(Oops Update…Just realized this posting was still sitting in the draft section of the blog from Friday night and that it was never posted… our apologies)
Despite 65 minutes of spectacular goaltending from the Bridgeport Sound Tiger’s netminder Kevin Poulin, ultimately it was the Connecticut Whale’s Brendan Bell who’s breakaway goal with just 6.8 seconds remaining in overtime would prove to be the difference maker giving the New York Rangers AHL affiliate a 3-2 overtime win at the XL Center Friday night.
Bell started the play in his own end behind the net after admittedly getting away with what could have been a tripping call on Sound Tigers captain Jeremy Colliton. “I might have gotten a little lucky that I didn’t get called for a penalty. My stick kind of got caught in (Colliton’s) skates. But with the time that was left on the clock I thought, ‘Why not?’ Their D-man and forward (Ty Wishart and Matt Donovan respectively) kind of got crossed up at the blueline and there was a big lane. Even if we didn’t get the puck, because we didn’t have full possession at that point, I figured there was only about 5 seconds left on the clock and they weren’t going to get anything anyway, so I took a shot and it works out.”
“It was a pretty big-time play by a couple of really talented players,” Whale Head Coach Ken Gernander said. “It was an exciting finish for the fans and those who made it out it (Friday) night.”
Tim Erixon retrieved the puck in the left corner and made a strong out let pass to Mats Zuccarello just inside the right circle near the half-boards. Zuccarello then fired a tape-to-tape pass right to Bell in full stride.
“It’s kind of tough to say,” Bell added. “But you kind of expect it from (Zuccarello). He’s such a good passer, that when I saw him with the puck, I thought, ‘I’m getting it. It’ll be right on my stick.’ You know some guys you think, ‘I hope this takes the right bounce,’ or ‘I hope he gets the right angle,’ but he’s just so talented that I didn’t even second guess it.”
“I just yelled back to (Zuccarello). We kind of locked eyes, so I don’t even know if I had to yell.” Bell continued. “There wasn’t any question with him passing that it was going to be on my tape. It was nice to get away from the defensemen with a little extra speed. I didn’t know I had that much left.”
Bell came straight down the middle gave a quick shoulder fake and was able to get Poulin to open his legs before sliding the puck into the opening and to the back of the net for his first game winner with the Whale.
“(Poulin)’s just a big guy (6 feet 2, 211 pounds), so if you can get him moving side to side he’s got to open up his legs and there’s so much room in between there.” Bell said. “That’s something you learn with the big (goalies). He’s a guy that moves around a lot; he’s fairly acrobatic and he’s active for a big guy so there’s a pretty big hole there if you get him going from side-to-side.”
Poulin (3-4-0, 42 saves) had a highlight reel of a game making one amazing stop after another. It started at 2:54 of the first on back to back stops of Erixon, Blake Parlett and Kris Newbury and went all the way until he denied Jonathan Audy-Marchessault with 47 seconds left in the extra period before the game winner came off the Bell breakaway.
The way that Poulin was playing between the pipes, and then falling behind after Newbury took his third penalty over the first 25 minutes of the game on David Ullstrom’s first of two on the night, getting one past the Sound Tigers’ netminder off a deflection by Carl Hagelin off an Erixon point shot was an important moral boost for the home team.
“The first goal was important because we’ve had a tough time when we’ve got behind,” Bell said. “We’re generating chances and shots, but when we’ve got behind, it seems like it has been tough to come back. We’re not really scoring in bunches, so a first goal is big for us.”
Bell recounts that the team had to overcome the feeling of frustration that was growing on the bench. “It was more frustrating that we couldn’t get a puck by him on some of the scrambles than anything,” He said. “The shots were heavily weighed in our favor, but it was more that we couldn’t get pucks into the back of the net when we had (Poulin) lying on the ice and three guys standing in the crease. That was more frustrating than him being dominant, which he was.”
The Whale put a second puck past Poulin just 1:29 later when Audy-Marchessault out hustled left winger Tim Wallace to the puck behind the right side of the net. The rookie forward saw the recently acquired Francois Bouchard put the puck right there for the right-winger who put it in the net on the short side over the glove for his first goal as a member of his new team.
The team went to the second intermission with the Whale ahead and 2-1 on the scoreboard and outshooting the visitors 23-9.
But as has been the case this season, no lead is safe to this point in the season for the Whale. Fourteen games into the season now, and there hasn’t been a game where the Whale did not have a lead at least some point in the contest and with seven losses, four in regulation, one in overtime and two via the skills competition, that’s a pretty damning stat that the team will need to correct and in this one they didn’t help themselves either.
With 7:16 to go in regulation and the Whale thoroughly dictating play throughout, another penalty, this one a Closing-The-Hand-On-The-Puck, call to Parlett would be costly as Ullstrom again would best Chad Johnson (4-3-2, 15 saves) with a power play tally beating the Whale netminder off a back-door play off a feed from one-time Hartford Wolf Pack defenseman Dylan Reese.
“If you want to be an elite team and go far in the playoffs, you can’t keep giving up the lead in the third period,” Bell said. “We’re giving up points in our division, and we can’t keep doing that. In the shootout and overtime, we’ve been doing well lately, but you don’t want to start relying on that.”
Gernander was pleased with the way that his team performed. “I thought we played well and just wanted to keep up the pressure and keep doing what we were doing well. There was no reason to deviate from what we had been doing, just stay the course.”
With dominating efforts like this one, and if they can correct the failure to hold leads, this Whale team, with it’s mix of young and veteran talent has the potential to be playing for a very long time.
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
* Wade Redden was hurt with what was described by Gernander as an upper body injury in the first period. He tried to continue for a couple of shifts, according to Gernander, but the decision was made to shut him down and he left the game after the first period.
* Justin DiBenedetto was injured by a hit from Newbury five minutes into the second period. Newbury was called for an elbowing call. DiBenedetto took a couple more shifts, but left the game for good at 12:30 of the second.
* Other than the first period when the Sound Tigers had five shots on goal, they would only get four in each of the following periods including overtime.
* The 17 shots on goal was the fewest the Sound Tigers have taken in a game all season (23 against Albany on October 9). It was also the fewest allowed by the Whale this season besting the 20 given up on November 5th to Albany.
Hagelin – Mitchell – Zuccarello
Grant – Newbury – Bouchard
Audy-Marchessault – Tessier – Thuresson
Bourque – Owens – Tanski
Redden – Bell
Erixon – Bickel
Valentenko – Parlett
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Jared Nightingale – Healthy Scratch
Aaron Voros – Healthy
Chris McKelvie – Healthy
1. BRI – K. Poulin
2. CT – B. Bell
3. BRI – D. Ullstrom
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Jarrod Ragusin (42)
Luke Galvin (2)
Paul Simeon (66)
On the road again; this time heading up to The Ocean State to battle the Providence Bruins. Bob Crawford will have the broadcast and the pre-game show starting at 3:30pm 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.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers 2 at Connecticut Whale 3 (OT) – Status: Final OT
Friday, November 18, 2011 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Bridgeport 0 1 1 0 – 2
Connecticut 0 2 0 1 – 3
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Newbury Ct (hooking), 0:24; Klementyev Bri (tripping), 5:11; Newbury Ct (hooking), 5:48; Bell Ct (interference), 8:42; Donovan Bri (holding), 18:17.
2nd Period-1, Bridgeport, Ullstrom 11 (Donovan, Reese), 6:10 (PP). 2, Connecticut, Hagelin 7 (Erixon, Owens), 13:21. 3, Connecticut, Bouchard 1 (Audy-Marchessault), 14:50. Penalties-Newbury Ct (elbowing), 5:00; Marcinko Bri (holding), 8:31.
3rd Period-4, Bridgeport, Ullstrom 12 (Reese), 13:10 (PP). Penalties-Reese Bri (hooking), 8:30; Parlett Ct (closing hand on puck), 12:44.
OT Period-5, Connecticut, Bell 1 (Zuccarello, Erixon), 4:53. Penalties-Parlett Ct (hooking), 1:52; Ullstrom Bri (high-sticking), 2:09.
Shots on Goal-Bridgeport 5-4-4-4-17. Connecticut 10-13-15-7-45.
Power Play Opportunities-Bridgeport 2 / 6; Connecticut 0 / 5.
Goalies-Bridgeport, Poulin 3-4-0 (45 shots-42 saves). Connecticut, Johnson 4-3-2 (17 shots-15 saves).
Referees-Jarrod Ragusin (42).
Linesmen-Luke Galvin (2), Paul Simeon (66).