The Connecticut Whale currently sit in the third position in the AHL standings. How they’re doing that is a testament to the character of this team, because based upon the way they played at the XL Center Saturday night in a 3-0 loss to the Springfield Falcons, a team fighting just to make it into the post-season, you’d have thought it was the other way around.
“We didn’t give much, I thought and that’s disappointing. We never really got anything going,” team captain Wade Redden said in his post game assessment. “We had a couple power plays in the first (period) that we didn’t do anything on, didn’t get a spark.
“You guard against (emotional let downs)…it just seemed like we were flat. We had a big win (Friday) night, we just weren’t making plays. We were just a little slower to pucks than them. They just played harder than us…We just put this behind us and get ready for tomorrow.”
The Whale will most likely have to do that without assistant captain Kris Newbury who was injured late in the second period.
But when you consider the quality of the talent that has come and gone through the doors at the XL Center this season that are either out injured or playing in New York the fact that this team is where it is at all is pretty amazing.
Stu Bickel, Tim Erixon, Carl Hagelin, John Mitchell, and Mats Zuccarello have all played parts of the season (some more than others) with the Whale and are currently playing in New York. Jeff Woywitka and Wojtek Wolski also spent two weeks in Hartford on conditioning stints. Woywitka is back with the Rangers while Wolski was traded on February 25th for defenseman Mike Vernace.
Meanwhile in Hartford, a freak accident resulting in knee surgery and then a roster technicality has sidelined one of the Whale’s best offensive forwards, Chad Kolarik, for the season. Francois Bouchard, who the Whale traded for earlier in the year for Tomas Kundratek, who has seen great strides in his game since being traded to Hershey and has played in his first NHL games with the Washington Capitals, has missed the last sixteen games with a broken wrist and is done for the season as well.
When you look at the roster and see that Andre Deveaux is slumping with just one goal and no assists in the last eight games and Vernace has one assist in the seven games he’s played in since his being acquired by the organization, while others have been up and down, it’s a testament to the coaching staff that they are even in the position they are in.
Newbury’s potential absence will be a huge blow to this team that is not exactly an offensive juggernaut with 185 goals scored in 63 games this season, that’s a 2.94 average which is good for 8th in the conference and 11th overall. Newbury leads the team in goals with 22 and assists with 33 assists (55pts, 13th in the AHL) is their top faceoff forward and a physical presence and emotional leader on the ice. If the injury is serious, they are in for a rough road ahead.
The team was able to overcome a poor showing in the second period on Friday against the Sound Tigers and were the only team to actually score in that period. On Saturday it was a different story as they coughed up three that found their way past Chad Johnson, who was still solid between the pipes but could not pull his team out of their funk by himself.
Johnson (21-14-5, 20 saves) was bested by Mike Clemente (2-0-0, 27 saves) who has allowed one goal on 52 shots in the two games he’s played in since his college career at Brown University was ended by Quinnipiac University in the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals on March 4.
Clemente was just signed Wednesday to an amateur try-out contract after being released by the Providence Bruins because the Falcons just didn’t have a goaltender. Veteran Manny Legace has a groin injury and standout rookie Paul Dainton was away in Toronto to be with his father who successfully faced a lung-transplant surgery.
According to Bruce Berlet who spoke with Falcons’ team President Bruce Landon, “We had to sign him because we had nobody…I knew his agent, who said he was looking for a better deal than just being used in practice, so we signed him.”
“He played well,” Johnson said. “We had some chances there and I don’t think we tested him a whole lot, but when he did have chances to make saves, he looked pretty solid in there, so he did quite well.”
Whale head coach Ken Gernander agreed. “The goalie is relatively new to us and fairly untested, but I don’t think we challenged him enough in terms of putting traffic and getting second and third opportunities. Most goalies are going to be able to make saves on perimeter shots especially if they can see them.”
“It was disappointing,” Gernander said. “What do you want me to say? I mean we gave up a power play goal there. We lost a puck going up in the air. We had the center-iceman (Deveaux) lose a draw in their defensive zone and then lose his check going through the ice created a 2-on-1 and then we have a 2-on-1 and miss the net becomes a 2-on-2 rush, you know…there’s three goals.”
Springfield got the first goal when Dalton Prout fired a shot from the right side that was hit into the air by Andreas Thuresson. The puck flew over the top of the net and most of the players looked to have lost the puck. That was except for Wade MacLeod who saw it hit the bottom of the boards behind the net. The left winger brought the puck out to the left side of Johnson’s crease, made a hard pass to the right side to Nick Drazenovic who was wide open for the easy tap in to make it 1-0 just 3:30 into the second.
With 6:39 remaining, Deveaux lost a draw cleanly to Drazenovic in the offensive zone. The puck was picked up by Brent Regner behind the net and advanced up the boards to Matt Calvert who advanced the puck into the right circle. Vernace went down to a knee, but Deveaux was late getting back to pick up Drazenovic creating the 2-on-1 and Calvert came to the clot as Drazenovic, Deveaux and to some extend Vernace cut across the slot at the same time as Calvert released the puck screening Johnson. Calvert’s shot went high over the glove of Johnson for his 15th of the season to make it 2-0 with 5:39 left in the period.
Maksim Mayorov put the final tally on the board for Springfield when he rushed the puck up out of the Springfield zone; got the help of a Calvert pick on Casey Wellman sending him up ice against a back skating Redden. From just outside the left circle, Mayorov ripped a wicked wrist shot between the legs of Redden and the puck hit Johnson under the arm and found pay-dirt at the back of the net.
“It wasn’t our night,” Johnson said.
It sure wasn’t.
But the Whale will have a chance to redeem themselves and take four of a possible six points on the weekend when the Portland Pirates come back to the XL Center for a Sunday afternoon battle.
Bridgeport lost 4-3 to the Pirates so the Whale will still maintain their two point lead and third place in the division.
Kelsey Tessier took a very positive approach. “The hockey gods are standing there for us, but that’s no excuse (for the way they played). We just have to come out and make sure that we play hard (Sunday).
Bruce Berlet really shines in his piece on this game that you can find at CTWhale.com.
For reaction from Springfield, there’s Fran Sypek at Masslive.com.
(Someone will need to explain why Springfield is listed as ninth instead of second. Isn’t the number one tie-breaker the number of overall wins? Maybe it’s head-to-head?)
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
Ken Gernander Post-Game Press Conference
* In the 15 years that the Hartford Wolf Pack/Whale franchise has been in existence, no other Falcon goalie has ever posted a shutout in Hartford prior to last night’s 3-0 win by Clemente.
* CTWhale finish the season with a 7-4-0-1 against the Falcons and 3-2-0-1 at the XL Center.
Audy-Marchessault – Newbury – Wellman
Grant – Tessier – Tanski
Bourque – Deveaux – Thuresson
Prough – Owens – Parlett
Valentenko – Vernace
Bell – Nightingale
REDDEN – Klassen
(Captain in CAPS / Assistant Captains are Italicized)
Francois Bouchard – Broken Wrist – Indefinite
Chad Kolarik – Knee – (Can’t Play Due To Roster Issue)
Sean Avery – Healthy Scratch
1. SPR – M. Clemente
2. SPR – N. Drazenovic
3. SPR – D. Prout
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
David Banfield (44)
Paul Simeon (66)
Luke Galvin (2)
Back to the XL Center this afternoon for a head-to-head with the Portland Pirates. The Whale need this one for their mindset and to get back to winning games. They cannot afford to go into a funk this late in the season. You can hear all the action with Bob Crawford, Garry Swain and Mark Bailey on WCCC.com starting at 2:50pm.
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.
Springfield Falcons 3 at Connecticut Whale 0 – Status: Final
Saturday, March 17, 2012 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Springfield 0 3 0 – 3
Connecticut 0 0 0 – 0
1st Period– No Scoring.Penalties-Amadio Spr (interference), 7:41; Giroux Spr (hooking), 10:41; Nightingale Ct (hooking), 12:59; Giroux Spr (tripping), 13:08; Owens Ct (slashing), 17:28.
2nd Period-1, Springfield, Drazenovic 8 (MacLeod, Prout), 7:31 (PP). 2, Springfield, Calvert 15 (Regner, Drazenovic), 14:21. 3, Springfield, Mayorov 9 17:21. Penalties-Klassen Ct (interference), 5:58; Newbury Ct (cross-checking), 9:23.
3rd Period– No Scoring.Penalties-Tessier Ct (hooking), 2:52; Goloubef Spr (charging), 7:26; Amadio Spr (roughing), 16:49; Owens Ct (slashing), 16:49.
Shots on Goal-Springfield 6-11-6-23. Connecticut 8-8-11-27.
Power Play Opportunities-Springfield 1 / 5; Connecticut 0 / 4.
Goalies-Springfield, Clemente 2-0-0 (27 shots-27 saves). Connecticut, Johnson 21-14-5 (23 shots-20 saves).
Referees-David Banfield (44).
Linesmen-Paul Simeon (66), Luke Galvin (2).