For the fourth time in the last five games, the fifth year Wolf Pack/Whale Head Coach did what it took to turn a lackluster two-period performance into a highly motivated, intensely focused “team.” Gernander minus three of his best players, led his “team” to, once again, come from behind in dramatic fashion.
The Whale won despite playing Saturday without Kris Newbury, who is still in the midst of serving his four-game suspension for a Nov. 18 illegal hit to the head of the Bridgeport Sound Tiger’s’ Justin DiBenedetto. Carl Hagelin meanwhile scored his first career NHL goal in Saturday’s 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers to match the first assist that he earned in his previous game against the Washington Capitals. His fellow call-up John Mitchell, picked up his second assist in as many games and both continue to impress and earn the public praise from New York Rangers’ head coach John Tortorella, the New York media and the fans while they are both on NHL recall.
But even without three of his top players Gernander rallied his troops once again in the third period culminating with Thuresson’s game winner. Describing his fifth of the season, the broadly smiling Thuresson said, “We had a good forecheck going, and I passed it back to (Stu) Bickel, (at the right point) who got a good shot on the net. (Ryan Bourque) tipped it, and I just went to the net, the puck was loose and I just tried to swing it in.”
The key to the success of the game winner came just moments prior when Bickel took a shot from the almost the identical spot. Springfield’s Danny Taylor, (16 saves, 5-3-0, ) made the initial stop, but the puck rebounded and was controlled by the Whale and brought to the left side for Jonathan Audy-Marchessault. The rookie forward made an outstanding stick-to-stick, cross-ice pass from the left half-boards out to Bickel on the right. Bickel settled the puck and fired the shot that set the game-winner in motion.
“I felt like I had a little slow start and feel I’m getting a little better as I get more into the systems and into the games,” Thuresson went on to add. “I’m playing more physical and playing my game, so I feel like I have a little better flow going now. There are a lot of guys out right now, and it’s good for the boys to get some chance to show off their game. We just have to keep on playing hard, shoot puck to the net and go hard to the net. There’s a lot of opportunity out there right now.”
Gernander, as he’s done so well the past five years since replacing GM, Jim Schoenfeld behind the bench, was impressed with Thuresson’s performance. “He’s a guy who has been around the league a little bit, is experienced and is going to get more and more opportunity, so he should be looking to capitalize or cash in on it. It was big for him to get a pair.”
Thuresson also scored the tying goal early in the third period (5:09) when he threw the puck from behind the right side goal line and the puck got between Taylor, his pads and the goal post.
“I got some lucky bounces,” the game’s first star said. “The first one I just had a good little passing with (Jonathan) Audy-Marchessault and then just tried to shoot it as quick as possible on the net. We said we were going to shoot more pucks to the net, and I don’t think the goalie was ready for it so I just got a lucky bounce.”
The Whale’s first goal was anything but a lucky bounce.
While on a delayed penalty, Mats Zuccarello found Pavel Valentenko on the left half wall. The Nizhnekamsk, Russia native fired a shot that was right there with the same kind of power and velocity that Al MacInnis, Zdeno Chara or Chris Pronger would have. Taylor didn’t even have long enough to try to get his glove on it as it caught the inside of the post ad deposited itself into the back on the net. The goal was Valentenko’s first on the season in his thirteenth game. Valentenko does have three assists.
Cam Atkinson scored early in the first taking a puck from behind the Whale net, coming out to the slot, turning and firing it high past the glove of Whale starter Chad Johnson, (26 saves, 5-3-2) at 4:11.
Nick Drazenovic recorded his fifth of the season 9:46 into the second frame for the two goal lead.
The Whale scored three unanswered.
This one could not have been easy for the home team. As ex-Wolf-Pack and current Falcon, Alexandre Giroux proved that one man’s good fortune is another man’s falter. After the game, the future AHL Hall-of-Famer, “THAT was one tough one to lose.”
The Whale have a visit from Chris Bourque and the Hershey Bears up next on Tuesday night at the XL Center.
You can be certain that Gernander will have his team READY to play…just as he always does.
Fran Sypek, a legend in hockey coverage covers the Springfield locker room in the The Republican.
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
* A first for us. In all the games we’ve ever witnessed, this was the first time we’d ever seen a dog drop the ceremonial first puck. Jack, owned by heavy Springfield Falcons sponsor Jerry Rome, who owns a bunch of car dealerships, and the star of his TV Commercials did that honor.
* Zuccarello played much of the third period centering Aaron Voros and Francois Bouchard.
* Bill Guerin as in the house and signed autographs for fans between periods. One of Team USA’s best players of all-time was in the area to coach a youth hockey team at the Enfield, CT Twin Rinks.
Voros – Audy-Marchessault – Zuccarello
Bouchard – Tessier – Thuresson
McKelvie – Owens – Tanski
Bourque – (Rotated) – Grant
Valentenko – Bell
Erixon – Bickel
Redden – Parlett
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Jared Nightingale – Undisclosed Injury – Day-to-Day
Carl Hagelin – Recall, NY Rangers
John Mitchell – Recall, NY Rangers
Kris Newbury – Suspension – (2-games to go)
1. CT – A. Thuresson
2. SPR – C. Atkinson
3. CT – C. Johnson
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Chris Cozzan (18)
Chris Low (88)
Robert St. Lawrence (10)
Tuesday night it’s the battle of the Bourques, round one as Chris comes in to Hartford to compete against his brother Ryan on the ice for the first time. So what are the chances that Hall-of-Famer, Ray Bourque will be in the house? Bob Crawford will be on the air with the broadcast from at the XL Center starting with the pre-game show 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.
Connecticut Whale 3 at Springfield Falcons 2 – Status: Final
Saturday, November 26, 2011 – MassMutual Center
Connecticut 0 1 2 – 3
Springfield 1 1 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Springfield, Atkinson 9 (Drazenovic, Giroux), 4:11. Penalties-Tanski Ct (checking to the head), 7:11; Lebda Spr (holding the stick), 17:46.
2nd Period-2, Springfield, Drazenovic 5 (Atkinson, Kubalik), 9:46 (PP). 3, Connecticut, Valentenko 1 (Zuccarello, Audy-Marchessault), 14:23. Penalties-Goloubef Spr (tripping), 0:30; Audy-Marchessault Ct (interference), 5:47; Johnson Ct (delay of game), 8:21; Lebda Spr (high-sticking), 15:46; Owens Ct (holding), 19:19.
3rd Period-4, Connecticut, Thuresson 4 (Audy-Marchessault), 5:09. 5, Connecticut, Thuresson 5 (Bourque, Bickel), 19:38. Penalties-Calvert Spr (interference), 9:35; Voros Ct (holding the stick), 10:31.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 4-8-7-19. Springfield 9-13-6-28.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 0 / 4; Springfield 1 / 5.
Goalies-Connecticut, Johnson 5-3-2 (28 shots-26 saves). Springfield, Taylor 5-3-0 (19 shots-16 saves).
Referees-Chris Cozzan (18).
Linesmen-Chris Low (88), Robert St. Lawrence (10).