Yes, the Connecticut Whale gathered a point in Saturday night’s contest at the XL Center against the Providence Bruins in a 2-1 shootout loss and yes, while Head Coach Ken Gernander wasn’t doing back-flips in his post game press conference (see below) it was more about a point given away as opposed to the two points earned.
“We had our chances, hit a couple posts, and worked pretty hard,” Gernander said. “I don’t think we had the advantage as far as power-play opportunities versus penalty kill, but the Bruins work hard and bottle things up in the neutral zone. That being said, you have to get puck behind them, and we didn’t win the foot races or create the turnovers to get possession. But I thought we played pretty hard, hit the posts and had the penalty shot.” Pretty much sums it up.
With a tie score and the teams tied in overtime, and the Whale killing a Brendan Bell tripping penalty (3:42) Jordan Owens had a breakaway opportunity and was hooked on the way to the net by Bruins right winger Jordan Caron. Referee Chris Brown called for a penalty shot.
Owens came down the center, cut across the slot and fired a shot that was swallowed up under the right arm by Michael Hutchinson (30 saves, 2-5-0).
It was a good shot and a good stop, but just was not meant to be.
Not that this team has ever once made excuses, but the team went to the skills competition and just could not find the back of the net in the shootout. Four shooters, Bell, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Kris Newbury and Andreas Thuresson all were denied by Hutchinson.
It wasn’t the team’s effort. They played the full sixty-five minutes. It was just as the old cliché says, “it’s a game of inches.” In this one a few inches either way on any number of shots and this would have had a totally different outcome.
Right from the outset, the Whale looked to build upon the momentum they brought with them into the game after trouncing the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 6-3 the previous night. They did all the right things in the face of the trapping defense that the New Jersey Devils P-Bruins were throwing at them and eventually it paid a dividend.
Chad Johnson (9-4-3, 29 saves) was dialed in early as he stopped the game’s Third Star, Jamie Tardif, just 1:03 into the contest after the P-Bruin right-winger was looking to smack a rebounded shot past the Whale netminder. But Tardif, who was around the net all night, would take advantage of a Johnson mistake in the second period.
Tardif had a breakaway chance off a long pass by defenseman Steven Kamfer at 7:49 in the second period. Johnson came way out into the slot to beat Tardif to the puck with Wade Redden and Jared Nightingale in hot pursuit. Johnson got to the puck first, but his pass, that was intended for Nightingale, hit just the heel of his stick and went to the outreached stick of Tardif who popped it into the empty net.
“You want them to kind of earn everything they get. I just gave him a gift right there – an open net.” Johnson said afterwards. “I just fanned on it. The puck was rolling more than I thought, and I didn’t really make a good move to kind of fake the direction I was going and (Tardif) read it perfectly and I just didn’t get anything on it and it was completely right to him. It just happen. I really don’t know what else to say…it was a complete muffin.”
Tardif’s eighth of the season was the only goal that got past either netminder through the rest of regulation and overtime.
In the shootout Jaime Arniel followed misses by Carter Camer and Caron and his snap shot from the slot beat Johnson high over the glove. After Thuresson’s miss for the Whale, Josh Hennessy sent the visitors to the win with a wrist shot just under Johnson’s blocker.
Connecticut got on the board just 5:57 into the contest. Audy-Marchessault, who especially in the face of the lower body injury to Mats Zuccarello, has raised his game and is playing exceptional two-way hockey. The rookie forward made another in a long series of outstanding passes to set up the Whale’s only score.
Marchie, as his teammates call him, found a streaking Newbury coming up the left wing and from the right side, hit the Whale’s top-line center perfectly in stride. Newbury resulting missile of a shot found the perfect spot literally just inside the far post and past the blocker of Hutchinson.
“I was calling for the puck, and it was right on my tape,” Newbury said. “I just tried to take a couple of hard strides and bury my head and try to put all I could into it. It seemed to hit the post and go in, so I was real happy with it.”
The Whale had several opportunities throughout. Apart from the penalty shot, the Whale’s best chance to win late came at 2:53 in the extra period when Newbury’s shot off the rush went through Hutchinson’s legs and hit the post.
But of immediate concern for Gernander’s team is the condition of Redden.
At 2:37 of the third period Tardif had another breakaway opportunity and was stopped with Redden and Blake Parlett pursuing him . “(Redden) was coming so fast,” John son said. “I think he couldn’t get his balance there…I saw him hit the post. I tried to step out of the way. He and Parlett bumped into each other too. It was just a freak accident.”
Redden was eventually able to get back to his feet but needed help getting to the bench and did not return to the game.
What makes this especially bothersome is the shoulder separation to Steve Eminger in the Rangers dramatic 3-2 win in Phoenix Saturday night. If Tim Erixon, playing in his first game since being returned to the Whale, is recalled to fill that spot in New York, expect at least one call-up from Greenville, which if those wheels all do go in motion, speculation would be that the likely defenseman to be summoned would be Lee Baldwin.
The Whale return to action Wednesday night when the Adirondack Phantoms return to the XL Center. Game-time is 7pm.
(Listen to all the post game reaction below)
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
* Gernander said that neither Aaron Voros or Mats Zuccarello are able to skate at this time.
* Brendan Connolly was released from his PTO and returned to Greenville.
* Jonathan Audy-Machessault is in the top three among rookies for scoring and in the top twenty overall with 25 points (10g, 15a)
Audy-Marchessault – Newbury – Deveaux
Bouchard – Tessier – Thuresson
Bourque – Owens – Prough
McKelvie – Tanski
Redden – Nightingale
Bell – Bickel
Valentenko – Parlett
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Mats Zuccarello – Lower Body Injury – Undetermined
Aaron Voros – Undisclosed Injury – Undetermined
1. PRO – J. Hennessy
2. CT – K. Newbury
3. PRO – J. Tardif
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Chris Brown (86)
Tim Mayer (19)
Jim Briggs (83)
Brent Colby (7)
The Whale are now off until Wednesday night when they take on the Adirondack Phantoms in the last game before the Christmas break and before they go through the grind of playing five times in eight days.
Bob Crawford will be on the air with the pre-game show Wednesday night from the XL Center starting 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.
Providence Bruins 2 (SO) at Connecticut Whale 1 – Status: Final SO
Saturday, December 17, 2011 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Providence 0 1 0 0 – 2
Connecticut 1 0 0 0 – 1
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Newbury 9 (Audy-Marchessault, Valentenko), 5:57. Penalties-Audy-Marchessault Ct (tripping), 9:47.
2nd Period-2, Providence, Tardif 8 7:49. Penalties-Whitfield Pro (hooking), 10:19; Owens Ct (tripping), 12:52; Newbury Ct (cross-checking), 17:42; Arniel Pro (slashing), 18:13.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Bodnarchuk Pro (tripping), 0:13; Thuresson Ct (tripping), 5:29; Tardif Pro (diving), 11:01; Erixon Ct (slashing), 11:01; Bickel Ct (tripping), 17:12.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Whitfield Pro (roughing), 3:42; Bell Ct (tripping), 3:42; Nightingale Ct (roughing), 3:42.
Shootout – Providence 2 (Camper NG, Caron NG, Arniel G, Hennessy G), Connecticut 0 (Bell NG, Audy-Marchessault NG, Newbury NG, Thuresson NG).
Shots on Goal-Providence 6-8-15-1-1-31. Connecticut 6-13-7-5-0-31.
Power Play Opportunities-Providence 0 / 6; Connecticut 0 / 3.
Goalies-Providence, Hutchinson 2-5-0 (31 shots-30 saves). Connecticut, Johnson 9-4-3 (30 shots-29 saves).
Referees-Chris Brown (86), Tim Mayer (19).
Linesmen-Jim Briggs (83), Brent Colby (7).