Head Coach Ken Gernander talks frequently in his post-game press conferences about players stepping up when the opportunity arises. Saturday night, the lower body injury sustained by forward Mats Zuccarello in Friday night’s 5-3 loss to Hershey created that exact kind of opportunity for Chris McKelvie. The 6’1” 195-pounder from New Brighton, Minnesota seized the chance and was strong on both ends of the ice and scored what proved to be the game-winner 5:08 into the third period.
McKelvie, as it turned out was in the right place at the right time. Kirk MacDonald’s cross ice clearing attempt was intercepted at the blue line by a back pedaling Wade Redden who sent a bouncing puck in on Bruins starter Michael Hutchinson (1-5-0, 31 saves). Hutchinson made the initial play off the puck that resembled a bad hop grounder to a shortstop rather than a hockey shot on goal. Hutchinson blocked it with his chest, but the puck fell in front and McKelvie who was going to be the last guy up ice, was still there to backhand the puck past the Bruins’ netminder.
“Reds made a great play to pinch down, got the puck toward the net, and I just kind of swung my stick and it went in,” said McKelvie. “It was bouncing toward the net, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do anything, but I got a piece of it and (Hutchinson) had trouble handling it.
McKelvie, who had not dressed in the team’s last four starts was thrilled to be a part of such an important team victory.
“It’s definitely rewarding. I didn’t feel like it was my first game in a long time. It helps that the team has been playing well, and the guys are great in the locker room, so that helps, too, because you always feel like you’re part of the team even if you’re sitting out or cheerleading. … I don’t really care how the goals come right now. I just want to help the team win, and I think our line did that tonight. And I think our team did a really good job of wearing them down, especially in the second period getting the pucks below the top of the circle. They couldn’t get the puck out, and we capitalized on it and then scored two more goals.”
Redden pointed out it was a hard play for a goaltender to make. “It was a tough play for the goalie, just a bobbler, kind of in between hops.”
Gernander was pleased that McKelvie rose to the occasion as well as the circumstances surrounding it. “We’re thankful for a goal like that, but if you watch the play, the guys got in on the forecheck, created a turnover and Reds stepped up to keep the puck in and throw it to the net and there was someone there net-front. A lot of good things happened before the puck went in, and McKelvie is a character kid, a hard-working kid and we’re all happy for him.”
Cam Talbot, (7-4-0, 27 saves) also rebounded from a couple of consecutive poor outings with a strong performance between the pipes, especially in the third period, for his second shutout of the season.
“I had a couple of rough games coming in but was preparing all week and hoping to get in a game or two this weekend,” A smiling Talbot said. The Caledonia, Ontario native is one of the more upbeat players on the Whale roster, but has been noticeably unhappy taking the team’s last two losses with him in the net very personally. “I was really focused from the start, and they didn’t get too many odd-man rushes or quality chances. We kept them to the outside, and when I did give up a rebound, we were there to swat the pucks away. I always had a good look at the puck. It was a good team win…Tonight everyone was going, everyone was focused…it really helped us out tonight.”
5:21 after McKelvie’s tally defenseman Stu Bickel fired a rising blast of a shot from the right point that flew over Hutchinson’s glove. Tim Erixon and Andre Deveaux received the helpers on Bickel’s s first of the season.
“I’d had a few shots blocked, so I moved a bit, saw an opening and let go,” Bickel said. “It was kind of a knuckleball, and it was nice to see it go in.”
Francois Bouchard added an empty net goal with 1:49 left in regulation off a feed from Aaron Voros and from Talbot. The goal was Bouchard’s second of the season and came from just outside the red line in front of the Whale bench.
Gernander handled the loss of Zuccarello, who it is still undetermined how long “The Norwegian Hobbit” will be out of action for, brilliantly. He kept his troops fresh and rolled four lines all night long. “It was a pretty tight, close-to-the-vest game, though it didn’t lack emotion,” He said. “We rolled four lines most of the night aside from special teams, and it seemed to work well. And Cam made the saves he had to make. It was a strong effort by him.”
“I think we were pretty serious, pretty business-like,” The Whale’s winningest head coach said. “There wasn’t a lot of rah-rah. It was real workmanlike by everyone.”
If the Whale are to win the backend of this home-and-home, they will need to keep the same team effort and level of battle-readiness there when they travel to the Dunkin Donuts Center where the Whale were 4-1 winners on December 2nd in their last visit.
Listen to the post game interviews for comments from several players and of course Head Coach Ken Gernander below.
The little coverage the Bruins get is just a quick summary at Projo.com.
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
* Several hundred teddy bears flooded the ice at the XL Center for the Annual Teddy-Bear Toss for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital after McKelvie’s goal. Whale players helped round up the donations. The Whale also sold many of those bears as part of the various work the team does to support charitable organizations.
* This was the first of five television broadcasts of the season on WCCT-TV. Fox 61’s Rich Cippola joined Bob Crawford in the broadcast booth to call the game.
(Personal Note: Rich will be having back surgery in the next several days and he has been a great supporter of Howlings and we wish him a full and speedy recovery. Rich is truly one of the good people on this rock we call Earth and we hope to see him back at the XL Center soon.)
* Tommy Grant, Kelsey Tessier and Ryan Bourque all had exceptionally strong performances in this game.
* Zack McKelvie, the brother of the Whale’s Chris McKelvie played against each other for only the second time ever on the night following the second time the Bourque brothers locked horns.
Voros – Newbury – Bouchard
Bourque – Audy-Marchessault – Deveaux
Grant – Tessier – Thuresson
McKelvie – Owens – Tanski
Valentenko – Parlett
Redden – Bell
Erixon – Bickel
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Mats Zuccarello – Lower Body Injury – Undetermined
Jared Nightingale – Healthy Scratch
Carl Hagelin – Recall, NY Rangers
John Mitchell – Recall, NY Rangers
1. CT – C. Talbot
2. CT – C. McKelvie
3. CT – T. Erixon
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Graham Skilliter (48)
Jim Briggs (83)
Mike Baker (11)
The backend of the Whale home-and-home with the Providence Bruins moves up to P-Town Sunday afternoon. Bob Crawford will be on the air with the pre-game show at 2:50pm 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.
Providence Bruins 0 at Connecticut Whale 3 – Status: Final
Saturday, December 10, 2011 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Providence 0 0 0 – 0
Connecticut 0 0 3 – 3
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-MacKinnon Pro (unsportsmanlike conduct), 4:43; Bartkowski Pro (boarding), 7:12; Grant Ct (roughing), 7:12.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Bodnarchuk Pro (hooking), 3:27; Redden Ct (tripping), 19:48.
3rd Period-1, Connecticut, McKelvie 2 (Redden, Owens), 5:08. 2, Connecticut, Bickel 1 (Erixon, Deveaux), 10:29. 3, Connecticut, Bouchard 2 (Voros, Talbot), 18:11 (EN). Penalties-Hamill Pro (roughing, roughing), 5:22; MacDermid Pro (roughing, misconduct – continuing altercation), 5:22; Miller Pro (fighting), 5:22; McKelvie Ct (roughing, unsportsmanlike conduct, misconduct – continuing altercation), 5:22; Owens Ct (fighting), 5:22.
Shots on Goal-Providence 9-9-9-27. Connecticut 8-14-12-34.
Power Play Opportunities-Providence 0 / 1; Connecticut 0 / 3.
Goalies-Providence, Hutchinson 1-5-0 (33 shots-31 saves). Connecticut, Talbot 7-4-0 (27 shots-27 saves).
Referees-Graham Skilliter (48).
Linesmen-Jim Briggs (83), Mike Baker (11).