talbot was there to challenge him, but MacLeod’s shot was perfect just missing Talbot’s pad, sliding across the crease hit the left post and and into the net for his first of the season at 5:49.
John Mitchell had what appeared to be a goal at 6:06 when a scrum in front of Taylor appeared to go into the net. Mitchell and Gernander were beside themselves pleading their case to Hersey, but to no avail as the call stood.
The Whale got some great scoring chances including Chris McKelvie’s breakaway coming out of the penalty box and 10:43 as well as Carl Hagelin’s follow up shot that were both handled adeptly by Taylor. Exaclt a minute later McKelvie was stoned by Taylor on a 2-0 break in down low with Thuresson, followed by Mitchell’s crossbar smacking shot at 12:10.
Talbot answered with some great saves of his own, especially Andrew Joudrey’s shot that hit the Whale netminders’ glove and off the post at 16:06 and then a great stop with just 2:57 remaining in the period off Atkinson’s shot.
The Whale were outshot and out-hustled the entire period and Springfield out shot the visiting team 15-4 in the frame.
Jonathan Audy-Marchessault got his first professional goal to tie the score at 2:41 of the third period. Pardon the pun, but he was “Johnny-On-The-Spot” on the left side of the crease when the rebound of Tomas Kunratek’s shot from the right side came right to him. Audy-Marchessault was all alone and deftly fired a shot high into the corner of the net. Andre Deveaux got the secondary assist on the play.
The Falcons rang iron when Nick Drazenovic hit the post on his shot off the rush from the right circle center dot at 6:32.
Connecticut’s best scoring attempt came with just 5:24 remaining when Deveaux was stopped in front of the net by Taylor who seemed completely helpless, but somehow managed to deny the veteran right winger. 31 seconds later, Zuccarello would connect on the game winner.
The Whale are back at home for the tail-end of the home-and-home series with the Falcons when the two cross swords at the XL Center at 3pm Sunday.
Brian Ring has his story for the Whale here on Howlings. All-around good-guy, Fran Sypek reports the Springfield perspective at MassLive.com.
(Standings via theahl.com)
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
* Springfield signed NHL veteran goaltender Manny Legace who is looking to continue his career.
* The Whale are on their season’s first winning streak after dropping the first 3-of-4.
Hagelin – Mitchell – Zuccarello
Grant – Tessier – Thuresson
Niemi – Marchessault – Deveaux
McKelvie – Owens – Tanski
Parlett – Baldwin
Redden – Nightingale
Bickel – Kundratek
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Sean Avery – Shoulder – Day-to-Day
Ryan Bourque – Undisclosed Illness – Day-to-Day
Pavel Valentenko – Groin – Day-to-Day
Kris Newbury / Brendan Bell – Recall with Rangers
1. CT – C. Talbot
2. SPR – D. Taylor
3. CT – M. Zuccarello
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Ryan Hersey (46)
Robert St. Lawrence (10)
Rich Patry (52)
The Whale are back at it again at the the XL Center Sunday for the tail end of the home and home with the Springfield Falcons. Bob Crawford will have the broadcast with the pre-game show starting at 2:30 on WCCC.com.
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 1 – Status: Final
Saturday, October 22, 2011 – MassMutual Center
Connecticut 0 0 2 – 2
Springfield 0 1 0 – 1
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Regner Spr (tripping), 3:23; Byers Spr (roughing), 11:16.
2nd Period-1, Springfield, MacLeod 1 (Atkinson, Macias), 5:49. Penalties-McKelvie Ct (high-sticking), 8:31; Parlett Ct (delay of game), 9:41.
3rd Period-2, Connecticut, Audy-Marchessault 1 (Kundratek, Deveaux), 2:41. 3, Connecticut, Zuccarello 3 (Thuresson, Mitchell), 15:07. Penalties-Parlett Ct (fighting), 3:10; Mair Spr (fighting), 3:10; Goloubef Spr (high-sticking), 3:20.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 14-4-10-28. Springfield 8-15-11-34.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 0 / 3; Springfield 0 / 2.
Goalies-Connecticut, Talbot 2-1-0 (34 shots-33 saves). Springfield, Taylor 1-1-0 (28 shots-26 saves).
Referees-Ryan Hersey (46).
Linesmen-Robert St. Lawrence (10), Rich Patry (52).