Ken Gernander coaches hockey the way that he played the game…with great attention to detail, a lot of emotion and a hockey sense and intelligence that few can match. The 2011-2012 Connecticut Whale have taken on that persona and are playing hockey night-in and night-out that way.
In Hartford on Tuesday night in the back end of two straight, Gernander’s team got two power play goal from Andre Deveaux, a goal and two assists from Kris Newbury and two helpers from rookie Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and despite not playing their best hockey came away with the win against the second place Albany Devils in front of an announced crowd, the second largest of the season, of 7,123.
The Whale have been hit hard by a combination of call-ups with forwards John Mitchell and Carl Hagelin as well as defensemen Tim Erixon and Stu Bickel heading to New York while offensive juggernaut Mats Zuccarello is out for at least several more weeks and it’s undetermined how long veteran defenseman Wade Redden is going to be sidelined with a lower body injury from crashing into the net a couple of weeks ago.
What that means for Gernander is trying to keep his first place team rolling forward.
One of the things that Gernander has done so well is keep his team from slipping into any kind of extended losing streaks. After 31 games, the Whale have lost two in a row only three times all season, and one of those was back to back shootout losses early in the season. Sure there have been bad losses with leads blown late and a variety of other errors, but that’s to be expected. However, watching Gernander in the locker room and how intently he studies video right then and there is inspiring. His intensity alone, win or lose, is inspiring. If you watched the Traverse City Prospects Tournament and how he spoke to his troops in games that really didn’t matter, learned who the man is and why his teams are so strong year-to-year.
Tuesday night the team showed just what a Gernander team can do. They didn’t play overly well this Whale team. They were sloppy with the puck, gave up too many chances, were outshot in all three periods (ten overall for the game) and took too many penalties including two consecutive 5-on-3’s, one for a full two minutes and the other for 1:26 and that was followed up with 5-on-4 time after that.
But just as Gernander was when he was a player, his team knuckled down and found a way to get it done.
“We tried to calm things down and just said to keep things simple,” Deveaux said discussing the locker room discussion coming into the third period. “We took some bad penalties in the second period, and they kind of took the game over a little bit. Then the third period is a game of possession with the lead, so you just try to kill the clock and hopefully get an opportunity when the other team is taking chances to score, so that was the game plan.”
The Whale got the lead early when defenseman Eric Gelinas took an interference call at 1:56 of the first period. 24 seconds later a beautiful pass from Kris Newbury from the right side half board out to Jonathan Audy-Marchessault on the left led to a perfect feed on net to Deveaux who deflected the puck past starter Keith Kinkaid (8-8-0, 24 saves).
The Whale doubled it with just 54 seconds left when Aaron Voros’s shot rebounded out to the slot where Newbury wristed it under Kinkaid’s glove .
Entering the final frame, which has been a tricky period for this team all season long, and being outshot 23-14, in net, Cam Talbot (8-5-0, 35 saves) was solid between the pipes despite giving up two goals on 14 shots.
After making it 3-0 on Deveaux’s second power play goal of the game at 6:08, Gelinas, who had a very impressive performance popped his fifth of the season into the net from the right side at 8:19.
Then Jordan Owens and Jared Nightingale took back-to-back bad penalties . Owens a five minute boarding major to Gelinas and then Nightingale took a Cross Check call with an unsportsmanlike for good measure.
Talbot was strong, but Stephen Veilleux redirected a Gelinas one timer past a partially screened Talbot to make the score interesting.
When they had to, the Whale raised up their game and found a way to win…just like their gutty head coach.
With a good weekend run and a little help from a couple of other teams, Gernander could get the honor of coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars (.645). He trails both Keith McCambridge (.683) of St. John’s and Mark French (.656)of the Hershey Bears) by mere percentage points.
(Listen to all the post game reaction below)
For the Albany story there’s this TimesUnion story.
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
* Since returning from the NY Rangers, Andre Deveaux has notched fourteen points (6g, 8a) in eleven games.
* John Tortorella told NY Reporters after Wednesday’s loss to Washington that Tim Erixon was being sent back to the Whale and he will be available for the team on Friday against Worcester.
Audy-Marchessault – Newbury – Deveaux
Bouchard – Tessier – Thuresson
Voros – Owens – Bourque
Grant – McKelvie – Tanski
Bell – Klassen
Valentenko – Parlett
Baldwin – Nightingale
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Mats Zuccarello – Lower Body Injury – Indefinite
Wade Redden – Lower Body Injury – Indefinite
Jeff Prough – Healthy Scratch
1. CT – A. Deveaux
2. CT – K. Newbury
3. ALB – E. Gelinas
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
T.J. Luxmore (47)
Geno Binda (22)
Kevin Redding (16)
Jim Briggs (83)
The Whale are off on Thursday before picking up for their third game in eight days as they travel to Worcester to take on the Sharks. Bob Crawford will be on the air with the pre-game show at 7:20pm 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.
Albany Devils 2 at Connecticut Whale 3 – Status: Final
Tuesday, December 27, 2011 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Albany 0 2 0 – 2
Connecticut 2 1 0 – 3
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Deveaux 9 (Audy-Marchessault, Newbury), 2:20 (PP). 2, Connecticut, Newbury 10 (Voros), 19:06. Penalties-Gelinas Alb (interference), 1:52; Harrold Alb (elbowing), 10:52; Corrente Alb (roughing), 13:11; Thuresson Ct (roughing), 13:11.
2nd Period-3, Connecticut, Deveaux 10 (Audy-Marchessault, Newbury), 6:08 (PP). 4, Albany, Gelinas 5 (Burlon, Zalewski), 8:19 (PP). 5, Albany, Veilleux 4 (Gelinas, Anderson), 16:52 (PP). Penalties-Mills Alb (tripping), 5:09; Baldwin Ct (hooking), 6:35; Owens Ct (major – boarding), 13:17; Nightingale Ct (cross-checking, unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:49.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Albany 12-11-14-37. Connecticut 6-8-13-27.
Power Play Opportunities-Albany 2 / 4; Connecticut 2 / 3.
Goalies-Albany, Kinkaid 8-8-0 (27 shots-24 saves). Connecticut, Talbot 8-5-0 (37 shots-35 saves).
Referees-T.J. Luxmore (47), Geno Binda (22).
Linesmen-Kevin Redding (16), Jim Briggs (83).