When a hockey team goes five-for-five on the penalty kill and has a three-for five night on the power play, odds are pretty good that that team is going to win.
The Connecticut Whale did just that and had five points from their top line to lead the way. Brodie Dupont (1g, 1a), Kris Newbury (1g, 1a) and Dale Weise (1a) each had strong games. The team’s leading scorer, Jeremy Williams (1g, 1a), ended a four game pointless streak with a multi-point night. Wade Redden also chipped in his first goal in 17 games. The Connecticut Whale won for the second straight time since being shellacked by the Toronto Marlies 9-2 Wednesday night and knocked off the Providence Bruins in front of 8,470, 4-1 at the Dunkin Donuts Center Sunday afternoon.
Since rebranding the Hartford Wolf Pack into the Connecticut Whale a week ago Saturday the team has won two games and lost another in a shootout. While the name has changed, some of the problems the coaching staff has been facing with it’s players have not.
Friday night the Whale entered the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island looking for a consistent, 60-minute game where they put pucks on net and score some goals while playing strong defense in their own end.
It was the Wolf Pack’s first shutout of the young season. It was their first three goal period and three goal lead of the season.
The game was also the first for Cam Talbot as a starter. Talbot did get some mop up work for Matt Zaba against Worcester last April. He didn’t exactly play to impress in that one. The Caledonia, Ontario native surrendered three goals on eleven shots in that one.
But that wasn’t the netminder who showed up for the Pack Sunday afternoon.
“Talbot was really good, our best player,” Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander told reporters afterwards. “He had some good glove saves where there were no rebounds, found a couple of pucks in traffic and froze it himself when there were scrambles going on around in front. And he played a really heady game as well. When things were scrambly, he was pretty poised and managed the game well by halting the play and forcing a faceoff to get fresh bodies out there.”
The Pack gave Talbot the ability to relax and settle into the game when his teammates potted three goals inside in a span of 8:43 in the first period.
Team Captain Dane Byers picked up his second goal in the early season off a rush with new linemate Jeremy Williams. The former Grand Rapids Griffin skated hard up right wing to the right corner and fired the puck back to Byers who was wide open coming up the slot. He easily buried the pass from the goal line past Michael Hutchinson (1-1-0 15 saves) on just the team’s second shot at only 3:54 into the contest. The goal came on the power play after Matt Bartkowski held onto Brandon Wong a little too long for referee Chris Brown’s liking at 3:23.
Unlike so many times last season where the Pack would do something good like this only to give it right back, this time though they stepped on the gas and not the brake scoring a second time, again on the power play, just 27 seconds later.
With Jeremy Reich in the box for a hooking call by Brown, Tim Kennedy took a pass down low below the goal line in the right corner and tried centering it out to the middle. The puck however had a different plan. It hit Hutchinson’s skate and wound up behind him in the net at 3:54. Wade Redden got the secondary assist on Kennedy’s goal and has now registered a point in each of the team’s five games. So much for the argument that he needed to play with his new Pack teammates in the exhibition season.
The Pack scored what would be the games final score at 12:37.
A wrist injury requiring right wing Dale Weise to get surgery to remove a broken bone in his wrist and who will miss the next 4 to 6 weeks has left Gernander no choice but to reconstitute his top line.
The fourth year coach kept Newbury and Byers together and slid Jeremy Williams into what would normally be Weise’s spot. Newbury, Byers and Williams have a lot of chemistry and showed it throughout the period, but none more so than on this shift when the three moved the puck wherever they wanted and held it in the offensive zone for what seemed like an eternity. Finally when Hutchinson finally was able to get near the puck, he couldn’t control it and it was taken away from him by Byers. The Pack captain then fed Newbury who had a right corner position. Newbury surveyed the landscape and found Williams alone in the slot and pt the puck right on the right winger’s tape. Williams, who had a career high 32 goals last season, knew just what to do with it and slammed it past Hutchinson. received his third assist of the contest.
For Providence, their frustration boiled over and at 15:48, Nathan McIver made the mistake of challenging Justin Soryal. Soryal gave him a beat down and connected with several rights before a left hand brought him down.
At just about the same time in the third period, 15:19 to be exact, Newbury and Antoine Roussel dropped the mitts and that was an even bigger mistake for the Baby Bruin. Newbury just beat the 5’11 175 pound rookie to a pulp. Lesson learned.
But the bottom line on this one was Talbot who was simply incredible.
“I just tried to keep myself in the game and stay focused,” Talbot said to reporters afterwards. “The guys were keeping a lot of shots to the outside and did a great job boxing out in front and letting me see the puck. When they do that, it’s easy for me to control it, control the rebounds and make it easy on them as well.”
Needless to say, Wolf Pack coach Ken Gernander was pleased with what he say. “It’s a good start and a good weekend, but they don’t crown champions in October, that’s for sure,” He said to reporters after the game. “We’re pleased with the weekend and the points, but we still have areas where we can improve. It’s a long season, and you have to keep elevating your game because everybody else is going to.”
Bruce Berlet was in press row for the Wolf Pack / Whale and files another masterful recap at Hartfordwolfpack.com. The P-Bruins get almost no coverage at all, but if there is any it’ll be at Projo.com.