In 1945, Ray Milland starred in a film called, “The Lost Weekend” about an alcoholic trying to get a hold of his issues only to succumb to a four-day bender where all of the issues that were plaguing him rise to the surface. In many ways, the Connecticut Whale have been flirting with disaster since early December. However, over these past four games, starting with Monday night’s game in Portland with the Pirates, through the loss in Binghamton Friday to the Senators and now back-to-back defeats Saturday and including Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Springfield Falcons would certainly qualify at very least as a wake-up call that some sort of a hockey equivalent to a Twelve Step Program is necessary.
Now we don’t want to make it all doom and gloom for Head Coach Ken Gernander’s bunch. The team has been without All-Star Mats Zuccarello for the last thirteen games and without veteran Wade Redden the past nine. They’ve also played the last two without the ever-popular Sean Avery. Despite the fact that since ending a four game win streak against Binghamton on December 4th, including that game, the Whale still find themselves with a five point lead on first place in the Northeast Division and at just two games shy of the halfway point in the 2011-2012 season despite amassing a dismal 5-7-1-2 record over the last 15 games.
“You’re going to have to continue to improve,” Gernander said in speaking of what lies ahead in the second half of the season. “I don’t care who you are, everybody in the league is going to get better and better as things go along. We’re going to have to find ways to spread out the scoring. We’ve had some opportunities here in the first half to close out games where we’ve had a lead and failed to do so, those are points in the standings, so I think in the second half it’s going to be important for us to do that, to make more of those opportunities.”
In this game, as they have in the last four games, giving up two consecutive goals in a very short period of time did the Whale in again.
The Whale dictated tempo and had full control over the first 13:00 of the game outshooting their hosts 10-1. That dominance was rewarded with a power play when ex-Hartford Wolf Pack forward Alexandre Giroux was called for holding at 11:28.
On the ensuing power play, Jonathan Audy Marchessault made a terrific play at the left point to keep the puck in the zone. The rookie left winger made a strong pass to the right circle to a wide open Kris Newbury. The Whale center then extended the blistering pace he’s been on with his 22nd point (7g, 15a) in his last eleven games moving in on starter veteran Manny Legace (9-1—1, 26 saves). As the defense shifted to their left to pick up Newbury, it created space in the slot for Andre Deveaux. A tape-to tape pass by Newbury to his right winger and Deveaux slammed home a wrister from 15 feet for his 11th of the season at 12:48.
But the momentum swung back the other way right after as tempers rose and the Falcons got their wheels under them as the teams finished the period with thirteen shots each.
But as has been the case, a slow start, a penalty to Sam Klassen at :48 for a High Stick to Giroux and the Whale were primed for trouble.
Dalton Prout, the game’s second star, fired a shot from the left point that hit Cam Talbot, (9-8-0, 43 saves) and dropped into the crease where Matt Calvert was able to put it into the back of the net.
Just 29 seconds later, Andrew Joudrey gave the Falcons the lead off a Prout setup.
“We addressed (giving up back-to-back goals) before (the game),” Gernander said. “If in fact we do get scored upon…or when we do score a goal, the next shift out there has got to be responsible to keep going on the momentum or to thwart their momentum. It’s simple plays and outworking them and we seemed to give up bang-bang again (Sunday).”
One thing that has been good, though streaky, has been the Whale power play. Currently fourth in the AHL, the Whale were able to capitalize for a second time when Brett Lebda was called for interference 59 seconds after Joudry’s goal.
Audy-Marchessault benefited from some hard work behind the Springfield net by Deveaux and took a pass at the left side goal-line. The rookie forward banked a shot off Legace’s left leg and the puck snuck through the pads for his 14th of the season and the tie score.
But once again penalties killed off any momentum the Whale had built as first Jared Nightingale spent time in isolation and after that it was Andreas Thuresson. Though they killed off both, the Falcons were lifting their intensity and their competitive level and the Whale failed to match it.
Martin St. Pierre hooked Chris McKelvie giving the Whale their fourth PP but they could do nothing with it. But the Falcons just kept coming at their guests with more and more energy.
In 1841, Marie Joseph Eugène Sue is credited as the first to have said that “revenge is a dish best served cold,” and on a hockey rink, it can be pretty cold.
On Saturday night, Deveaux was tossed from the game for running Patrick Cullity hard into the boards. On Sunday, with 1:30 left in the second frame, Cullity returned the favor running the Whale forward into the right half-boards leaving the forward down on the ice for several moments and requiring trainer Damien Hess to come and check on him. The major difference was that neither referee, Ryan Murphy or Ryan Fraser felt that a call on the play was warranted.
With 25.8 left in the period, rookie right winger Cam Atkinson would tally his first of two when Regner’s shot from the high slot hit defenseman Tim Erixon, changed direction and hit Atkinson changing direction a second time and going into the net for what would prove to be the game winner.
The Falcons outshot the Whale 21-9 in the period and took a 3-2 lead into the third period.
To their credit, the Whale came out and played harder to start the period, but when Atkinson tallied his second of the game en route to the game’s first star honors at 14:17, it became academic.
The Whale had a huge opportunity handed to them when Deveaux was awarded a penalty shot after he was hooked on the way to the net on a breakaway, but Deveaux was easily handled by Legace with just 1:09 left in the game.
As the final horn sounded though, the animosity and anger from the back to back spilled over as apparently words were exchanged between former Wolf Pack forwards Ryan Garlock and Dane Byers and the Whale’s Kelsey Tessier and Deveaux. It took quite a while before the teams left the ice.
The Whale will have several days to dry out before leaving for a pair of games Friday and Saturday in Norfolk against the Admirals.
Wade Redden is still a long way from being able to play. Gernander reported that Mats Zuccarello will be re-evaluated on Tuesday and he expects that Sean Avery will be on the trip to Norfolk and will play.
At the end of “The Lost Weekend,” the main character recognizes the error of his ways and is able to move on with his life. In May 1946, The Lost Weekend ended up taking home the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay.
The Whale hope that this weekend in Norfolk starts them on the path to winning the Calder Cup for Best Team in a long season.
That’s a script that Ken Gernander would certainly put his approval on. For that matter, so would every Connecticut Whale fan.
Garry Brown at MassLive.com has the tale from inside the Falcons locker-room.
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
* If you look at this current run of fifteen games, the Whale have scored 47 goals. If you subtract the two extra goals awarded for winning the two shootouts they lost, the Whale have given up 45. Scoring just over 3 goals a game you would think the record would be better than 5-7-1-2.
* Over the fifteen games, Talbot has played in eight of them and given up 24 goals on 240 shots for a .900sv% and a 3.00GAA. Chad Johnson has played in seven and given up 19 goals on 207 shots for a .917sv% and a 2.71GAA. Not dazzling numbers, but not exactly bad either.
* The Whale started the weekend having beaten Springfield five times in a row.
* Tomas Kubalik did not play Sunday after the parent Columbus Blue Jackets recalled the Falcon forward after Saturday’s game.
Audy-Marchessault – Newbury – Deveaux
Bouchard – Tessier – Thuresson
Voros – Owens – Bourque
Grant – McKelvie – Tanski
Erixon – Nightingale
Bell – Klassen
Valentenko – Baldwin
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Wade Redden – Lower Body – Indefinite
Mats Zuccarello – Lower Body – 2-3 Weeks
Sean Avery – Illness – Day-to-Day
Blake Parlett – Healthy Scratch
1. SPR – C. Atkinson
2. SPR – D. Prout
3. SPR – B. Lebda
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Ryan Murphy (5)
Ryan Fraser (14)
Robert St. Lawrence (10)
Frank Murphy (29)
Since we’re equating things to film in terms of a theme for this report, let’s stick with it and relate to the movie, “Animal House.” When things go real poorly for Flounder, Eric Stratton (Tim Matheson) says those immortal words…”ROAD TRIP!” Perhaps that’s the answer for the CTWhale. THe Ranger’s top development team plays the next two in Norfolk, VA against the Admirals and then after three more days off travel back to Portland for another battle with the Pirates. Bob Crawford goes on the air with the pre-game show on Friday night at 7:20pm and 7:05 on Saturday. Both games can be heard 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 2 at Springfield Falcons 4 – Status: Final
Sunday, January 8, 2012 – MassMutual Center
Connecticut 1 1 0 – 2
Springfield 0 3 1 – 4
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Deveaux 11 (Newbury, Audy-Marchessault), 12:48 (PP). Penalties-Byers Spr (hooking), 1:10; Giroux Spr (holding), 11:28; Tessier Ct (slashing), 13:27; Nightingale Ct (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:31; Byers Spr (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:31; Newbury Ct (holding), 16:18.
2nd Period-2, Springfield, Calvert 6 (Prout, Lebda), 1:45 (PP). 3, Springfield, Joudrey 4 (Prout, Mayorov), 2:14. 4, Connecticut, Audy-Marchessault 14 (Deveaux, Erixon), 4:04 (PP). 5, Springfield, Atkinson 18 (Regner, Giroux), 19:34. Penalties-Klassen Ct (high-sticking), 0:48; Lebda Spr (interference), 3:13; Nightingale Ct (interference), 6:59; Thuresson Ct (holding), 10:16; St. Pierre Spr (hooking), 17:03.
3rd Period-6, Springfield, Atkinson 19 (Giroux, Lebda), 14:17. Penalties-Ruth Spr (tripping), 7:02; Prout Spr (boarding), 11:33; Deveaux Ct (holding), 12:11; Bell Ct (misconduct – unsportsmanlike conduct), 16:57; Deveaux Ct (boarding), 19:19; Tessier Ct (slashing), 20:00.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 13-9-6-28. Springfield 13-21-13-47.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 2 / 6; Springfield 1 / 7.
Goalies-Connecticut, Talbot 9-8-0 (47 shots-43 saves). Springfield, Legace 9-11-1 (28 shots-26 saves).
Referees-Ryan Murphy (5), Ryan Fraser (14).
Linesmen-Robert St. Lawrence (10), Frank Murphy (29).