Saturday night in Norfolk, Virginia the Connecticut Whale played the back-end of a pair of games with the Admirals at The Scope and lost 4-2 in front of 7,227.
The first 30 minutes of the contest saw the Whale dig themselves a 2-0 hole with both goals coming via the stick of the game’s First Star, Richard Panik.
But the Whale battled back scoring twice in under a minute in the second period.
Kelsey Tessier made a nice play at the Whale blueline and got past Alexandre Picard and broke in two-on-one with Aaron Voros. Radko Gudas tried diving across the ice to get the puck just as Tessier shot it from inside the right faceoff circle. Dustin Tokarski (16-9-0, 24 saves) lost sight of it and the puck slid right through his five-hole and into the back of the net at 15:32.
49 seconds later off an offensive zone faceoff in the left circle, Avery won the faceoff to the back of the circle. Voros swooped in on the puck, turned and fired a strike beating Tokarski low to the blocker side to knot the game up.
Avery has having issues with the referee and the linesmen all game long. Earlier in the first period, even after the linesman had kicked the Norfolk center out of the circle, Avery continued to complain and actually left the circle to argue with the referee. Shortly after a questionable Kris Newbury holding penalty was called by referee Graham Skilliter, Picard took a roughing call on Avery and then the Whale forward retaliated right in front of Skilliter with an obvious slash. In fact if Avery could connect with a swing like that with a baseball, he could leave hockey and play for the New York Mets.
So after the Whale goal at 16:21 off the ensuing faceoff, Avery continued to be all over the linesman. When Skilliter had heard enough, he called a ten-minute misconduct on the veteran forward. It was the last ice that Avery would see in the game as Head Coach Ken Gernander benched him for the remainder of the contest.
Since being sent to the Whale from the Rangers the team has suspended him for one-game for “disciplinary actions” and in his first game back gets an Abuse of Officials Misconduct. Not the way to endear yourself to a disciplinarian like Gernander. It also doesn’t exactly tell other NHL teams that they should take a chance on the Controversy Magnet.
Since arriving from New York, with Avery in the lineup, the Whale are now 0-4-1-1 and it doesn’t take Scotty Bowman to see that his presence is affecting the chemistry of this team. Avery is obviously extremely unhappy and has unequivocally proven to be a detriment to the continued development of this team. For his sake, and for the team’s sake, Glen Sather and the New York Rangers hierarchy need to send the forward elsewhere one way or the other.
Over the course of this now six game losing streak, (0-4-1-1) the team has taken a giant step backwards and are playing as they did when they struggled to find their identity at the start of the season. Saturday’s third period was a capsulation of all of that.
Erik Christensen, playing in his second game with the Whale on a two-week conditioning assignment from the Rangers, took a high sticking call with 45.8 seconds left in the second period.
The Whale managed to kill off the remaining 1:15 of Christensen’s penalty to start the third period, but at 4:14 their lack of intensity in the defensive zone led to what proved to be the game winner.
The AHL’s leading scorer amongst rookies, Cory Conacher blew past Tim Erixon, who had probably his worst game of the season, and dumped the puck in the right corner. Mike Kostka, the game’s Third Star, chased the puck into the corner. Christensen abandoned the middle of the ice and chased after the Admirals pinching defenseman. Kostka got off a terrific centering pass that got by Christensen and the game’s Second Star went in completely untouched to redirect the puck past Cam Talbot (9-9-0, 34 saves).
With 2:39 to go, the Admirals added an insurance goal as Blake Parlett lost the puck along the right wing half-boards in the defensive zone to Mark Barberio. The Admirals defenseman found Mike Angelidis all alone in the slot and put the puck right on the blade of his stick. Angelidis ripped a hard wrister from in the circle over Talbot’s stick side shoulder.
Panik scored his first of two goals on the night at 13:45 of the first period as Jonathan Audy-Marchessault allowed the right winger free passage up the slot while the team’s were playing four-on-four, the result of Avery’s slash following a rough by Alexandre Picard in the offensive zone at 12:14. Evan Oberg made a great pass fro the left side wall that caught up with Panik perfectly. A wrister from 15′ feet away and it was 1-0.
In the second period, Audy-Marchessault’s clearing pass was intercepted by Panik just outside the Whale blueline. Panik drove hard along the left wing boards and simply blew right past Erixon. As he charged to the net, Jared Nightingale came to intercept him, but Ondrej Palat picked him off allowing Panik to go unimpeded past Talbot. When he got to Talbot’s right, he fired it into the net to Talbot’s stick side.
As frustrated as the Whale may have been on the ice with the refereeing, Gernander preaches keeping emotions in check. For Kris Newbury, a player who plays on the edge with a lot of emotion, that is always a tightrope walk. Saturday night, apparently he lost control as well as he was ejected from the game with 10:47 left and the Whale down a goal as he was jawing at one of the officials and Skilliter sent him to the showers early.
It would be exceptionally unfair in this game to look to Talbot for blame. Talbot, on this scorecard anyway, was one of the best placers on the ice all game long. Not a single one of the goals came on his lack of anything. He had no help on the ice.
There are definitely some serious chemistry issues for Gernander to deal with in the days ahead to right this ship.
Since joining the Whale, the teams’ record with Voros is 10-10-1-2. Christensen’s record with the Whale is 0-2-0-0. With Mats Zuccarello, who missed the game after appearing to reinjure his leg in Friday night’s contest, the Whale record is 11-7-1-0.
Simply put, there is no chemistry because the players right now and they need to find it…and fast.
While the offense was very poor, it was defensive breakdowns that ultimately cost the Whale two points that they think they should have. Gernander told The Whale’s Brian Ring, “A coverage mistake, a turnover where we didn’t support anyone on the rink, all leaving the zone… (There were) some big penalties to some key people really took the flow out of things.
“We’ll get a little bit of rest for our guys that logged big minutes, and then hopefully Tuesday prepare for a big game in Portland,”
The question is, come Wednesday will “The Avery Affect” still be in effect?
Jim Hodges is the beat writer for the Admirals for the Virginian-Pilot.
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
* From the You-Can’t-Make-This-Stuff-Up-Department”: Ex-Hartford Wolf Pack forward Billy Tibbets is playing in the FHL with the Cape Cod Bluefins. His team was leading 7-1 on the road over the Akwesasne Warriors in the third period. With 3:57 remaining in the game a tripping major penalty and a Game Misconduct was given to the Warriors’ Paul Shantz. The Cape Cod bench emptied and a Pier Six Brawl broke out resulting in referee Derek Wasiak calling the game a forfeit (Slap Shot style) and gave the victory to the Warriors.
Bourque – Christensen – Thuresson
Audy-Marchessault – Newbury – Bouchard
Voros – Avery – Tessier
Grant – Owens – Tanski
Erixon – Nightingale
Bell – Klassen
Valentenko – Parlett
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Wade Redden – Lower Body – Indefinite
Andre Deveaux – Suspension – Second of Three Game Suspension
Mats Zuccarello – Lower Body Injury – Day-to-Day
Lee Baldwin – Healthy Scratch
Chris McKelvie – Healthy Scratch
1. NOR – R. Panik
2. NOR – M. Fornataro
3. NOR – M. Kostka
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Graham Skilliter (48)
Brian Oliver (80)
Scott Pomento (25)
The Whale have a long nine hour ride back to Hartford and will likely have Sunday off and then back to work trying to figure this all out on Monday or Tuesday. They return to action on Wednesday after another long bus ride up to Portland, Maine for a battle with the Pirates. Bob Crawford goes on the air with the pre-game show on at 6:20 with game time at 6:30. The game 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 Norfolk Admirals 4 – Status: Final
Saturday, January 14, 2012 – Norfolk Scope
Connecticut 0 2 0 – 2
Norfolk 1 1 2 – 4
1st Period-1, Norfolk, Panik 7 (Oberg, Johnson), 13:45. Penalties-Newbury Ct (holding), 8:08; Avery Ct (slashing), 12:14; Picard Nor (roughing), 12:14; Kostka Nor (interference), 18:52.
2nd Period-2, Norfolk, Panik 8 10:20. 3, Connecticut, Tessier 7 (Klassen), 15:32. 4, Connecticut, Voros 4 (Avery), 16:21. Penalties-Oberg Nor (hooking), 3:59; Klassen Ct (interference), 7:58; Avery Ct (misconduct – abuse of officials), 16:28; Christensen Ct (high-sticking), 19:14; Parlett Ct (fighting), 19:14; Ashton Nor (fighting), 19:14.
3rd Period-5, Norfolk, Fornataro 5 (Kostka, Conacher), 4:14. 6, Norfolk, Angelidis 7 (Picard), 17:21. Penalties-Newbury Ct (game misconduct – abuse of officials), 9:13; Nightingale Ct (roughing), 13:09; Voros Ct (roughing), 13:09; Conacher Nor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:09; Oberg Nor (hooking), 18:46; Bouchard Ct (boarding), 19:52.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 12-9-5-26. Norfolk 15-12-11-38.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 0 / 3; Norfolk 0 / 4.
Goalies-Connecticut, Talbot 9-9-0 (38 shots-34 saves). Norfolk, Tokarski 16-9-0 (26 shots-24 saves).
Referees-Graham Skilliter (48).
Linesmen-Brian Oliver (80), Scott Pomento (25).