Say what you want about this 2011-2012 edition of the Connecticut Whale, but when you watch them you certainly get your money’s worth.
On a night when the team handed out, “Never Throw In The Towel” rally towels to the 3,482 at the XL Center, the New York Rangers top affiliate rallied for the second consecutive game scoring two goals in the third period to tie and then won in overtime. The Whale beat the visiting Portland Pirates Wednesday night by the same 3-2 score they beat the Providence Bruins with Sunday afternoon with both game winners coming off of tremendous shots from Brendan Bell.
This team is certainly not boring, that’s for sure.
Connecticut is 17 games into the season and already more than half of them have had to be settled either in extra time or via the skills competition. Who knows, maybe as Head Coach Ken Gernander joked with reporters after the game, “We’re getting time-and-a-half for these last frames.”
As he did with 6.8 seconds left in OT for the win against the Bruins, Bell answered the call again for the Whale. With time winding down with just 1:31 left in overtime, Bell found himself all alone by the right side goal line after Tim Erixon’s shot from the point hit Pirates netminder Curtis McElhinney (33 saves, 4-7-0), and came right to him. Bell took his time and put it past the fallen netminder and into the twine on the far side.
“I had a good chance early in the first period where (Mats Zuccarello) made a good pass backdoor to me, and I tried to take my time on that one too, but (McElhinney) was kind of flopping, he played real well tonight, McElhinney, and I hit the post with it,” Bell said. “So this time I wanted to make sure that I really buried it. It was kind of a rolling puck. It landed right on my stick. It was a wide open net, so I just took my time and tried to get it back there as quick as I could.”
Gernander was impressed with his veteran defenseman. “Those are types of things that are strengths of (Bell): his offensive ability, his poise with the puck, he’s got good hands,” Adding. “There’s a lot in that package, and I guess that’s one of the areas where it showed through tonight.”
Much as they did against Providence, the Whale gave up the first goal of the game after a scoreless first period where they were outshot 13-8. 8:14 into the second frame Michael Stone’s outlet pass sprung Evan Bloodoff for a rush up left wing.
“It was a 3-on-2,” starting netminder Cam Talbot (25 saves, 6-2-0) said. “(Bloodoff) held it, held it and kind of had me at his mercy there…and he made a nice shot, but (at) the same time, I think you have to be stopped on that one. … I think I glided back too far into my net and that might have been why he beat me.”
The Whale deficit doubled at 13:43 when Chris Summers shot form the left wing side hit Talbot, who was down and low at the time, and the puck bounced perfectly to Ashton Rome who popped it right back into the net for his third of the year.
3:25 later, Blake Parlett put the home team on the scoreboard with his second of the season. “I just came in (to the face off circle). I followed (John Mitchell) in behind the play. I saw he was going behind the net, so I tried to time it. There’s usually a seam that opens up when the other team collapses. Mitch made a great play with his head up and found me. I just got he shot off. There was a good screen in front, so the goalie didn’t see it. I was looking the glove side. I saw Carl (Hagelin) in front there blocking (McElhinney). The puck flipped up on me, but I was lucky it still went in.”
So just as they had in their previous match, the Whale entered the third trailing.
Whatever Gernander said to them in the locker room must have worked, because this team came out of the locker room fired up and just took over complete control of the game.
There were plenty of chances to score against a dialed in McElhinney who was standing on his head. The Whale’s best chance came with 6:47 to go in regulation when both Hagelin and Mitchell had the Pirate netminder down and out, but somehow McElhinney managed to stop both of their point blank attempts. But that missed opportunity to tie did not slow down the home team even a pinch. In fact if anything they elevated their play and were firing more and more shots on the Calgary, Alberta native.
With time slipping away, along with the two points and Francois Bouchard serving time in the sin bin on a slashing infraction, the Whale played like they were at even strength putting a ferocious forecheck on the Pirates and pinned them into their own end…again, while one man short.
The first wave came from Mitchell and Zuccarello followed by Jonathan Audy-Marchessault teamed with Hagelin and Erixon. The Pirates simply could not get the puck much past the front of their own net let alone out of their own end. Hagelin picked up a loose puck on the left side and sent it in on net. McElhinney got most of it, but not all and left the biscuit right on the front porch. Audy-Marchessault reacted like a starving dog and jumped all over it. The rookie forward jammed it past McElhinney for the equalizer with just 1:11 left in regulation.
Gernander was in one of his better moods in his post game press conference. “That’s three nights in a row that we’ve had to go extra frames to finish games,” He said. “I thought (the Whale) did a great job again of persevering, staying with things and ultimately getting the big goal to tie it and the big one to win it in overtime.”
“It’s just a matter of perseverance, and I think it’s to their credit that they stick with things right to the end. It’s easy when there’s three-four minutes to go and the team has kind of got you bottled in the neutral zone, and they’re pretty good defending the net-front and just finish out the game. But these guys push right through to the end and pay the price to get it done.”
After so many games where the Whale could not hold a lead going into the third period, they’ve now won two straight where they were trailing coming into the third period.
Who knew that Wednesday’s rally towel would have been so prophetic and at the same time given the team it’s identity for this season.
Bruce Berlet went to the Portland locker room for reaction and filed the story for the PressHerald.com.
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
* 2-1-6 is now the Whale’s record in OT.
* Talk about consistent, based upon the Whale’s play over the last seven of eight, you also have a pretty good idea what their final tally is going to be. With the exception of the November 12th 8-4 loss in the first of the two games in St. John’s, the Whale have put up three spots in each of one if you include the extra goal allocated to the team for their three shootout wins. Over that span the Whale have a 4-3-1 record and have built a three-point lead on first place with 23 points to Springfield, Albany and Bridgeport’s 20. They have a four-point bulge over last place Adirondack. They also have a game in hand to the Sound Tigers and give up a game to Adirondack.
* Bell played for the San Antonio Rampage when Pirates coach Ray Edwards was an assistant there and visited with him after the game.
* To each and every one of Howlings.net readers/subscribers and of course our loyal HowlingsToday followers, from my family to yours, may this Thanksgiving day be filled with Peace, Joy, Good Friends and most important of all, the best of health for you and those you love.
Hagelin – Mitchell – Zuccarello
Bourque – Tessier – Thuresson
Grant – Owens – Tanski
Voros – Audy-Marchessault – Bouchard
Valentenko – Bell
Baldwin – Parlett
Erixon – Bickel
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Wade Redden – Upper Body Injury – Undisclosed
Jared Nightingale – Undisclosed Injury – Day-to-Day
Kris Newbury – Suspension – (3-games to go)
Chris McKelvie – Healthy Scratch
1. CT – B. Bell
2. CT – T. Erixon
3. POR – C. McElhinney
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Mark Lemelin (41)
Geno Binda (22)
Marty Demers (79)
Paul Simeon (66)
After some time to be thankful for their three-game win streak, their next opponent is likely to have a desire to get back at them as the Whale visit Bridgeport for a tussle with the Sound Tigers. Bob Crawford will have the broadcast from the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard. The pre-game show starts at 6:30pm 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.
Portland Pirates 2 at Connecticut Whale 3 (OT) – Status: Final OT
Wednesday, November 23, 2011 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Portland 0 2 0 0 – 2
Connecticut 0 1 1 1 – 3
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Voros Ct (high-sticking), 8:23; Audy-Marchessault Ct (interference), 11:24; Summers Por (roughing), 16:24; Hagelin Ct (goaltender interference), 17:37.
2nd Period-1, Portland, Bloodoff 1 (Stone, McElhinney), 8:14. 2, Portland, Rome 3 (Summers, Bloodoff), 13:43. 3, Connecticut, Parlett 2 (Mitchell, Erixon), 17:08. Penalties-Long Por (tripping), 3:11; Valentenko Ct (interference), 8:32; Audy-Marchessault Ct (hooking), 11:31; Mitchell Ct (holding), 19:20.
3rd Period-4, Connecticut, Audy-Marchessault 6 (Hagelin, Erixon), 18:49 (SH). Penalties-Summers Por (holding), 3:08; Bickel Ct (tripping), 11:48; Rome Por (slashing), 15:05; Bouchard Ct (slashing), 17:10.
OT Period-5, Connecticut, Bell 3 (Erixon, Mitchell), 3:29 (PP). Penalties-Ross Por (hooking), 1:44.
Shots on Goal-Portland 13-9-3-2-27. Connecticut 8-9-16-3-36.
Power Play Opportunities-Portland 0 / 8; Connecticut 1 / 5.
Goalies-Portland, McElhinney 4-7-0 (36 shots-33 saves). Connecticut, Talbot 6-2-0 (27 shots-25 saves).
Referees-Mark Lemelin (41), Geno Binda (22).
Linesmen-Marty Demers (79), Paul Simeon (66).