Whale Tops AHL's Best 6-3January 16, 2011 - American Hockey League (AHL) Connecticut Whale
Veteran right wing Jeremy Williams, who will be the Whale's lone representative in the AHL All-Star Classic in two weeks, said the Penguins "are pretty much the benchmark of the league, so it will be a good measuring stick."
The Whale measured up quite well from the outset thanks to wing Chad Kolarik, who used help from John Hynes while playing for the first-year Penguins' coach on the 2004 U.S. Under-18 developmental team to set a franchise record for shorthanded goals in a period and tie a team record for points in a period in leading the Whale to a 6-3 victory before 5,382 at the XL Center.
"Chad was hopping in the first period," Whale coach Ken Gernander said. "Obviously a team as good as that, you don't want to be defending all night, if you don't have to. You have to be able to counterpunch and create your own offense."
Hynes had an up close and personal look at the multi-talented Kolarik while coaching the speedy wing on the 2004 U.S. Under-18 developmental team. But Hynes saw more than he wanted of Kolarik in the first period alone as Kolarik's first two shorthanded goals as a pro set a franchise record for a period and tied Mike Ouellette's record for a game. His four points in the first 20 minutes also tied a record shared by seven others for points in a period, as the Whale rebounded from being outscored 5-2 in losses to Portland and Providence on Friday and Saturday night with four goals on 10 shots in the first period, chasing Eastern Conference All-Star starting goalie Brad Thiessen.
"I know what (Kolarik) can do, and he did," said Hynes, who received a handshake from Kolarik on the ice after the game. "He was an excellent player for me, and he was on today."
Kolarik called Hynes "a good friend of mine."
"We've kept in touch, and he's a really nice guy," Kolarik said. "I'm really happy for him because he climbed the ladder real quick. He got a couple breaks and has done well, so good for him."
Hynes was plenty good for Kolarik.
"It's funny because I'd never killed penalties before I got with him," Kolarik said with a chuckle. "He helped me a lot with that just trying to block shots and use my speed on the (penalty kill). I have two shorties (Sunday), which is kind of ironic. But he was instrumental on me for my defensive game. It's been hard for me to get the defensive side of my game, but he helped me with that when I was young."
The Whale (21-16-2-5) tied their second-highest offensive output of the season as the Penguins (32-9-0-0) had a season-high, seven-game winning streak stopped. The four goals in the first period were one more than the Penguins had allowed in a period this season, and when Tim Kennedy scored into an empty net with 49 seconds left, the Penguins had yielded their most goals in a game.
"I thought Connecticut came out flying around ready to play," said Hynes, whose team had allowed only three shorthanded goals in 40 games. "We had a couple breakdowns, and they executed right off the bat. The goals they scored were excellent goals, but we gave up some chances. Credit to them."
"I had some chances Saturday (in a 3-2 loss to Providence), but I just hit (goalie Matt) Dalton's shoulder," Kolarik said. "We just were bearing down (Sunday) and burying the chances we had. (Friday and Saturday nights) we had some great chances, and we were a little snake-bitten and maybe not bearing down a little bit. We have a bunch of guys who can score, but it's just the mental aspect, putting it through the net not just trying to score."
The Penguins overcame the poor start to get to 4-3 on Geoff Walker's rebound goal with five seconds left in the second period. But they were outshot 11-4 in the third period, and Evgeny Grachev's second goal of the game for a 5-3 lead at 5:53 basically settled the issue, as the Penguins finished 1-for-9 on the power play.
"That fifth one is the one that did us in," Hynes said. "We had some prime-time chances in the second period where we probably could have taken lead, hitting two pipes and having the 5-on-3 (for 46 seconds). But when they had opportunities to score, they scored, and when we had our opportunities, we didn't put them in the net."
Penguins defenseman Corey Potter, a fourth-round pick of the New York Rangers in 2003 who played all but eight games in his first four pro seasons with the former Hartford Wolf Pack, also knew about Kolarik's talents. They played against each other for three years (2006-08) when Potter was at Michigan State and Kolarik at Michigan.
"They came out pretty hard and had a little more desperation than us," said Potter, who had 21 goals and 81 assists in 246 games with the Wolf Pack. "They had just dropped two in a row, and we had come off seven (wins) in a row, so I think it just comes down to that first period. If we had come out with a little more grit and a little more desperation, I think it would have been a different story.
"And our power play has been struggling a bit all year, but we win games five-on-five, which is one of the things we try to do, stay five-on-five. Unfortunately they got a couple of shorthanded goals, which doesn't happen too often and kind of deflated us a little bit. But we'll just learn from it."
Kolarik started quickly during the game's first power play after Grachev's delay of game penalty at 34 seconds, as he raced down left wing with Ryan Garlock on a 2-on-1 and beat Thiessen high to the far glove side at 1:49.
"I got my penalty on purpose so CK could score a goal. (Gernander) drew it up," Grachev said with a smile.
"When you get that first goal early, it kind of sparks you," said Kolarik, who has 13 goals and 10 assists in 26 games since being acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets and Springfield Falcons for former Wolf Pack captain Dane Byers on Nov. 11. "After that goal, I felt really good, and it's all mental. When you get it going, you have it. I had earlier in the season that one game against Springfield; it just happens.
"Sunday games are tough. With three games in three days, it's always the team that's up from the start, and we had a good start that helped us a lot and we got up 4-1 after the first. After that, they took it to us a little bit. They're a good team who has guys who can really play, so they're going to have a good run and hopefully we see them later on (in the playoffs)."
The Penguins got even only 16 seconds after Kolarik's first goal as Dustin Jeffrey, the team's leading scorer just returned from the Pittsburgh Penguins, raced around Whale defenseman Tomas Kundratek and passed to the right post to a wide-open Steve Wagner.
Thiessen made a brilliant save off Whale All-Star right wing Jeremy Williams during a power play at 3:51, but Kennedy found Grachev slicing through the slot for a 2-1 lead 17 seconds later.
Thiessen kept it a one-goal game when he denied Jason Williams cruising down the slot at 5:03, but Jeremy Williams made it 3-1 when he raced down left wing around Penguins captain Ryan Craig and put a wrist shot to the far corner at 5:40 for his 21st goal, tying former Wolf Pack wing Nigel Dawes of the Chicago Wolves for the AHL lead.
Then with the Penguins on their fourth power play, the period ended as it began as Kolarik took a lead pass from Garlock, raced down left wing and beat Thiessen high to the far glove side with 3.3 seconds left.
Thiessen was pulled at the end of the period after allowing four goals on 10 shots and replaced by John Curry, who was a standout at Taft School-Watertown. And before Sam Klassen's late slashing penalty in the first period expired, the Penguins got to 4-2 as Chris Collins deflected Jeffrey's shot past Cameron Talbot at 18 seconds of the second period.
Curry then kept the Penguins in the game at 4:18 when he stopped Kelsey Tessier, who didn't have anyone within 15 feet of him in the slot.
The Penguins then had a 5-on-3 for 46 seconds, but Talbot made brilliant saves off Nick Johnson and Jeffrey, who also hit the post. Talbot also was alert to deny Craig's turnaround bid during another Penguins power play, then Curry made a sliding stop off Garlock at the right post off a brilliant setup by Kolarik with 5:09 left.
But after Jeremy Williams took a roughing penalty, Geoff Walker jammed in a second round to get the Penguins to 4-3 with five seconds left in the period.
With the difference down to a goal, the teams came out a bit conservative in the third period, but the Whale regained a two-goal lead when Jeremy Williams deflected Pavel Valentenko's shot from the point to a wide-open Grachev, who bided his time and scored his second goal of the game at 5:53. The fifth goal enabled the fans to cash in their ticket stubs for a free taco at Moe's Southwestern Grill.
"A nice backhand-forehand that was a really big goal at the time," Gernander said.
"We had a one-goal lead and were kind of struggling at the beginning of the third, and it gave us a little boost," Grachev said. "I was standing in front waiting for a shot coming, and I saw (Williams) deflected it, and I was right there. I was going to go backhand first, but I thought (Curry) was going to get there, so I had to go back again, and fortunately it went in.
"I thought we played well against Providence. I had a couple chances, and other guys, too, but I don't think we were that bad. We just needed another shot from second effort, and today they went in for us. They're the best team in the league, so I think a lot of guys were ready for this game to see where we're at. It was a challenge for us to get us back on track after those two losses, and I think we did."
Curry again kept the Penguins close with strong stops on Kennedy, Devin DiDiomete and Jason Williams (on a power play), but Kennedy iced it with an empty-net goal with 49 seconds left just moments after a shot of his went just wide.
Moments after the red light went on, Kennedy looked at Kolarik and shook his head, apologizing for not setting up Kolarik for the his first hat trick with the Whale.
"I missed the first time and felt bad about (not getting Kolarik the puck)," Kennedy said.
Kolarik countered, "He felt really bad about it, but the guy jumped at him and you want to ice it. I do not care about the hat trick. I just want to get the win and worry about a hat trick later."
Gernander also didn't care about a hat trick, just getting two points against the AHL's best team.
"The only thing we addressed is that we played well in a lot of stretches on Saturday night (a 3-2 loss to Providence), but good isn't good enough when you're desperate or have to have that sense of urgency to make sure the puck gets to the back of net instead of it just being a good scoring chance," Gernander said.
"And Talbot really battled in the second period when we gave them way too much momentum with too many penalties. It wasn't pretty. There a lot of scrambles and sustained pressure and times when he had to fight for vision of the puck in those types of scenarios, and I thought he really battled hard."
Tracking the puck better is something Talbot has been working on with Rangers goaltenders coach Benoit Allaire.
"I'm pretty pleased my performance and pretty pleased with everyone's performance," said Talbot. "We did what we needed to do, get on the board early, got some key goals and actually chased one of the better goalies in the league out of the net in the first period, which is a tough thing to do against a team that's really defensive, so it's safe to say the whole team had a good game.
"They're the No. 1 team in the league for a reason, so we knew they weren't going to sit back and just let us hand it to them. But we did a good job of kind of weathering the storm in the second period and went into the second intermission still with the lead, which was a big thing for us. Then the guys came out strong in the third, I faced only four shots, so we did a helluva job, didn't sit back, went right at them and finished the game strong."
A SEASON TO REMEMBER FOR FORMER WOLF PACK DEFENSEMAN
Potter returned to the XL Center on a professional high, and who could blame him. The Penguins motored into town Sunday morning from Glen Falls, N.Y., after a 4-2 victory over Adirondack with 64 points, 13 more than runners-up Charlotte and Norfolk in the East Division. By comparison, last year's Hershey Bears, who set an AHL-record with 60 victories thanks in large part to former Wolf Pack wing Alexander Giroux, were 29-9-0-2 (60 points) at the 40-game mark.
"I've never been a part of anything like this," said Potter, who scored his first goal of the season Saturday night. "We got off to a great start (nine consecutive victories) and pretty much haven't stopped. The whole team is playing hard and really good team defense. Forwards are coming back and helping out really well, and both goalies have been playing really well. And there aren't really any weaknesses in the defensive corps, so it's pretty much that the whole team defense has pretty much won a lot of games for us, and we're just looking to keep things rolling."
The Penguins have accomplished the record pace mostly without veteran defenseman Andrew Hutchinson, who missed his 19th consecutive game since sustaining a knee injury in a 5-1 victory over Albany on Dec. 1. Hutchinson, expected to return Friday night at Adirondack, won the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL's top defenseman while in his one season with the Wolf Pack (2007-08), when he had 18 goals and 46 assists in 67 games. He had three goals and 14 assists in 17 games before being injured.
"He was a catalyst to our power play for a bit, but we've had some guys step in and play pretty good in replacing him," said Potter, who was among the players to fill the void and has one goal and 17 assists in 38 games. "But he'll be back soon and help on the power play even more."
Despite playing four seasons with the Wolf Pack, renamed the Connecticut Whale on Nov. 27, Potter had never seen the visitors' locker room before Sunday.
"It's kind of weird," Potter said while standing outside his new digs. "I've never been over here, but it's pretty nice with a lot of room. Not a bad setup.
"I had a good four years (with the Wolf Pack), and it was good to see all the guys out there. It's fun to play against guys you played with for four years, so it was a good time but unfortunately we didn't get the win.
"I'm friends with all the guys over there, and they were giving me some grief every time I touched the puck, but it was fun. ... There was some good interest in me out there. I just had to go where there were some open spots on defense, and Pittsburgh seemed to be a pretty good fit. They had two spots open on two-way contracts on the backend, so I thought there was some opportunity."
Hynes is delighted with Potter's choice.
"He's a competitive guy who is consistent every game and is really defending well using his size, skating and stick to his advantage," Hynes said. "Now we have him on one of our power-play units, and he does a good job. He can deliver the puck to the net, has a really good shot, and we've kept him there because he makes good decisions."
NEWBURY AGAIN IN RANGERS LINEUP; WHALE SCRATCHES SAME TRIO
Center Kris Newbury, the Whale's leading scorer with 35 points, played his second consecutive game with the Rangers Sunday night, a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Newbury again replaced right wing Dale Weise, who had his best game in the NHL a 4-1 loss to the Flyers in his NHL debut Dec. 18. Newbury made his Rangers debut Saturday night and got into a fight with Travis Moen in a 3-2 loss to the host Montreal Canadiens.
Newbury played 13 shifts for 8:19 on a line with captain/Trumbull native Chris Drury and Sean Avery. But it was another former Whale forward, Mats Zuccarello, who helped get the Rangers back in the game with assists on goals by Wojtek Wolski and rookie Derek Stepan in the third period. Meanwhile, the Whale again scratched injured center Todd White and defensemen Wade Redden and Jyri Niemi. Besides Hutchinson, the Penguins scratched forward Ryan Schnell and right wing Jesse Boulerice, who is serving a 10-game suspension for making physical contact with referee Francis Charron. ... Rink construction at Rentschler Field in Hartford for the "Harvest-Properties.com Whalers Hockey Fest" on Feb. 11-23 begins Thursday. The featured attraction is a doubleheader Feb. 19 between the Hartford Whalers and Boston Bruins alumni at 4 p.m., followed by the Whale and Providence Bruins at 7 p.m. Celebrities will play for both teams, and in case of bad weather, the game will be Feb. 20 at the XL Center. ... The Whale's eighth Tip-A-Player Dinner and Sports Carnival, presented by Aetna, is Sunday at the XL Center from 4-7 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for children, and proceeds benefit Gaylord Specialty Healthcare at Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford. For more information, contact Lori Leniart at 860-728-3366.
WHALE HOMESTAND ENDS FRIDAY NIGHT
The Whale's three-game homestand concludes against the North Division-leading Hamilton Bulldogs (23-13-1-4) on Friday night at 7, when former Hartford Wolf Pack standouts and close friends Terry Virtue and Todd Hall of Hamden will sign autographs in the XL Center atrium from 6-7 p.m. and then drop the ceremonial first puck. Virtue is an assistant coach with Owen Sound of the Ontario Hockey League, whose owners include former Whalers right wing Paul MacDermid, and Hall is an assistant coach with the No. 1-ranked Hamden High hockey team, which won the state Division I title the last two years.
Virtue will be making a pit stop on his way from his home in Tara, Ont., to Worcester, Mass., where he'll be one of the first six inductees into the Worcester Hockey Hall of Fame on Jan. 22 at the DCU Center. It's "Salute to the IceCats Night," the name of the AHL franchise that preceded the Sharks in Worcester, and Virtue will be inducted with former Whalers wing Scott Young, Kelly O'Leary, Eddie Bates, Larz Anderson and Marvin Degon Sr., father of former Wolf Pack defenseman Martin Degon.
The Bulldogs' top two scorers, center David Desharnais (10, 35) and former New Canaan High School and Taft School-Watertown star wing Max Pacioretty (17, 15), are on recall to the Montreal Canadiens. The remaining top offensive threats are center Ben Maxwell (6, 19), right wings Aaron Palushaj (5, 17) and J.T. Wyman (10, 9), and defenseman Brendon Nash (2, 17). Center Ryan Russell, the Rangers' seventh-round pick in 2005, has five goals and six assists and is plus-8 in 39 games. Veteran Curtis Sanford (15-7-1), who will make his AHL All-Star debut in two weeks, is first in the league in goals-against average (1.74) and save percentage (.938), which improved Friday night when he won a classic goaltending duel with Jean-Philippe Levasseur of Syracuse, 1-0 in a shootout. Sanford made 22 saves in regulation and overtime, while Levasseur had a season-high 46 stops. After surrendering an opening-round shootout goal to former Avon Old Farms standout Nick Bonino, Sanford stopped the Crunch's next four shooters to notch the win. Ben Maxwell and rookie Alexander Avtsin scored for the Bulldogs as Sanford got his third shutout of the season. Levasseur also got credit for a shutout, his third of the season.
It will be a special Family Value Night at which New Britain Rock Cats mascot Rocky will be on hand with Whale mascots Pucky and Sonar. There will be a giveaway, a table setup and autograph session, and the New Britain High School marching band will perform the national anthem and during the first intermission. Tickets in the lower level are $16 and include a soda and pizza slice or hot dog. Visit www.ctwhale.com .
MORE IN COMMON FOR GERNANDER AND KEANE
Gernander and Mike Keane have plenty in common. During their playing days, they were gritty, intelligent, hard-trying forwards who were captains of their teams and wore No. 12 during lengthy careers that included brief stays with the New York Rangers.
Gernander became the only Hartford Wolf Pack/Connecticut Whale player to have his number retired and raised to the rafters on Oct. 8, 2005, three months after he announced his retirement. Keane will have his No. 12 retired and sent to the rafters of the MTS Centre by the Manitoba Moose on Mike Keane Tribune Night on Feb. 12, when the San Antonio Rampage is in town.
Keane was a three-time Stanley Cup champion with three teams (Canadiens, 1993; Colorado Avalanche, 1996; Dallas Stars, 1999) and played 1,230 NHL games before playing 443 AHL games in five seasons with the Moose. He received the AHL's Fred T. Hunt Award for sportsmanship, determination and dedication to the game of hockey in 2007, an award that Gernander won in 1996 and 2004. Also like Gernander, Keane was named an AHL All-Star captain. Keane led the Canadian team in 2007 in Toronto, Gernander the PlanetUSA team in 1999 in Philadelphia, where he was joined by former Wolf Pack wing Johan Witehall and defenseman Rich Brennan. The Canadian team included former Wolf Pack center Derek Armstrong and former Yale defenseman Ray Giroux. ... The Professional Hockey Players Association has agreed to a new five-year contract with Larry Landon to serve as executive director of the PHPA through June 30, 2016. Next season will be Landon's 30th with the association. ... Two former Wolf Pack and Rangers forwards are now playing in Europe. Center Jamie Lundmark has left the Milwaukee Admirals for Timra in the Swedish Elite League, and wing Petr Prucha has gone from the Rampage to SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia.
LUNDQVIST, PACIORETTY HAVE RUN-IN IN RANGERS' LOSS
Rangers All-Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been the target of charging opposition that hasn't been penalized, so the usually subdued Swede had had enough when Pacioretty ended up his crease with 2:13 left in the second period Saturday night. Lundqvist jumped on Pacioretty and began throwing punches with his blocker hand. Players from both sides jumped into the fray, and after a long scrum, Lundqvist emerged without his facemask on.
"I just felt like he didn't try and stop at all," Lundqvist told the New York media. "Usually I stay pretty calm, but it's kind of hard to stay calm in this building because your emotions fly, especially when he doesn't stop. It just happened."
Tortorella had no problem with his star goalie's actions.
"I loved Hank doing that," Tortorella said. "I loved his emotion."
American Hockey League Stories from January 16, 2011
- Whale Tops AHL's Best 6-3 - Connecticut Whale
- B-Sens Edge Bears 2-1 - Binghamton Senators
- Second-Period Charge Leads Admirals Over Checkers - Charlotte Checkers
- Griffins Ground Aeros, 3-2 in Shootout - Grand Rapids Griffins
- Amerks Scared Away by Monsters in 6-4 Loss; Drop Fourth Straight - Rochester Americans
- Admirals Take Over Second Place with 4-2 Victory at Charlotte - Norfolk Admirals
- Senators Slide Past Bears 2-1 Sunday - Hershey Bears
- Aeros Take Sole Possession of Third Place with Shootout Point - Houston Aeros
- Rampage Drop 5-2 Decision to Wolves - San Antonio Rampage
- Bruins Assign Bartkowski to Providence - Providence Bruins
- Wolves Halt Rampage, 5-2 - Chicago Wolves
- Crunch Iced by Adirondack, 5-2 - Syracuse Crunch
- Offense Lights it Up with Season-High 5 Goals - Adirondack Phantoms
- Sharks Fire 45 Shots in 2-0 Loss in Providence - Worcester Sharks
- P-Bruins Sink Sharks 2-0 - Providence Bruins
- Halsichuk, Thuresson Switch Spots - Milwaukee Admirals
- Heat Fall in Shootout 3-2 - Abbotsford Heat
- Falcons Lose to Pirates 4-1 - Springfield Falcons
- Pirates Out-Distance Falcons - Portland Pirates
- Coyotes Recall Maclean from San Antonio - San Antonio Rampage
- Blues Return Ian Cole to Peoria - Peoria Rivermen
- Netminder Pasquale Rejoins Wolves - Chicago Wolves
- Preview: Aeros, Griffins Collide at 4 P.M. - Houston Aeros
- B-Sens Sign Forward Andrew Sweetland - Binghamton Senators
- Game Night: Amerks, Monsters Square off Again Tonight at Blue Cross Arena - Rochester Americans
- Senators Recall Goaltender Mike Brodeur from Binghamton - Binghamton Senators
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