CLASH OF THE TITANS

Connecticut-Whale_thumb_thumb_thumb_      VERSUS      Bridgeport

It doesn’t get more exciting than that!

The Connecticut Whale came from behind three separate times capped by Kris Newbury’s goal off a fluke bounce with 4.9 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime and then after a thrilling extended period went three-for-three in the shootout defeating their franchise and intra-state rivals, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in front of a crowd of 3,245 at the XL Center Friday night.

The win also pulled the Whale within one point the Sound Tigers for first place in the division.

“We stayed with it to the end Johnner (Chad Johnson) did a good job to keep it close and we got the late one there and did well in the shootout.” Whale head coach Ken Gernander said before adding, “(Johnson) played very well.”

(Friday) night was a big night for us,” Johnson (19-12-5, 41 saves) said. “These two teams are really close fighting for that third spot in our (conference). I just wanted to come in and have a good game and give our team a chance to win. It was good to get the two points.”

The Whale would have had no points had it not been for their dramatic goal to send the game to extra time.

With the team trailing 3-2 and Johnson pulled for an extra attacker and just 48 seconds remaining, the Whale went all out raining shots on Sound Tiger goaltender Kevin Poulin (17-14-2, 33 saves). Eventually the Whale got the puck out to the left point to Tim Erixon. Right-winger Sean Backman rushed at Erixon to take away his view of the net. Meanwhile down low to the left side of the net, Casey Wellman did battle with defenseman Matt Donovan. Erixon’s shot appeared to hit Wellman’s skate and ricocheted through the crease right to the stick of an abandoned Newbury. Poulin attempted to dive back to the right, but the Whale’s leading goal scorer had the entire 4×6 to shoot at and buried it into the back of the net.

After a spirited but scoreless overtime frame, the Whale shootout participants made Poulin, a very strong netminder, look very foolish going three-for-three.

Mats Zuccarello, who is arguably the best there is in the shootout in the AHL, and perhaps even the NHL, faked Poulin so badly that the Sound Tiger net minder was down and out to his right and Zuccarello had a simple tap in into the left side of a completely empty net.

After Backman went wide to his left and missed with a backhanded shot, Wellman went second and his wrister hit Poulin in the glove and went into the net.

Tony Romano was an exact duplication of the Backman attempt and had the same result.

Brendan Bell followed for the Whale and he too put on a good fake on the butterfly netminder and got him to open up the five-hole before slamming it through for what would prove to be the clincher after Rhett Rakhshani was stopped by Johnson with the pad stopping the same move the two previous shooters attempted to employ.

The Whale fell behind in the first period when Michael Haley scored his first of two goals when he outmuscled Pavel Valentenko in front of the net and put a shot over Johnson’s glove at 13:48; the period’s only score.

The start of the second frame was all Sound Tigers as the visitors put the period’s first twelve shots on net over the first 3:43. The onslaught started with Johnson making a huge stop in front, just 24 seconds into the period on Tomas Marcinko  capped and was ended with an equally impressive denial by Johnson off a two-on-one odd man rush down low between Backman and Trevor Frischmon.

But what seemed to wake the Whale up from their doldrums came moments earlier when Jordan Owens battled Haley in a battle of middleweights along the left wing boards at center ice.

At 8:45 the Whale responded to their deficit with an outstanding power play.

Romano was called by referee Ryan Hersey for a tripping call at 8:40. On the ensuing faceoff, Newbury cleanly won the puck back to Bell at the right point. Bell sent the puck back to Newbury at the right half-boards. The Whale centerman saw Erixon all alone at the left point and quickly shot a cross-ice pass to the future New York Ranger defenseman. Erixon in turn through the puck at the net where it was picked off by Jonathan Audy-Marchessault. With Andre Deveaux parked in front of Poulin, Audy-Marchessault backhanded a shot into the net that the Sound Tigers goaltender never saw. The goal came just five seconds into the PP.

The Sound Tigers regained the lead for the second time at 17:32 of the second when Justin DiBenedetto capitalized as a rebound of a Rakhshani shot shot from the left side came right to, ironically enough, the same spot that Newbury would score his game winner from, and as Poulin dove to get to Newbury, so Johnson did to get to DiBenedetto and to the same result. A puck in the net.

But Newbury just plain snapped with very late in the period when he completely pummeled Steve Olesky (see video below) after watching the Sound Tigers defenseman slash his line-mate, Audy-Marchessault.

“They were slashing each other,” Newbury said. “Something in my head just kind of goes off. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but it was maybe a good time for it to happen with only (1:18) left and they were up.”

It certainly ignited the Whale as  Kelsey Tessier drove the puck up the left wing and put a shot on net. The puck skipped through a maze of sticks in front of the net and was recovered by Tessier in the right wing corner. Tessier then fed Jordan Owens behind the net. With a defender draped all over him, Owens attempted a backhanded wraparound. The puck deflected off the pads of Poulin right to Tommy Grant in front all by himself for the easy put-away into the back of the net.

But Johnson kept his mates in the game throughout and none moreso than just 2:58 into the third when a defensive zone turnover left Kael Mouillierat completely alone, one-on-one with Johnson. But the Whale netminder was up to the challenge and used his blocker diverting the puck into the corner and out of harm’s way.

But at 4:52 Haley would score his second of the contest when a second defensive, as Deveaux abandoned him in the slot to chase Olesky to the wall. Well, Olesky saw that and put the puck right on Haley’s stick and the Sound Tiger assistant captain fired it past Johnson for the 3-2 lead.

A scary moment for the Whale came at 6:42 when Aaron Ness’ shot form the left circle hit Bell’s stick rose up and hit Erixon in the head dropping the son of one time Ranger, Jan Erixon, down to the ice. Erixon came out of the game after a visit from trainer Damien Hess and fortunately he was able to return to the game.

The Whale narrowly averted falling two goals down when they took back-to-back penalties, first by Mike Vernace at 12:08 on a hooking call and then at 13:23 when Bell joined him in the sin bin also on a hooking call resulting in a 46 second 5-on-3 power play.

With 5:50 to go, Haley hit the crossbar and it was initially called a goal by Hersey, but after a Whale complaint and a review of the replay the goal was corrected and washed out.

“ Every game presents different challenges. You’ve got Bridgeport (Friday) and you’re trying to catch them in the standings. If you can leapfrog them you go from sixth to third (in the conference), and they’re an in-state rival, so that’s something you can draw emotion from. Now (Saturday night) you’ve got a red hot team (Norfolk) coming in here and you’re going to have to bring you’re A game and they’re also in our conference and it’ll be a good measuring stick for us…and we’ll be ready for (Saturday) night’s game.”

One of the industry’s most underrated writers, Mike Fornabaio takes you inside the locker-room at CTPost.com.

For a little extra credit reading, there’s a terrific feature on Ken Gernander being inducted into the Connecticut Hockey Hall-Of-Fame at TheAHL.com.

GAME SUMMARY and OFFICIAL SCORERS SHEET

SHOOTOUT RESULTS:

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VIDEO:

Newbury Pummels Olesky

Kris Newbury disassembles Steve Olesky

Ken Gernander Post Game

Ken Gernander speaks to the media

Game Highlights:

SOUNDS OF THE GAME:

 Ken Gernander: 

Wade Redden: 

Chad Johnson: 

STANDINGS:

(Conference)Capture1

(Division)Capture

(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)

NOTES:

* Newbury’s Gordie Howe Hat-Trick (goal, assist, fight) came with his two sons, Mark and Marty in the building and ironically completed with Newbury’s game-tying goal standing almost directly underneath the greatest all-around hockey player of all-time’s retirement banner.

* Late in the third period, (just eight minutes remaining) Pavel Valentenko blocked a shot in his right arm and left the game and did not return. Valentenko left the building in a sling. Gernander said that there is no prognosis yet on the severity of the issue and that it is still being evaluated.

* Andre Deveaux left the game late with just over ten minutes left in the third period with an injury to the upper body, but according to Gernander, he too is still being evaluated.

LINES:

Audy-Marchessault – Newbury – Deveaux
Zuccarello – Wellman –  Thuresson
Grant – Tessier – Bourque
Prough – Owens – Tanski

REDDEN – Erixon
Bell – Nightingale
Valentenko – Vernace

Johnson
Talbot

(Captain in CAPS / Assistant Captains are Italicized)

SCRATCHES:

Francois Bouchard – Broken Wrist – Indefinite
Chad Kolarik – Knee – (Can’t Play due to Roster Issues)
Sam Klassen – Healthy Scratch
Sean Avery – Healthy Scratch

THREE STARS:

1. CT – C. Johnson
2. BRI – M. Haley
3. CT – K. Newbury

ON ICE OFFICIALS:

Referee:
Ryan Hersey (46)

Linesmen:
Luke Galvin (2)
Brent Colby (7)

NEXT GAME:

The Whale look to build on their momentum from Friday night’s highly satisfying and emotional win over Bridgeport, one of the hottest teams in the AHL since the start of the new year and they move on to face THE hottest team in the entire AHL, the Norfolk Admirals who have won 13 straight games. You can hear all the action on WCCC.com starting at 6:50pm.

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:

Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3 at CT Whale 4 (SO) – Status: Final SO
Friday, March 9, 2012 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Bridgeport       1 1 1 0 –  3
Connecticut  0 2 1 0 – 4

1st Period-1, Bridgeport, Haley 13 (Romano, Landry), 13:48. Penalties-Nightingale Ct (high-sticking), 14:49.

2nd Period-2, Connecticut, Audy-Marchessault 19 (Erixon, Newbury), 8:45 (PP). 3, Bridgeport, DiBenedetto 16 (Rakhshani, Donovan), 17:42 (PP). 4, Connecticut, Grant 7 (Owens, Tessier), 19:23. Penalties-Riley Bri (fighting), 2:29; Owens Ct (fighting), 2:29; Romano Bri (tripping), 8:40; Galiardi Bri (holding), 12:57; Deveaux Ct (slashing), 17:01; Oleksy Bri (fighting), 18:42; Newbury Ct (fighting), 18:42; Ness Bri (interference), 20:00.

3rd Period-5, Bridgeport, Haley 14 (Oleksy), 4:52. 6, Connecticut, Newbury 21 (Wellman, Erixon), 19:55. Penalties-Poulin Bri (delay of game), 8:47; Vernace Ct (hooking), 12:08; Bell Ct (hooking), 13:23; Haley Bri (cross-checking), 14:47.

OT Period– No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties

Shootout – Bridgeport 0 (Backman NG, Romano NG, Rakhshani NG), Connecticut 3 (Zuccarello G, Wellman G, Bell G).

Shots on Goal-Bridgeport 10-20-9-5-0-44. Connecticut 9-12-11-4-1-37.
Power Play Opportunities-Bridgeport 1 / 4; Connecticut 1 / 5.
Goalies-Bridgeport, Poulin 17-14-2 (36 shots-33 saves). Connecticut, Johnson 19-12-5 (44 shots-41 saves).
A-3,245
Referees-Ryan Hersey (46).
Linesmen-Luke Galvin (2), Brent Colby (7).

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