BY: Mitch Beck
Blowing leads become a major problem to this point in the early part of the season for Connecticut Whale head coach Ken Gernander’s bunch. Sunday afternoon at the Mile One Centre in Newfoundland, the Whale wasted two-goal leads twice before dropping the game in regulation, this time a 4-3 decision to the St. John’s IceCaps; capping a weekend of back-to-back losses to the AHL’s best.
The season is fourteen games old and of the team’s total of seven losses, (7-4-1-2) they have blown leads in six of those contests including a number of two-goal leads and a three goal lead too.
Blake Parlett, who assisted on all three Whale goals, spoke after the game to Bob Crawford about another wasted lead. “We played more of a full game today (than the previous night), I thought,” He said. “We had the lead again today, but we just kept giving it (goals) to them. I thought we did a good job for most of today of playing in their zone, and we just had a couple of breakdowns in our zone that led to their goals.”
There is another trend that seems to be the story with this team. They come out quickly and get leads but for some reason once they get a lead they let it go almost as quickly as they got it.
Connecticut found themselves with a quick lead again Sunday afternoon.
Former Hartford Wolf Pack forward Garth Murray took a cross-checking call 5:16 into the contest giving the Whale an early power play. The Whale showed great patience with excellent possession in the offensive zone and excellent puck movement. Parlett fed his defensive power-play partner Tim Erixon who dropped a pass to John Mitchell. The Whale center took the past near the left point and moved into the right circle, was unchallenged and just unloaded a bomb of a shot from inside the circle that blew right past Peter Mannino, (3-2-0, 35 saves) over the blocker for Mitchell’s team leading seventh of the season with just two ticks of the clock remaining on the man-advantage. The goal was the Whale’s third straight power play goal in the two games. It would also be their last.
The Whale opened up their first of two two-goal leads when Tommy Grant, moved up to play on the top line with Kris Newbury and Andreas Thuresson, slammed home a low-to-the-stick-side shot also from the right circle at 12:20.
But after the ensuing faceoff, Stu Bickel took an unnecessary tripping call that gave the IceCaps their second power play. Kyle Bushee scored his first goal when starter Chad Johnson (3-3-2, 23 saves) could not handle a Spencer Machacek shot from the left side and it rebounded right to Bushee who had all day to fire it right into the near empty net for a power play goal at 14:40.
But the Whale answered right back.
You’ve heard of really “using your head” when on the ice or playing in any sport? Well, Carl Hagelin took it one step further when his face got in the way of a Pavel Valentenko shot from the right side and fell into the net for his 6th of the year. After the goal, Hagelin went into the locker room with trainer Damien Hess. Fortunately for Hagelin (and the Whale) the rookie forward returned to the ice a short time later.
It certainly looked like the Whale would enter the first intermission with a two-goal margin, but with just 49.2 left in the frame, a Marco Rosa pass from the right side led Jason King, who had beaten a Whale forward back to the puck, a ripped it from the left circle beating Johnson low to the stick side for his sixth of the season.
19 seconds into the second frame Travis Ramsey took a tripping call and the Whale had another opportunity on the man-advantage. But Mannino rose to the occasion stoning Newbury from right in front of the net.
The Mannino play in front clearly lifted the IceCaps and at 3:19, the would tie the score as King took a pass from Aaron Gagnon and rushed it up left wing. From the left circle he ripped a shot (too) easily beating Johnson over the glove.
It wasn’t like the Whale just went and hid after that. 54 seconds after the score was tied on the King goal, Grant had a bid for a second goal when he had a clean breakaway opportunity but Mannino robbed the Whale left winger and his teammates of regaining the lead.
Mannino kept the score tied with perhaps his best stop of the game with 2:48 remaining in the period, one that saw the Whale outshoot their hosts 13-4, when Mats Zuccarello was stopped when his shot form the low right circle was batted away from the far corner target by the right leg of the one-time Bridgeport Sound Tiger netminder.
1:28 into the final period, the Whale had yet ANOTHER chance to regain the lead. This time it was Hagelin’s bid for his second of the game when he had a breakaway only to see Mannino get his glove down low to swallow up the puck.
But the heartbreaker came off a terrific play down low by Murray.
Shayne Wiebe fired a shot from the slot that rebounded off of Johnson and into the right corner. Murray recovered the puck away from Wade Redden and spun to free himself from the veteran Whale defender. Murray saw Eric O’Dell, who’d freed himself from Jared Nightingale and put a perfect pass right on the left winger’s stick. O’Dell beat Johnson over the blocker for the game winner with just 3:01 remaining.
The Whale had one final chance to knot the score and save some face against the leagues best, who they have now not beaten in any of their three meetings…and all three where they held leads only to blow them all no-less. Zach Redmond took an ill-advised crosschecking call with 2:15 remaining but the Whale could do nothing with it and even after creating a two-man advantage with Johnson pulled and on the bench, the home team was able to hold on for the 4-3 win.
“We had a pretty successful first period,” Parlett told Crawford afterwards. “We had a power-play goal there, and then we just struggled a bit on the power play (finishing 1/7) for the rest of the game. I still thought we did a good job moving the puck around, but we just didn’t have the right bounce today late in the game.”
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
* Certainly taking shots wasn’t the issue in this contest. The Whale outshooting St. John’s by a 38-27 margin.
* John Mitchell continues to be red hot. He’s currently had points in four of the last five games putting 5g and 1a in the books over the span.
* Strong weekend for rookie Tim Erixon. Former Ranger Jan’s son had his first professional goal and two helpers over the two games.
* This was the Whale’s first one-goal game defeat in regulation. They are now 4-1-1-2 in one goal games.
* If you count OT and shootout loses along with a regulation loss, the Whale are now 4-4 when leading after two periods, a stat that should be bloated in the leading team’s favor. St. John’s, the top team in the AHL, has a 7-1-0-0 record in the same scenario.
* The Whale will have one more chance this season against the IceCaps when the two meet for the last time this regular season when St. John’s returns to the XL Center on January 20th.
Grant – Newbury – Thuresson
Hagelin – Mitchell – Zuccarello
Audy-Marchessault – Tessier – Bouchard
McKelvie – Owens – Tanski
Erixon – Bickel
Parlett – Valentenko
Redden – Nightingale
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Ryan Bourque – Undisclosed
Brendan Bell – Undisclosed
1. STJ – P. Mannino
2. STJ – J. King
3. CT – B. Parlett
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Jean Hebert (43)
Joe Maynard (15)
Todd Horwood (56)
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers are next up for your Connecticut Whale when they return to the XL Center next Friday (11/18). Bob Crawford will have the broadcast and the pre-game show starting at 6:30pm on WCCC.com with the puck dropping promptly at 7pm.
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 at St. John’s IceCaps 4
Sunday, November 13, 2011 – Mile One Centre
Connecticut 3 0 0 – 3
St. John’s 2 1 1 – 4
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Mitchell 7 (Erixon, Parlett), 7:14 (PP). 2, Connecticut, Grant 2 (Parlett), 12:20. 3, St. John’s, Bushee 1 (Machacek, Redmond), 14:40 (PP). 4, Connecticut, Hagelin 6 (Parlett, Valentenko), 15:18. 5, St. John’s, King 6 (Rosa), 19:10. Penalties-Redden Ct (hooking), 2:03; Nightingale Ct (roughing), 2:40; King Stj (roughing), 2:40; Murray Stj (cross-checking), 5:16; Bickel Ct (tripping), 12:44; Bickel Ct (roughing), 17:40; Ramsey Stj (roughing), 17:40.
2nd Period-6, St. John’s, King 7 (Gagnon, Bushee), 3:19. Penalties-Ramsey Stj (tripping), 0:19; Murray Stj (hooking), 5:43; Newbury Ct (slashing), 7:13; Erixon Ct (high-sticking), 10:25; Bushee Stj (cross-checking), 15:04.
3rd Period-7, St. John’s, O’Dell 2 (Murray, Wiebe), 16:59. Penalties-Parlett Ct (interference), 0:48; Redmond Stj (slashing), 4:43; Audy-Marchessault Ct (tripping), 5:20; Bickel Ct (cross-checking), 7:26; Redmond Stj (cross-checking), 17:45; Mannino Stj (interference), 19:56.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 12-13-13-38. St. John’s 12-4-11-27.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 1 / 7; St. John’s 1 / 7.
Goalies-Connecticut, Johnson 3-3-2 (27 shots-23 saves). St. John’s, Mannino 3-2-0 (38 shots-35 saves).
Referees-Jean Hebert (43).
Linesmen-Joe Maynard (15), Todd Horwood (56).