STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED: BUT NOT TOO MANY

Connecticut-Whale_thumb_thumb_thumb_[2]      VERSUS      Springfield Falcons

There is something about the entire New York Rangers organization in 2011-2012…they just seem to dialed in to winning…even when they’re losing.

In New York, the Rangers are tops in the Eastern Conference and are three points behind the President’s Trophy leading Detroit Red Wings. The Rangers have four games in hand.

In Greenville of the ECHL, the Road Warriors are fifth overall in their conference and just five points out of the top spot in their conference and are 6-3-0-1 in their last ten games.

Meanwhile in Connecticut, the Whale, who’d built up a considerable lead on first place through the beginning of the season, endured a HORRIBLE January where they went 0-6- 3-2 and fell out of first place. Since then they’ve rebounded and have now won four straight thanks to a late goal by Jonathan Audy-Marchessault in regulation and then Wojtek Wolsi’s second goal of the game in overtime to win it 3-2 over the Springfield Falcons.

The Whale started a weekend that will see them play three road games in three nights starting with a visit to the MassMutual Center in Springfield to take on their 1-91 rivals who’d beaten them three straight times.

The game winner came  1:04 into over time when Tim Erixon picked up a puck in the neutral zone and fed Wolski. The veteran forward, along with veteran defenseman Jeff Woywitka both playing in his final weekend of their conditioning stint in the American League, broke up the middle of the ice and lost control of the puck. Starting goaltender Manny Legace (10-15-1, 36-saves) misplayed the puck and sent it right back to Wolski’s stick in the right circle. Wolski immediately backhanded it into the far left corner of the net for the game winner for his third goal in four games with the Whale.

“I shouldn’t have lost control of the puck in the first place,” Wolski said. “I should have gone in on the breakaway. The D-Men (Matt Calvert and Cody Goloubef) were really spread out wide. I don’t know why they were so wide. I was lucky that I got the puck after Manny had it. I thought he was going to cover it up. I was fortunate to have gotten it and I was happy we could get the win.”

Legace was fairly succinct in his assessment saying, ““It was a stupid play and I should have froze the puck.”

“It was pretty fortunate that (Wolski) got it right back,” Coach Ken Gernander said. “Good speed through the neutral zone, four-on-four, maybe lost possession of the puck there, but pressured Legace and he gave it right back to him and he was able to finish.”

Wolski’s game-winner would never have come to pass without Audy-Marchessault’s end-to-end rush and shot form the right circle that beat Legace to the glove side with just 3:06 remaining in regulation.

“I back-checked in the middle. I was there to watch the pass. The guy missed the pass and I was there.” Audy-Marchessault said. “Just a quick jump and I take my speed to the outside there and a good shot. I was going blocker side, but it went between (his arm and the glove side) and through him…”

“We had a real good start in the first period,” Gernander said. “Then slowly things started to turn and the momentum started to turn and that was a great goal by Marchie. Just hard work on the backcheck. (He) intercepted a pass in the  defensive zone, great speed through the neutral zone, a great shot. I thought that was a huge goal.”

The Whale started this one on fire.

Their speed and grit was not met with equal resistance from the Falcons when just 49 seconds into the contest Greg Amadio needed to take a holding call to try and slow down the Whale attack. Unfortunately for the Falcon defenseman referee Marcus Vinnerborg saw the obstruction and gave the Whale a power play.

Off the faceoff in the left circle, Kris Newbury won it back to Erixon at the left point. Erixon handed off just to his right at the high slot to Brendan Bell. The Whale assistant captain sent the puck to the half-boards to Mats Zuccarello. “The Norwegian Hobbit” looked across to his right and saw Wolski all alone in the faceoff circle and fired a tape-to-tape pass the the veteran forward fired it past Legace at, ironically enough, 1:04.

But as has been the Whale weakness all season long, they let up defensively and one time Hartford Wolf Pack and future AHL Hall-Of-Famer Alexandre Giroux made them pay. From behind the Whale net, Giroux found Cam Atkinson in front on the right side all alone and gave him the puck. Atkinson, who is going to be quite the NHL player, buried it past starter Chad Johnson (14-9-5, 33 saves) into the far left side of the net to tie the score.

The Whale put 23 shots on Legace in the first period, and just seven minutes into the battle had a 13-2 edge in shots on goal. The 23 shots were the most of any period all season long. The previous high of 22 both came in losses; the last in the third period of a 3-1 loss to Binghamton and the other in the second period of a 5-4 shootout loss to Bridgeport on October 15th.

The second period the Whale were just plain flat for twenty minutes, but Johnson kept them in it with some solid play throughout. He only had one scary moment throughout when at 4:12 Andrew Joudrey’s shot from the slot hit the Whale netminder in the shoulder and flipped over his back. Johnson recovered flipping over to his right and covered the puck before it could cross over the goal-line.

Johnson also came up with a key play early in the third period against the former captain, Dane Byers was all alone, dead red on the left side. Byers fired his shot, but Johnson came over to his right to get the body in front of the puck and snuff out the scoring chance.

At 6:50, Atkinson struck again. Atkinson scored his second and fifth goal in eight games (plus three assists) against the Whale this season when he took a rebound of a Giroux blast form the right circle and from the left circle buried in the back of the net.

The win, combined with an off night for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Sunday’s opponent, extended the Whale’s lead on first place to four points. The Sound Tigers hold two games in hand on the Whale and they have Springfield in Bridgeport Saturday night while the Whale travel to Manchester for a battle with the Monarchs.

Fran Sypek has the Falcons reaction at MassLive.com.

GAME SUMMARY and OFFICIAL SCORERS SHEET

VIDEO:

Thanks to the Whale’s Brian Ring

SOUNDS OF THE GAME:

Chad Johnson: 

Wojtek Wolski: 

Jonathan Audy-Marchessault: 

STANDINGS:

Capture

(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)

NOTES:

* Dave Semenko, who’s probably best known as Wayne Gretzky’s “bodyguard,” was in the press box Friday night scouting for the Oilers.

* According to the press box reporters, the three consecutive wins against the Whale/Hartford Wolf Pack is the longest such streak the Falcons have ever had against their I-91 rivals.

* Scratches for the Falcons included forwards Nick Drazenovic, veteran Adam Mair, Chris D’Alvise and Cody Bass as well as defenseman Theo Ruth.

LINES:

Wellman – Audy-Marchessault – Deveaux
Wolski – NewburyZuccarello
Bourque – Tessier – Thuresson
Grant – Owens – Tanski

Woywitka – Parlett
Erixon – Nightingale
Bell – Klassen

Johnson
Talbot

(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)

SCRATCHES:

Francois Bouchard – Broken Wrist – Indefinite

Wade Redden – Lower Body – Day-to-Day
Pavel Valentenko – Upper Body – Day-to-Day
Sean Avery – Healthy Scratch
Chris McKelvie – Healthy Scratch

THREE STARS:

1. CT – W. Wolski
2. SPR – C. Atkinson
3. CT – C. Johnson

ON ICE OFFICIALS:

Referee:
Marcus Vinnerborg (45)

Linesmen:
Kevin Redding (16)
Chris Low (88)

NEXT GAME:

The second of three on the road is in Manchester on Saturday night. Bob Crawford goes on the air with the pre-game show at 6:50. 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.

Too far away or can’t make it? Listen live at WCCC.com or from your cell phone or computer you can get all the live action via our Twitter page: @HowlingsToday for all games both home and away.

SCORE-SHEET:

CT Whale 3 (OT) at Springfield Falcons 2 – Status: Final OT
Friday, February 10, 2012 – MassMutual Center

Connecticut  1 0 1 1 – 3
Springfield     1 0 1 0 – 2

1st Period-1, Connecticut, Wolski 2 (Zuccarello, Bell), 1:04 (PP). 2, Springfield, Atkinson 25 (Giroux, Cullity), 1:20. Penalties-Amadio Spr (holding), 0:49; MacLeod Spr (slashing), 3:42; Audy-Marchessault Ct (hooking), 10:24; St. Pierre Spr (slashing), 15:16.

2nd Period– No Scoring.Penalties-Motherwell Spr (cross-checking), 7:12; Bogosian Spr (hooking), 11:09; Tanski Ct (hooking), 15:14.

3rd Period-3, Springfield, Atkinson 26 (Giroux, Regner), 6:50 (PP). 4, Connecticut, Audy-Marchessault 17 16:54. Penalties-Newbury Ct (hooking), 5:11; Erixon Ct (hooking), 9:50.

OT Period-5, Connecticut, Wolski 3 (Nightingale, Erixon), 1:04. Penalties-No Penalties

Shots on Goal-Connecticut 23-8-8-1-40. Springfield 12-11-12-0-35.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 1 / 5; Springfield 1 / 4.
Goalies-Connecticut, Johnson 14-9-5 (35 shots-33 saves). Springfield, Legace 10-15-1 (40 shots-37 saves).
A-3,863
Referees-Marcus Vinnerborg (45).
Linesmen-Kevin Redding (16), Chris Low (88).

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