There certainly was not going to be much not to like for Connecticut Whale head coach Ken Gernander not to like after his team crushed the injury and call-up depleted Bridgeport Sound Tigers 6-3 at the XL Center in front of a small but vocal crowd of 2,745 Friday night.
“(It was) a pretty solid team game where everybody chipped in and did their part.” Gernander said. “We spread (the scoring0 out pretty well…I’m pretty happy with the special teams.”
The power play was back on it’s game going three-for-five after having gone on a one-for-seventeen drought, which was proceeded by a run of six straight cashed in opportunities over the previous two games.
Jonathan Audy-Marchessault returned to the score sheet with two-goals, the first and what would prove to be the game winner.
Kris Newbury had four assists and Andre Deveaux had three.
“It was a good game for our line,” Audy-Marchessault said. “Today my game improved, but in the last four games I had no points and wasn’t producing and creating a lot of offensive plays. So I needed to turn that around and just start doing what I had been doing good before that, like moving my feet, shoot to the net, keep my head up, look for my options, play good defensively. I went back to basics, and it paid off.”
Newbury was also pleased with the way he and his linemates were able to take command early in this snarly affair. “We just wanted to have good puck movement and not try to rush things too early,” He said. “We’ve been working the last few weeks on a couple of different breakouts, and we’re just trying to get the puck in and get established before we start making plays. If we do that and put the puck to the net, good things sometimes happen, and tonight they seemed to go in.”
The Whale were quite effective against the injury and call-up depleted Sound Tigers. The Islanders top farm team had six players in their lineup (Steve Olesky, Kael Mouillierat, Scott Howes, Blair Riley, Tyler Ruegsegger and the Whale’s ECHL affiliate, Greenville Road Warriors’ defenseman Wes Cunningham) all on Professional Try-Out contracts. The Tigers were without Nino Niederreiter, Tim Wallace, David Ullstrom and former Wolf Pack defenseman Dylan Reese all up with the Islanders while the Sound Tigers center/captain Jeremy Colliton, former Wolf Pack wing Trevor Gillies, Justin DiBenedetto and Chris Langkow were all sidelined with injuries. Goaltender Kevin Poulin and defenseman Calvin de Haan were sent back to the Tigers but were unable to get to Hartford in time to play. With their goaltending situation in flux, the team signed the Federal Hockey League’s Danbury Whalers goaltender Nick Niedert to backup starter Anders Nilsson (5-6-1, 34 saves).
The team established that they were the tougher and superior team right from the get-go when Jared Nightingale, back in the lineup after sitting the past three games, took exception to the way Olesky was playing.
Nightingale put an old-fashioned thumping on the the Tigers defenseman, bloodying him with a flurry of hard head shots as the the two-dropped the gloves in front of the Sound Tigers bench just 28 seconds into the game.
“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw (Audy-Marchessault, 5’9, 175lbs) and (Oleksy 6’0, 195lbs) kind of hitting each other,” the 6’3, 205-pound defenseman from Jackson, Michigan said. “Obviously I’m trying to earn my way into playing in the lineup every night, and I knew I wanted to make an impact on the game. I feel that’s one of my roles. If somebody is taking liberties with a smaller guy, I try to step in there, and it was just a very opportune time.”
Michael Haley went to the penalty box at 8:00 on a tripping call and a bad change led to a Too Many Men on the ice call giving the Whale a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:12.
It took only ten seconds for the Whale to put one past Nilsson as Newbury’s shot from the right side circle rebounded right to Audy-Marchessault on the left doorstep for the easy pop into the empty net.
Bridgeport came back to tie it with 3:27 remaining in the first on a Matt Donovan shot from the left point that Chad Johnson (9-4-2, 29 saves) misplayed allowing the shot to hit his pads and sneak through his legs and into the back of the net.
The Whale broke the game open in the second frame putting four shots past Nilsson over a span of 7:10.
Nightingale through a shot from just inside the blueline that Nilsson never saw as he was screened by Chris McKelvie, who played his first game at center for the Whale. The goal came at 6:03.
Johnson, who fought the puck all night, gave up a rebound of a Mouillierat shot from the left circle that Haley picked up, smacked off Johnson’s left pad and then knocked in just past him for his second of the season just 17 seconds after the Whale’s tie-breaker.
But the Whale kept pressing and the Sound Tigers could not keep pace.
Tomas Marcinko put the Whale on their third power play with a hooking call at 6:54. Brendan Bell scored his first of two on the game with a shot from the left face-off dot that beat Nilsson over the short-side shoulder 58 seconds later for the 3-2 advantage.
27 seconds later, if you like fighting you got perhaps the best fight of the season in the AHL or NHL as two heavyweights, Benn Olson (6’4, 215lbs) and Stu Bickel (6’4, 218lbs) dropped the mitts and just threw huge bomb after huge bomb at one another. Bickel landed the far harder shots and landed FAR more of them and put a major smackdown on the Tigers’ defenseman sending him bloodied to the locker –room.
“There was a hit by one of their guys,” Bickel said. “I took exception to it. Olson came out and wanted to have a go and I answered. That’s just the way it goes.”
After Johnson made strong bang-bang stops on Trevor Frischmon and Riley at 9:50, Rhett Rakhshani sent the Whale on their fourth PP and for the third time in the game, the Whale cashed in.
Newbury held the puck in the low right corner just above the goal-line and put the puck in front of the net perfectly on Deveaux’s stick. Audy-Marchessault called out to the right-winger that he was wide open. Deveaux gave him the puck and Audy-Marchessault connected for what would prove to be the game winner with a perfect shot into the net at 11:06.
Andreas Thuresson took a puck away from a Sound Tigers defender in the left corner behind the Bridgeport net made a couple of strong moves to shake himself free and from the left circle blasted the puck past Nilsson who appeared to go down way too soon for the fifth goal and a three goal margin at 13:13.
To their credit, the Sound Tigers didn’t quit and when Bell went to the box for an offensive zone high-sticking call at 14:03, Howes scored his sixth goal in eight games this season when he recovered another rebound left in front of the net by Johnson and knocked it home at 15:49.
Shots were 30-20 as the second period ended with the Whale leading 5-3.
The scoring was ended with 2:01 left in the contest. The Sound Tigers trailing by two-goals, saw Head Coach, and one –time Hartford Wolf Pack defenseman (‘97-‘99) Brent Thompson, pull Nilsson to create a two man advantage as his squad was already on a power play off a Wade Redden tripping call. Bell recovered a loose puck behind his net and from the back wall fired a shot 200’ past a diving Sound Tigers player and into the empty net for the short-hander to put the game away.
Overall, the Whale dominated this one from start-to-finish and unlike previous games where they sometimes took their foot off the gas pedal, this game was a sixty minute effort.
“We played pretty good tonight, we got off to the start we wanted,” said Newbury. “We have to take this moving forward and build on it and have a good weekend now.”
(Listen to all the post game reaction below)
The CTPost is where you will find the exceptional coverage from Mike Fornabaio, who’ll take you inside the Sound Tigers locker-room.
The Whale won’t have much time to savor this win as they will meet up with the last place Providence Bruins for the fourth time this month Saturday night at 7pm at the XL Center. The Bruins won the last meeting of the two Atlantic Division rivals 3-2 on the tail end of the home-and-home that concluded on Sunday night. The Whale have won the other two meetings this month 3-0 and 4-1. In November the Whale knocked off the P-Bruins in Providence 3-2 in a shootout.
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
* In the first period there were stretches where the team had 8-0 and 12-3 leads in shots-on-goal.
* Chad Kolarik, recovering from major knee surgery, was walking without a noticeable limp and was in good spirits. The Whale forward, obtained last season in a trade for ex-Wolf-Pack Captain Dane Byers, is out indefinitely.
* The six goals scored tied the most for the team in a game this season with the December 3rd win over the Springfield Falcons also by a 6-3 score. What was most notable of that game was the five-for-five the team went on the power play in the come-from-behind win.
* Speaking of the five-for-five, the streak was actually six-for-six as they scored on their only man-advantage the next game against Binghamton and then went only 1-for-the-next-18 before Audy-Machessault’s PP goal in the first period Friday.
* Nightingale ended a five game pointless streak and had two-thirds of a Gordie Howe hat-trick. Audy-Marchessault’s two-goal performance ended a four-game pointless streak. Bell’s two-ended a three game drought.
* Since being returned from the Rangers, Andre Deveaux has nine points and has scored in five of six games (2g, 7a).
Audy-Marchessault – Newbury – Deveaux
Bouchard – Tessier – Thuresson
Bourque – Owens – Prough
Grant – McKelvie – Tanski
Redden – Nightingale
Bell – Bickel
Valentenko – Parlett
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Mats Zuccarello – Lower Body Injury – Undetermined
Aaron Voros – Healthy Scratch
Brendan Connolly – Healthy Scratch
1. CT – J. Audy-Marchessault
2. CT – K. Newbury
3. CT – A. Deveaux
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Matt Kirk (66)
Francis Charron (46)
Luke Galvin (2)
Jim Briggs (83)
The Bruins visit the XL Center Saturday and play the Whale for the thrid time in the last four games. Bob Crawford will be on the air with the pre-game show at 6:50pm 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.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3 at Connecticut Whale 6 – Status: Final
Friday, December 16, 2011 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Bridgeport 1 2 0 – 3
Connecticut 1 4 1 – 6
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Audy-Marchessault 9 (Newbury, Deveaux), 8:59 (PP). 2, Bridgeport, Donovan 3 (Oleksy, McNeely), 16:33. Penalties-Oleksy Bri (fighting), 0:28; Nightingale Ct (roughing, fighting), 0:28; Haley Bri (tripping), 8:00; served by Howes Bri (bench minor – too many men), 8:49.
2nd Period-3, Connecticut, Nightingale 1 (Thuresson, McKelvie), 6:03. 4, Bridgeport, Haley 2 (Mouillierat, Rakhshani), 6:20. 5, Connecticut, Bell 4 (Newbury, Deveaux), 7:52 (PP). 6, Connecticut, Audy-Marchessault 10 (Deveaux, Newbury), 11:06 (PP). 7, Connecticut, Thuresson 7 13:13. 8, Bridgeport, Howes 6 (Frischmon, Donovan), 15:49 (PP). Penalties-Bouchard Ct (hooking), 1:13; Marcinko Bri (hooking), 6:54; Olson Bri (fighting), 8:19; Bickel Ct (fighting), 8:19; Rakhshani Bri (hooking), 10:27; Bell Ct (high-sticking), 14:13.
3rd Period-9, Connecticut, Bell 5 (Newbury, Bickel), 17:59 (SH EN). Penalties-Thuresson Ct (high-sticking), 4:48; Haley Bri (hooking), 6:09; Riley Bri (roughing), 12:29; Bouchard Ct (slashing), 12:29; Redden Ct (tripping), 16:49.
Shots on Goal-Bridgeport 10-10-12-32. Connecticut 16-14-10-40.
Power Play Opportunities-Bridgeport 1 / 5; Connecticut 3 / 5.
Goalies-Bridgeport, Nilsson 5-6-1 (39 shots-34 saves). Connecticut, Johnson 9-4-2 (32 shots-29 saves).
Referees-Matt Kirk (66), Francis Charron (46).
Linesmen-Luke Galvin (2), Jim Briggs (83).