BY: Mitch Beck
If Connecticut Whale head coach Ken Gernander had any hair, he’d probably be pulling it out about now. His team did win on the road Saturday night knocking off the Albany Devils 3-2 in a shootout in front of 3,006 at the Times Union Arena, but they came awfully close to repeating the ills that plague them blowing a lead, but in this case finding a way to win.
“It was little frustrating with the penalties in the third period,” Gernander told reporters afterwards. “But we battled through it and got the two points to finish off the week because it will set us up for next weekend with a long week of practice and rematches with St. John’s (in Newfoundland on Saturday and Sunday).”
Gernander, along with assistants J.J. Daignault and Pat Boller knew the team needed to be awakened from the familiar and shuffled their entire lineup with the only exception being on the backend pairing of Brendan Bell and Tim Erixon.
Out of the lineup were forward Chris McKelvie and defenseman Blake Parlett and inserted in were Jyri Niemi, who seems to have been converted from a defenseman to a left winger, and Jared Nightingale back in after a night in the press box. Tomas Kundratek remained a healthy scratch again.
As a result of the changes, the Whale came out of the gates like gangbusters and got themselves another early lead. Just 19 seconds into the game, Steve Zalewski was called for a high stick and the Whale made them pay. Red-hot rookie, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault cashed in with a blast of a shot from the right circle off a feed from veteran Wade Redden. The Cap-Rouge, Quebec native beat Albany starter Jeff Frazee (26 saves, 2-4-0-1). Andreas Thuresson had an assist awarded to him as well. The goal (along with an assist he earned later) gave Audy-Marchessault the team scoring lead with 11 points (5g, 6a).
“Me and (Andreas) Thuresson did a good job down low to get the puck to Reds, who did all the work to bring all the forwards to the other side of the ice,” Audy-Marchessault said to reporters afterwards. “It gave me so much space, and I just wanted to put it through the defenseman with bodies in front with Hagelin. It was a good power-play team.”
Gernander has been impressed with the forward who made a strong impression on the coaching staff in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in September and that carried through training camp and has certainly not slowed down in the early part of the 2011-2012 season. “He’s a skilled guy, but he’s courageous, too, not just a perimeter guy who picks up his cookies on the power play. He battles hard on the wall both offensively and defensively.”
Albany finally got their first shot-on-goal at 8:06 when Vladimir Zharkov ripped s hot from in tight that required starter, Cam Talbot (18 saves, 4-2-0) to make what turned out to be his best save of the game.
19 seconds later, fourth year pro d-man Matthew Corrente hit Carl Hagelin cleanly but high and hard and Stu Bickel was NOT going to allow that to go unanswered. He found Corrente in the center of the ice and challenged him and the two dropped their gloves. Bickel received an extra Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty, but, to paraphrase and restate something that Gernander has said many times throughout his five years as the Wolf Pack/Whale head coach, “Those are the kind of penalties you don’t mind killing off.”
“I saw (Corrente) coming and just tried to chip it around him and jump on the other side but he got his stick up there,” Hagelin said after the game. “It wasn’t a bad hit, and it was awesome to see Stu step in there. I have to buy him lunch now.”
The Whale were dictating tempo and the way the game was being played throughout the first frame ending the period with a 9-6 lead, even with having to defend on a brief twenty second five-on-three. But if you add in shots that missed the net in one capacity or another the margin was wider.
The second period started off much as it was in the first, with the Whale coming on hard. Mats Zuccarello, who is just playing magnificent hockey on both ends of the ice, had a great chance from the low left circle off a feed from John Mitchell, but “The Norwegian Hobbit” fired his shot over the net just 1:28 into the period. But it’s those strange bounces though that always seem to have a way to turn momentum and that was certainly the case in the second frame.
At 6:45, Talbot came out from the net to play what seemed like a harmless dump in, but the puck hit the wall funny just before it got to his stick and jutted out in front of the vacated net. Despite a Greg Louganis praise worthy dive to get back to the front of the net, Devils right winger Mike Sislo beat him to it and scored on a “gimme” in front of the net to tie the score.
“Both of our defensemen were flanked out to the corners like they’re supposed to, which pretty leaves the center open, and their guy took advantage,” Talbot said to the press. “It’s their home ice, so they know those things better than we do.”
The goal reignited the dormant Devils and the intensity of the battle increased significantly. Corrente was once again running around and hitting anywhere he could and at 8:45 referees Terry Koharski and Keith Kaval had seen enough and sent him to the box for a roughing call for the Whale’s second power play.
The Whale continued to wear down the Devils when nine seconds after the Corrente penalty expired Matt Taormina replaced him in the sin bin when called for a Delay of Game at 10:57.
Twenty seconds after the Taormina penalty ended, Audy-Marchessault fed Redden at the top left point and the veteran defenseman rocketed a shot on goal that rebounded off of Frazee and found Hagelin all alone on the right side of the net. The former Michigan Wolverine knew just what to do with it slamming it into the back of the empty side of the net for his fourth of the season. Connecticut found themselves back up 2-1 at 13:17.
The only question that stood in front of the team heading into the third period was, “Would they learn from their past mistakes in playing with a lead or would they somehow find a way to give it back?”
A tip of the hat to Devils head coach Rick Kowalsky. His team came out ready in the third frame…and fired up. Off a line change, Devils’ defenseman Dan Kelly and Whale forward Jordan Owens dropped the gloves. The “fight” however was more of a wrestling match than a fight so Owens received a roughing call while Kelly was given an Unsportsmanlike Conduct and a cross-checking call as well as a ten-minute misconduct. Kory Nagy also was given a ten-minute stay in the sin bin for his part in the activities.
The Whale were unable to convert their man-advantage and gave it back to the home team when Erixon was called for interference exactly one minute into the Whale power play.
It looked like the Whale were on their way to a hard fought victory and perhaps a monkey off their back in terms of playing with the lead, but as Gernander has also said often this season, it hasn’t really been the young kids that have gotten them into trouble, it’s been the veterans.
After successfully killing off the short man-advantage from Erixon’s penalty the Whale also defended well when Pavel Valentenko took a roughing call at 9:05, but it was veteran Kris Newbury who would take a foolish and unnecessary high sticking call at 11:13 that got his teammates in trouble. He and Darcy Zajac dropped the gloves for a fight just after the play stopped putting him in the box for seven minutes.
1:03 into the power play, Joe Whitney found a rebound of a Peter Harrold shot in the left circle and it hit a Whale defenseman and buried it over Talbot’s stick side arm to tie the score.
Connecticut still had a chance to win it in regulation as Mitchell couldn’t convert off after a Valentenko shot from the left point rebounded right to him.
They had another chance in overtime at 1:15, but Zuccarello hit the left post from the left circle from a feed from Mitchell, so it was off to the shootout.
Given that Zuccarello regularly undresses NHL goaltenders in the skills competition, it’s almost unfair when he comes up at the AHL level. As usual he left the goaltender, in this case Frazee, looking pretty awkward when he backhanded it past him after more shake and bake than on a supermarket shelf gave him a wide open target to shoot into.
Sislo (blocker), Whitney (pad) and ex-Hartford Wolf Pack center Chad Wiseman (stick) were all denied by Talbot, while Frazee stopped Thuresson and Mitchell for the Whale.
Bell followed with a really impressive move and backhander that went 5-hole on Frazee with what proved to be the game winner after Talbot surrendered a Matt Anderson shot over the glove to send it to the final shooters.
Audy-Marchessault could have ended it, but his spin-a-rama attempt was sticked away by Frazee leaving the Devils hopes in Taormina’s hands. The defenseman, who’d been the only goal scorer in the two team’s previous encounter in the shootout was ALMOST a hero again for the home team, as his shot went under Talbot’s arm but rang loudly off the inside of the post, but stayed out of the net for sealing the road win for the Whale.
“I would have liked to win it in regulation,” Talbot said. “But the guys battled back even after their second goal bounced off Nightingale’s skate right to their guy (on the second goal). Two bad bounces, but the guys battled back and we got the two points.”
Overall, and at the end of the day Gernander was pleased with the result. “I thought we played a pretty strong game and fortunately got the extra point in the shootout.”
The coach’s blood pressure and remaining hair follicles were also reportedly pleased with the end result.
(Standings via theahl.com)
* With the win, the Whale beat the ALBANY Devils for the first time since the team relocated there from Lowell. They were 0-3.
* The Whale have earned at least one point in ten of the team’s first twelve games.
* 1-1-4 is the Whale’s record in extra time.
* In shootouts, the Whale have converted on 10 of 25 for a 40% success rate. Whale goaltenders have surrendered 9 goals on 26 attempts or 34.6%
* After going the first five games scoreless, Audy-Marchessault has points in five of his last six. Stated another way, Audy-Marchessault has eleven points in his last six games.
Grant – Newbury – Audy-Marchessault
Bourque – Tessier – Thuresson
Hagelin – Mitchell – Zuccarello
Niemi – Owens – Tanski
Redden – Nightingale
Erixon – Bell
Valentenko – Bickel
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Blake Parlett – Healthy Scratch
Chris McKelvie – Healthy Scratch
Tomas Kundratek – Healthy Scratch
1. CT – J. Audy-Marchessault
2. CT – W. Redden
3. ALB – J. Whitney
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Terry Koharski (10)
Keith Kaval (40)
Jim Harper (59)
Frank Murphy (29)
The Whale are off until next Saturday when they travel to the furthest tey will go all season long, for two games back-to-back with the St. Johns IceCaps. Bob Crawford will have the broadcast with the pre-game show starting at 7:00 on Saturday and 3:30 on Sunday 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.
Connecticut Whale 3 (SO) at Albany Devils 2 – Status: Final SO
Saturday, November 5, 2011 – Times Union Center
Connecticut 1 1 0 0 – 3
Albany 0 1 1 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Audy-Marchessault 5 (Redden, Thuresson), 2:11 (PP). Penalties-Zalewski Alb (high-sticking), 0:19; Bickel Ct (unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting), 8:25; Corrente Alb (fighting), 8:25; Erixon Ct (hooking), 10:05.
2nd Period-2, Albany, Sislo 4 (Whitney, Urbom), 6:45. 3, Connecticut, Hagelin 4 (Redden, Audy-Marchessault), 13:17. Penalties-Corrente Alb (roughing), 8:45; Taormina Alb (delay of game), 10:57.
3rd Period-4, Albany, Whitney 5 (Harrold), 12:16 (PP). Penalties-Owens Ct (roughing), 3:10; Kelly Alb (unsportsmanlike conduct, cross-checking, misconduct – unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:10; Nagy Alb (misconduct – unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:10; Erixon Ct (interference), 4:10; Valentenko Ct (roughing), 9:05; Newbury Ct (high-sticking, fighting), 11:13; Zajac Alb (fighting), 11:13.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout – Connecticut 2 (Zuccarello G, Thuresson NG, Mitchell NG, Bell G, Audy-Marchessault NG), Albany 1 (Sislo NG, Whitney NG, Wiseman NG, Anderson G, Taormina NG).
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 9-8-9-2-1-29. Albany 6-7-6-1-0-20.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 1 / 4; Albany 1 / 5.
Goalies-Connecticut, Talbot 4-2-0 (20 shots-18 saves). Albany, Frazee 2-4-1 (28 shots-26 saves).
Referees-Terry Koharski (10), Keith Kaval (40).
Linesmen-Jim Harper (59), Frank Murphy (29).