BY: Mitch Beck
“Early on in the season we came out to good starts and didn’t sustain it, allowed teams to come back on us. As of late, we’ve had a little bit more killer instinct and been able to close games out,” Connecticut Whale head coach Ken Gernander told reporters after completing a weekend road trip with a 3-2 shootout win in front of 2,639 brave souls who took on the snow storm to come to the DCU Center in Worcester for the game against the Sharks Saturday night.
If there was one thing that made this pair of games interesting to watch it was the debut of NHL agitator Sean Avery, who made a splash in both games.
While on paper, Friday night’s battle with Adirondack at the Glens Falls Arena, was about Jordan Owens and the two goals that he scored or that John Mitchell seemed to be involved in everything on both ends of the ice, the story was Avery and what impact he would have and how he would respond in his first game in the AHL since being sent down by the New York Rangers at the end of training camp.
While it’s safe to say that “Avery’s being Avery” will likely now be a regular saying on Trumbull Street rather than Broadway, in this game he was.
Avery had many of the Phantoms players (and fans) taking runs and challenging him all game long. In fact his first major contribution to the teams came when Oliver Lauridsen cross checked the trouble magnet into the half-boards along the right wing wall.
Avery then put the game out of reach for the Whale after Phantoms starter Michael Leighton (27 saves, then 4-2-0) had been pulled for an extra attacker. Jonathan Audy-Marchessault gathered a loose puck near the Whale blueline and sent it into the Adirondack zone. Avery and Marc-Andre Bourdon raced and battled to get to the puck. Avery fought through to get the puck and from just inside the far part of the left slot whacked the puck into the right side of the net. After a rousing reaction from the 2,910, the two dropped the gloves behind the Phantom net. Avery took the majority of the punches, but the point had been made.
Sean Avery is a Connecticut Whale and his team was a 4-2 winner.
Saturday night, snowstorm battering the Northeast and all, the Whale grinded with their hosts for the first two periods that had no goals and no serious scoring chances for either team despite the Whale outshooting the Sharks 22-10 over that span.
With no goals scored, Gernander switched up the left wingers on his top two lines to start the third period moving Avery to the left of John Mitchell and Mats Zuccarello. Meanwhile, Carl Hagelin moved down to join Marchessault and Andre Deveaux and the spark worked.
At 5:01, after a lot of forecheck pressure, Jimmy Bonneau gave the puck away in the left circle to Andreas Thuresson. The Kristianstad, Sweden native fired a shot through a screened Tyson Sexsmith (27 saves, 2-0-2) beating him over the right shoulder for his third of the season.
7:39 later the tide shifted when starter Chad Johnson (28 saves, 3-0-2) gave up a rebound off a shot from the right side by Tommy Wingels went out to the left and Thuresson was unable to keep Cam MacIntyre from the puck and it went into the back of the net knotting the score.
Stu Bickel took a cross-checking penalty 56 seconds later. 47 seconds later Matt Irwin ripped a shot from the right circle that beat a screened Johnson and that quickly the Whale found themselves behind on the power play goal.
But like Bickel moments earlier, defenseman Sena Acolatse also put his team down a man with a cross-checking penalty at 15:03.
18 seconds later Deveaux evened the score when he found the rebound of a Brendan Bell left point shot moved it to the right then slid it through Irwin’s legs and by Sexsmith to knot the score exactly one minute after Irwin’s goal with 3:39.
You have to tip your hat to the Sharks who did everything they could in the third period to make something happen. After being outshot and outworked as much as they were, in the third period they outshot their guests 18-7 and were 5:39 from winning the game, before Deveaux’s goal.
The Whale killed off a Jared Nightingale penalty for hooking Ben Guite in the extra frame, but this one was headed to a shootout.
In the shootout the Sharks elected to put the Whale up first. Gernander sent Zuccarello to center ice. “The Norwegian Hobbit” performed his usual magic in the skills competition and faked Sexsmith so far out of the net that he nearly had the entire 4X6 to put the puck into and did.
Mike Connolly was denied with the blocker by Johnson and that was followed by a pretty nifty move from Thuresson who faked his shot and then went and fired it top shelf over the glove of Sexsmith.
Brodie Reid was second for the home team and his shot sailed over the crossbar. Mitchell was denied with a poke check before Guite’s wrister beat Johnson to make it 2-1.
Marchessault and Bell both missed for the Whale and Acolatse was stopped with the pad and Wingels went over the pad to knot the score and send it to extra shooters.
Avery came up for Gernander’s squad. He rushed up the right wing and charged in on Sexsmith. When the goaltender came out he drew him to him and then ripped a wrister just inside the left post.
Brandon Mashinter then came up with the Sharks last chance. But Johnson flashed the glove and denied it giving the Whale the win.
“They got a big power-play goal to take the lead and then we answered back with one of our own,” Gernander said. “We had pretty good success in the shootout to get the extra point.”
Gernander went on to add that, “Tonight, we had a pretty good opportunity to close the game out, we gave them the lead late in the game, but with a good power-play goal we got ourselves back into the game, and like I said, get the extra point.”
The Whale continue their road trip with an early morning game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard for an 11am start on Wednesday. We’ll have that game for you live.
SHOOTOUT RESULTS: (SATURDAY)
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
* Chad Johnson is now 2-2 in four shootout battles. He’s allowed 8 goals on 21 attempts (38%).
* Whale have tallied 8 goals on 20 attempts (40%)
* CT Whale (Wolf Pack) have led the league in each of the last two season in OT/SO wins.
* As of Friday night, ex Wolf Pack / Whale, Justin Soryal has fought his third bout in his last four games
* The Sharks have still not lost a game in regulation this season. Their two defeats are both in shootouts.
* The win over Adirondack gave the Whale a one point lead on first place in the Northeast Division.
Hagelin – Mitchell – Zuccarello
Avery – Audy-Marchessault – Deveaux
Grant – Tessier – Thuresson
McKelvie – Owens – Tanski
Redden – Nightingale
Parlett – Baldwin
Bell – Bickel
Talbot (Friday starter)
Johnson (Saturday starter)
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Ryan Bourque – Undisclosed Injury – Day-to-Day
Jyri Niemi – Healthy
Lee Baldwin – Healthy
Tomas Kundratek – Healthy
Kris Newbury – Recall with Rangers
1. CT – J. Owens
2. CT – C. Talbot
3. CT – M. Zuccarello
1. CT – S. Avery
2. WOR – C. MacIntyre
3. CT – A. Thuresson
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Chris Ciamaga (24)
Robert St. Lawrence (10)
Mike Emanatian (69)
Chris Brown (86)
Brian MacDonald (72)
Bob Paquette (18)
The old saying goes, “You better get up pretty early in the morning to fool me…” Well, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers better be getting up mighty early because they will meet their intrastate rivals, the Connecticut Whale at the Webster Arena at Harbor Yard on Wednesday morning (Nov. 2nd) at 11am. Bob Crawford will have the broadcast and the pre-game show starting at 10:30am 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 4 at Adirondack Phantoms 2 – Status: Final
Friday, October 28, 2011 – Glens Falls Civic Center
Connecticut 1 2 1 – 4
Adirondack 1 0 1 – 2
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Owens 1 (Tessier, Bell), 13:09 (SH). 2, Adirondack, Wellwood 4 (Sestito, Leighton), 13:37 (PP). Penalties-Bourdon Adk (slashing), 8:49; Hagelin Ct (slashing), 12:45; Mitchell Ct (tripping), 14:03; Grant Ct (delay of game), 17:10.
2nd Period-3, Connecticut, Mitchell 2 (Zuccarello), 0:46. 4, Connecticut, Owens 2 (Valentenko, Tanski), 16:26. Penalties-Lauridsen Adk (cross-checking), 7:40; Mitchell Ct (roughing), 9:01; Marshall Adk (roughing), 9:01; Valentenko Ct (boarding), 10:20.
3rd Period-5, Adirondack, Zolnierczyk 4 (Hamel, Akeson), 18:11 (PP). 6, Connecticut, Avery 1 (Audy-Marchessault, Bell), 19:27 (EN). Penalties-Deveaux Ct (double minor – high-sticking), 9:26; Mitchell Ct (cross-checking), 16:35; Avery Ct (fighting), 19:27; Bourdon Adk (fighting), 19:27.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 9-12-10-31. Adirondack 8-11-10-29.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 0 / 2; Adirondack 2 / 7.
Goalies-Connecticut, Talbot 3-1-0 (29 shots-27 saves). Adirondack, Leighton 5-2-0 (30 shots-27 saves).
Referees-Chris Ciamaga (24).
Linesmen-Robert St. Lawrence (10), Mike Emanatian (69).
Connecticut Whale 3 (SO) at Worcester Sharks 2 – Status: Final SO
Saturday, October 29, 2011 – DCU Center
Connecticut 0 0 2 0 – 3
Worcester 0 0 2 0 – 2
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Acolatse Wor (holding), 4:52; Connolly Wor (interference), 8:14; McKelvie Ct (unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:07.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-McCarthy Wor (hooking), 0:23; Moore Wor (boarding), 7:02; Avery Ct (slashing), 8:48.
3rd Period-1, Connecticut, Thuresson 3 (Tessier), 5:01. 2, Worcester, MacIntyre 1 (Wingels, Mashinter), 12:40. 3, Worcester, Irwin 3 (Sullivan, Connolly), 14:21 (PP). 4, Connecticut, Deveaux 4 (Bell, Redden), 15:21 (PP). Penalties-Tanski Ct (fighting), 5:41; Moon Wor (fighting), 5:41; Mashinter Wor (goaltender interference), 8:20; Bickel Ct (cross-checking), 13:34; Acolatse Wor (cross-checking), 15:03.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Nightingale Ct (hooking), 0:55.
Shootout – Connecticut 3 (Zuccarello G, Thuresson G, Mitchell NG, Audy-Marchessault NG, Bell NG, Avery G), Worcester 2 (Connolly NG, Reid NG, Guite G, Acolatse NG, Wingels G, Mashinter NG).
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 9-13-7-0-1-30. Worcester 4-6-18-2-0-30.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 1 / 6; Worcester 1 / 4.
Goalies-Connecticut, Johnson 3-0-2 (30 shots-28 saves). Worcester, Sexsmith 2-0-2 (29 shots-27 saves).
Referees-Chris Brown (86).
Linesmen-Brian MacDonald (72), Bob Paquette (18).