The late, great Gilda Radner’s character, “Roseanne Rosannadannna” used to say to great laughs, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another…” Those words rang very true Saturday night for the Connecticut Whale, but nobody was laughing as the New York Rangers’ top farm team dropped a 2-1 decision and lost their eleventh straight (0-6-3-2) to the Springfield Falcons before the season’s second largest crowd of 11,181.
After struggling to maintain discipline by taking foolish and avoidable penalties the night before against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton that left them shorthanded seven times, they played more cautiously Saturday and were only shorthanded twice. But somehow along with the penalties went the passion as they played very uninspired hockey for two periods before finding the right balance between aggressive and overly aggressive with a strong sense of urgency in their play for the third period. As it turned out though, it was a matter of, “too little, too late” mixed with a a costly mistake and finished off by a generous portion of excellent goaltending by the Falcons’ Paul Dainton (4-2-0, 24 saves) that would do them in.
Scott Tanski turned the puck over on a drop pass in the offensive zone that was picked up by center Martin St. Pierre. The veteran made a quick outlet pass to Cam Atkinson who streaked up the right wing. The Whale defense came charging back but Atkinson’s pass found the stick of Maxim Mayorov, who’d gotten in front of Jared Nightingale and flipped it past the blocker of Cam Talbot (9-11-0, 27 saves) for what would prove to be the game winner.
“We made a mistake there late and gave them an odd man rush and we paid the price for it,” Head Coach Ken Gernander said afterwards. “Right now our margin of error isn’t one where we can make a lot of mistakes.”
The Whale do have some injury concerns that they are dealing with and they miss Kris Newbury most of all. Newbury is their top face-off center as well as the de facto leader of the team’s energy and intensity. While Kelsey Tessier took many of the games key face-offs, and did okay with it, they certainly missed Newbury who, while they don’t track face-off wins and losses in the AHL, certainly wins on observation somewhere in the 80-90% of them. That presence was most costly on the first Falcons goal.
With exactly three minutes left in the first period, Tim Spencer scored off a clean faceoff win as Wade MacLeod won a faceoff cleanly from Jordan Owens in the Whale zone. The puck came right to Theo Ruth at the right point and he fired it in on net. Spencer got in front of the Whale defender and redirected it past Talbot for his second of the season and a 1-0 lead.
The Whale had their chances in the first period.
Just 62 seconds into the contest, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault had a breakaway that Dainton repelled. Andre Deveaux was right there to play the rebound by Dainton stood tall against the Whales’ big right winger.
Time was running dry in the first when Mats Zuccarello, playing in his second game back from injury after missing seventeen of the previous eighteen with a high ankle sprain, made a magnificent toe-drag move and fired a shot that hit Dainton’s shoulder and rebounded out of harm’s way.
What was most disturbing in the first period was that of their three power play chances, one at 1:04 on a Patrick Cullity slashing call, the second on a Matt Calvert high stick and the third when Dainton put the puck into the stands for a Delay of Game call, of the three man-advantage opportunities, the Whale were unable to muster a single shot on goal.
The Whale were just not getting shots on goal. Through the first 10:46 of the second period, the team was not challenging Dainton at all as they went without a shot.
At 13:10, it looked like the Whale might have broken through when Tanski’s rebound attempt of a Tessier shot looked like it went in, but it was Francis Charron’s decision that the puck never crossed the line, and on went the contest.
Finally the Whale broke through with 1:52 left in the second when a puck went into the Whale zone on the left side. Blake Parlett went and retrieved it, but Theo Ruth pinched in to challenge him and the Whale defenseman was able to chip it out of the zone and into a couple of opposing players between the penalty boxes. Audy-Marchessault and Cullity went for it at the center redline, but Zuccarello picked up the loose biscuit and broke in along the left wing side. Atkinson gave chase to “The Norwegian Hobbit” but could not catch him. Zuccarello went with a fake, got Dainton to open his legs and deposited the puck in the back of the net with a backhander through the five-hole to tie the score.
After Mayorov scored his fourth of the season with what would prove to be the game-winner, the Whale had their sixth and final power play opportunity when Nick Drazenovic was sent off the ice for a hit to the head giving the Whale their sixth power play. When it ended, the Whale had gone, not only 0-for-six on the man-advantage, but they were only able to take a single shot on goal through all of them.
The Whale also played this contest a defenseman short as Pavel Valentenko was injured by a boarding major from ex-Hartford Wolf Pack forward Steve MacIntyre the night before. The rotation of defensemen gave off the appearance that the Whale defense looked out of step all night.
“We’re going to have to find ways to win games, whatever the case may be,” Gernander said. “Whether it’s secondary scoring, special teams, big defensive effort, individual efforts, we’re going to have to find a way to get it done.
“It would have been nice to go out (for the four-day All-Star break) on a positive note so guys could be feeling good about themselves when they left and little bit refreshed, but there’s a lot of season left to get it turned around. We’re within striking distance and showed improvement in some areas tonight and now we have to tweak a few others.”
Nightingale put it all in perspective from the players point of view. “We haven’t had any puck luck and it’s a game of inches,” He said. “It seems right now that bounces aren’t going our way, but there’s not a sense of panic. You can’t put a price on these experiences. At the end of the year, I think we’ll look back and look at it as a positive. It’s good to get away for a (four-day) break even if we were on a 10-game winning streak. Hockey is a grind, and heading into the home stretch, it’s good timing with the way things have been going lately. It’s a good time to regroup, relax and reenergize yourself. We’ll take advantage of the break and come back (determined). I don’t think anybody in this locker room doubts that we can turn this thing around right away.”
Fran Sypek 0f The Republican takes you inside the Springfield locker-room MassLive.com.
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
* Ironically enough, the last CTWhale win came against the Springfield Falcons on Dec. 31 2011.
* Just sayin’ – In the eleven games since Sean Avery arrived for the second time from New York, the Whale have not won a game and started this eleven game skid (0-6-3-2). To be fair, Avery did play in two Whale wins earlier in the season – 10/28’s win against Adirondack and 10/29’s win vs. Worcester – before his first and only recall. However, in games without Avery at all, the Whale are 17-10-1-3 (.629 hockey winning percentage) 17-14 in terms of just wins vs. losses (.548 overall).
Meanwhile Avery’s friend, veteran Aaron Voros, who joined the Whale on a Professional Try-Out (PTO) contract back on Nov. 18th, the Whale have an overall record of 12-12-3-3, (hockey’s equivalent of .500) or in just wins vs. losses, 12-18 (realistic winning percentage of .400). Contrast that with the team’s record prior to his arrival. the Whale were 7-4-1-2 (hockey .636) or 7-7 (realistic .500). Again, the point is NOT to point fingers..it’s just kind of interesting…
Bouchard – Owens – Thuresson
Zuccarello – Audy-Marchessault – Deveaux
Grant – Tessier – Tanski
Bourque – McKelvie – McNaught
Bell – Klassen
Erixon – Nightingale
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Wade Redden – Lower Body – Three to Four Weeks
Chad Kolarik – Knee – Six to Eight Weeks
Pavel Valentenko – Undisclosed – Indefinite
Sean Avery – Healthy Scratch
Aaron Voros – Healthy Scratch
1. SPR – M. Mayorov
2. SPR – P. Dainton
3. CT – M. Zuccarello
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Francis Charron (46)
Luke Galvin (2)
Jim Briggs (83)
The Whale are now off for the All-Star break. According to Gernander, they are not permitted to be officially together to skate again until Thursday morning. They finish their five game homestand on Friday night when the Albany Devils come to town. Bob Crawford will be on the air with the pre-game show at 6:50 with the puck dropping at 7pm. 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.
Springfield Falcons 2 at Connecticut Whale 1 – Status: Final
Saturday, January 28, 2012 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Springfield 1 0 1 – 2
Connecticut 0 1 0 – 1
1st Period-1, Springfield, Spencer 2 (Ruth, MacLeod), 17:00. Penalties-Cullity Spr (slashing), 1:04; Thuresson Ct (delay of game), 8:52; Calvert Spr (high-sticking), 9:08; Dainton Spr (delay of game), 12:00.
2nd Period-2, Connecticut, Zuccarello 9 (Audy-Marchessault, Parlett), 18:08. Penalties-Audy-Marchessault Ct (tripping), 5:19; Garlock Spr (hooking), 8:22; Prout Spr (delay of game), 14:08; Calvert Spr (roughing), 20:00; Erixon Ct (roughing), 20:00.
3rd Period-3, Springfield, Mayorov 4 (Atkinson, St. Pierre), 6:03. Penalties-Drazenovic Spr (checking to the head), 7:25.
Shots on Goal-Springfield 8-9-12-29. Connecticut 7-4-14-25.
Power Play Opportunities-Springfield 0 / 2; Connecticut 0 / 6.
Goalies-Springfield, Dainton 4-2-0 (25 shots-24 saves). Connecticut, Talbot 9-11-0 (29 shots-27 saves).
Referees-Francis Charron (46).
Linesmen-Luke Galvin (2), Jim Briggs (83).