Whale Notebook: Lack of discipline proves costly
by Michael Rappaport/Correspondent
The Connecticut Whale could not get out of their own way this weekend and dropped below the .500 mark as a result.
Connecticut’s three-game weekend road trip began on Friday night in Springfield. The Falcons trounced the Whale 10-2 in their last clash, and Connecticut had an opportunity to avenge the embarrassing loss.
The game followed two trends that have been prevalent in Connecticut’s season to date. The first was a parade to the Whale penalty box, a problem that still has head coach Ken Gernander looking for answers. The other trend, a more recent one, was being thoroughly outshot by the opposition.
Both were on display during the first period, as Springfield outshot the Whale 18-7, and were buoyed by three power play opportunities. Despite the barrage, Cam Talbot made the saves, and the game was scoreless after the opening frame.
The score remained tied after another twenty minutes, but the game slipped from Connecticut’s grasp in the final session. With Tommy Grant in the penalty box after taking a holding penalty near the end of the second period, ex-Ranger Tim Erixon scored a power-play goal 1:03 into the third period to open the scoring.
After recording four points against his former organization in the 10-2 drubbing, Erixon continued to bury the Whale. This time, with the Falcons on a 5-on-3 power play, the defenseman scored his second goal of the game to give the Falcons a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Any potential comeback was nullified by more Connecticut penalties. The Whale were shorthanded 12 times, racked up 44 penalty minutes, got outshot in the game 40-20 and ultimately lost 2-0.
Looking to avoid a three-game losing streak, the Whale headed to Worcester on Saturday. Kris Newbury gave Connecticut the early momentum by scoring just over a minute into the contest. Rookie Christian Thomas followed up Newbury’s tally with a goal of his own, and the Whale skated into the dressing room with a 2-0 lead after one period.
Logan Pyett extended the Whale lead to three midway through the second period, and the Whale didn’t look back. The Sharks scored early in the third period, but Thomas’ second power-play goal less than three minutes later gave the Whale a 4-1 lead.
Tommy Grant’s fifth goal of the year gave Connecticut a four-goal lead, and the Whale would ultimately win by a final count of 6-2. Newbury was the game’s first star with a goal and two assists, while Thomas, Chris Kreider, Chad Kolarik and Matt Gilroy recorded two points apiece.
The Whale needed a win in Bridgeport on Sunday afternoon to move above .500. Just like Saturday, Connecticut jumped out to the early lead.
The catalyst was ex-Sound Tiger Micheal Haley, who made his return to Bridgeport after playing five seasons with the team. It was fitting that Haley’s first goal as a Whale came against his former team, as the 26-year-old scored 28 seconds into the contest to give Connecticut the lead.
After Matt Donovan tied the game, Kyle Jean broke a six-game goalless drought and put the Whale up 2-1. Less than a minute after Jean’s goal, Haley beat Anders Nilsson for his second goal of the game, and the Whale had a 3-1 lead after the first period.
However, the momentum of the game shifted early in the second period. Bridgeport’s Colin McDonald was assessed a match penalty for boarding, and after the altercation that followed raised everyone’s emotions, the Whale were awarded a five-minute power play.
On the ensuing man advantage, the Whale could not beat Nilsson, and the Sound Tigers fed off of the momentum of killing the penalty. Bridgeport drew a penalty on Connecticut’s Sean Collins for holding, and Brock Nelson cut the Whale lead to one on the power play.
Five minutes later, Newbury and Sam Klassen took tripping penalties to give the Sound Tigers a two-man advantage. Just as Newbury’s penalty expired, Travis Hamonic scored to even the tally at three.
In the final frame, the parade to the Connecticut penalty box continued. Despite killing off the minors, Bridgeport’s Mike Halmo beat Talbot on a breakaway to give the Sound Tigers the lead with under five minutes remaining.
The Whale would have one last chance to tie the game after Jon Landry was called for interference with 43 seconds left, but they couldn’t score the equalizer.
STATS OF THE WEEK
• The Whale were shorthanded 25 times over the three weekend games, and killed off 20 of them.
• Newbury recorded 28 penalty minutes, including a game misconduct. He is tied for 7th in the league in penalty minutes with 48.
• Talbot played all three games. He is 13th in the AHL with a .926 save percentage in seven games this season.
• Kreider’s offensive struggles continued; he has one goal in the last 11 games and none in the last five.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
The player of the week for the Whale is Kris Newbury because he demonstrated Connecticut’s strengths and weaknesses in one weekend.
Newbury’s penalty minutes have been a result of misconducts more so than minor penalties, but they are emblematic of the Whale’s lack of discipline throughout the first 12 games of the season.
On the other hand, when Connecticut has won, it has usually been due to the 30-year-old’s scoring. Newbury leads the Whale in goals (5), assists (9), and points (14). Newbury’s 14 points are tied for third in the AHL scoring race behind Oklahoma City’s Justin Schultz and Grand Rapids’ Gustav Nyquist.
Connecticut plays twice next week. First, the Whale have a tilt at home on Friday night against the Portland Pirates. The following evening, Connecticut travels to Worcester for a rematch with the Sharks.