BY: Mitch Beck
“Disappointing? Frustrating? Which word do you want to use?” Connecticut Whale head coach Ken Gernander said to start his post game press conference after his squad dropped their second straight in a 6-3 home loss to the St. Johns IceCaps in front of 4,028 Friday night.
Both words Gernander used were apropos considering that the Whale have struggled to maintain leads to this point in the season. The previous game in Bridgeport saw them surrender two goals in a span of 3:53 to waste a two goal lead before losing in overtime. Friday, it was three goals in a span of 4:16 that saw a one goal lead turn into a two goal deficit that did them in.
Kelsey Tessier, who had the primary assist on two of the Whale’s three goals and was named Third Star of the Game was honest about where the team is right now. “We can’t seem to finish, but we have to stay positive,” the Fredericton, New Brunswick native said. “We’ve been winning, and if we would have won tonight, we would have been first in the league. So we just have to try to climb back and fix this problem that bites us all the time. Everyone hates losing, so we have to start doing the little things in our zone and not rush.”
Tessier said that the team knows what it needs to do in order to get things corrected. “You have to play it simple and make every play that counts, do your play so you make sure it gets out of the zone and do well on the forecheck. I think we broke down in a few places where we should be a lot better, and they capitalized on it and we have to give them credit.”
Chad Johnson, who had been named the Reebok/AHL Goaltender of the Month of October earlier in the week, was not sharp at all. “I don’t know if our goalie (Johnson) had his best night,” Gernander said, adding, “But obviously there were all kinds of breakdowns that occurred beforehand.”
Much as they have done to this early part of the season, the Whale found themselves holding an early lead at 4:03 of the first when Mats Zuccarello, who continues to play strong hockey since being sent to Hartford from the parent New York Rangers, found John Mitchell in front of the net and put a perfect pass on his stick-blade and the Whales’ top centerman scored his fourth of the season. The secondary assist went to the pair’s linemate, the incredibly hot-handed rookie Jonathan Audy-Marchessault (4g, 5a) who along with Mitchell (4g, 5a) and Kris Newbury (5g, 4a) lead the team with nine points.
That lead evaporated almost ten minutes later when Carl Klingberg knotted the score when a deflected puck slid from the left side slid through the crease and he fired it past Johnson’s glove (22 saves, 3-1-2).
The lead became a deficit with just 41.4 left in the first period when defenseman Jason DeSantis’s shot from the high slot was redirected by the game’s First Star, Shawn Weller and past Johnson.
It was a back-and forth second period that ended exceptionally well for the home team when they put two past starter Edward Pasquale (16 saves, 3-0-0) in the final minute and just 19.4 seconds apart.
The first came with some excellent work behind the net by Tessier to find Newbury in front, who lifted it past Pasquale with 41 seconds left.
Ryan Bourque scored the second goal came with 21.6 left as the son of Hall-of-Famer Ray Bourque got his first professional point and goal when he broke up right wing off a Tessier outlet pass and fired a shot from the top of the right circle that got through the wickets of Pasquale.
According to Tessier, the Whale were in a jovial mood when they left the period with the lead, but apparently somehow they lost that enthusiasm after the first few minutes of the final stanza.
The IceCaps tied the score with some excellent passing around the net. Bourque knocked a Riley Holzapfel high cross ice pass from the right side down with his stick. Unfortunately, the puck went right to Jason Jaffray who tried to shoot it on Johnson. The puck hit the Whale netminder but fell perfectly to Spencer Machacek who knocked it into the back of the net at 6:02.
Eric O’Dell scored what would be the game-winner 3:38 later when he recover a puck in front of the crease and backhanded it under Johnson who may not have seen the puck given all the traffic in front of him.
Arturs Kulda would put the game out of reach for the former Manitoba Moose when his screened shot from the left point blew by Johnson 38 seconds later.
Kulda added an empty net goal with 1:28 left in the game for the 6-3 final.
(Standings via theahl.com)
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
Ken Gernander –
Kelsey Tessier –
* The loss in regulation was the first game in the last nine that the Whale failed to get at least a single point (6-0-1-2).
Marchessault – Mitchell – Zuccarello
Hagelin – Newbury – Thuresson
Grant – Tessier – Bourque
McKelvie – Owens – Tanski
Erixon – Bell
Redden – Bickel
Valentenko – Parlett
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Jared Nightingale – Healthy Scratch
Jyri Niemi – Healthy Scratch
Tomas Kundratek – Healthy Scratch
1. STJ – S. Weller
2. STJ – M. Rosa
3. CT – K. Tessier
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Geno Binda (22)
Ryan Hersey (46)
Derek Wahl (46)
Luke Galvin (2)
The Whale are back on the air Saturday at 7:00 as they travel to Albany to do battled again with the Devils AHL affiliates. Bob Crawford will have the broadcast with the pre-game show starting at 6:35 at 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.
St. John’s IceCaps 6 at Connecticut Whale 3 – Status: Final
Friday, November 4, 2011 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
St. John’s 2 0 4 – 6
Connecticut 1 2 0 – 3
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Mitchell 4 (Zuccarello, Audy-Marchessault), 4:03. 2, St. John’s, Klingberg 7 (Gagnon, Rosa), 13:58. 3, St. John’s, Weller 2 (DeSantis, Rosa), 19:18 (PP). Penalties-Audy-Marchessault Ct (hooking), 17:46; Zuccarello Ct (tripping), 20:00.
2nd Period-4, Connecticut, Newbury 5 (Tessier, Hagelin), 19:19. 5, Connecticut, Bourque 1 (Tessier, Valentenko), 19:38. Penalties-Chiarot Stj (hooking), 7:40; Pasquale Stj (diving), 14:50; Thuresson Ct (goaltender interference), 14:50; Cormier Stj (boarding), 16:35.
3rd Period-6, St. John’s, Machacek 2 (Jaffray, Holzapfel), 6:02. 7, St. John’s, O’Dell 1 (Clark, Albert), 9:40. 8, St. John’s, Kulda 1 (Weller, Chiarot), 10:18. 9, St. John’s, Kulda 2 18:32 (EN). Penalties-O’Dell Stj (interference), 12:08.
Shots on Goal-St. John’s 12-7-9-28. Connecticut 8-6-5-19.
Power Play Opportunities-St. John’s 1 / 2; Connecticut 0 / 3.
Goalies-St. John’s, Pasquale 3-0-0 (19 shots-16 saves). Connecticut, Johnson 3-1-2 (27 shots-22 saves).
Referees-Geno Binda (22), Ryan Hersey (46).
Linesmen-Derek Wahl (46), Luke Galvin (2).