After wrapping up three straight wins last weekend, the Whale will take to the road for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday.
Friday will see Connecticut travel to Glens Falls, NY to take on the Adirondack Phantoms for the second time on the young season, looking to avenge a 6-3 opening night loss to their new Northeast Division rival (7:00). On Saturday (7:05), the Whale will head over to Worcester to meet a traditional rival in the Sharks, who have yet to lose in regulation this year (3-0-0-1).
The Whale had opened up a 3-1 lead over the Phantoms back in the season opener on October 8th in Glens Falls, but were unable to hold on to the lead in spite of Kris Newbury’s hat trick. Despite being in the same division as the Phantoms, the Whale will face Adirondack just twice more after Friday’s game, so it is crucial for the Whale to pick up points against division opponents when possible.
“We know Adirondack’s a good opponent,” said Whale head coach Ken Gernander. “They’re doing well, they’re right at the top of the thing in standings there. You know the lead we had, the start we had was encouraging, and it was kind of symptomatic of our team early on that we couldn’t maintain those leads, but since then I hope we’ve got it rectified and it will be a good contest. “
The Whale did fail to maintain leads in that contest and also against Albany and Bridgeport so far this season, but this past weekend’s action would seem to indicate a turnaround. Connecticut cut down on penalties during a 5-0 drubbing of the Manchester Monarchs last Friday, as well as in a 2-1, come-from-behind victory over the Springfield Falcons on Saturday and a 4-1 win on Sunday. The disciplined Whale were able to maintain pressure on their opponents throughout the weekend, without fumbling their lead.
“Of all the things you can control for the most part, discipline you can control,” explained Gernander.
“Hockey’s hard enough to win games without giving your opponent manpower advantages and taking some of our players out of the flow of the game and overtaxing others. It just encompasses so much, so if we can be disciplined I think it will help a lot of the long run.”
As for what the Whale can expect on Saturday during their first encounter with the Sharks, Worcester brings in a dangerous power-play that has tallied seven goals in just four games this season, making discipline even more crucial. The Sharks also own the league’s number one penalty-killing unit going into Thursday’s action, allowing just one goal so far while short-handed. Impressive rookie Mike Connolly, fresh out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, may also be a factor, as he has gathered seven points (4-3-7) over his first four professional games.
“They’ve always been kind of a strong opponent and a rival of ours, just given the geographic distance, and we’re familiar with quite a few of the faces on their team and we’ll know what to expect there,” said Gernander. “First time around the league, everybody’s trying to feel each other out.”
Following this weekend’s action, the Whale will travel to Bridgeport Wednesday to face the Sound Tigers in GEICO Connecticut Cup action at a special school day start time (11:00 AM). The Whale will finally return home on Friday, Nov. 4, when they will host the new St. John’s IceCaps, top affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets, at the XL Center (7:00).