Sound Tigers get past WhaleApril 9, 2011 - American Hockey League (AHL) Connecticut Whale
The group included defenseman Dylan McIlrath, the New York Rangers' first-round pick (10th overall) in 2010 who played in his first pro game, along with backup goalie Jason Missiaen and forwards Shayne Wiebe and Andrew Yogan, who worked out with the Whale for several weeks while recovering from an injury. Wings Tommy Grant and Kale Kerbashian played in their sixth and fourth pro games.
The Whale had a different look on all four lines and two of their three defensive pairings as goalie Dov Grumet-Morris, defensemen Wade Redden and Pavel Valentenko and forwards Brodie Dupont, John Mitchell and All-Star Jeremy Williams sat out. Valentenko's scratch meant the Whale wouldn't have any player to play all 80 games.
The Sound Tigers had 10 players who had signed ATOs and two more who had professional tryout contracts. It all made for a scrambly game in front of goalies Nathan Lawson and the Whale's Cam Talbot, who faced several odd-man rushes, including a three-on-none off a turnover that produced Bridgeport's second goal by Rob Hisey.
Yogan scored his first two goals in his first pro game, but the Sound Tigers made fewer mistakes and won a penalty-filled game 4-3 on goals by Hisey, Tyler McNeely, Jeremy Colliton and West Haven native Joe Pereira before 6,952 at the XL Center.
Whale coach Ken Gernander didn't like his team's lack of discipline - each team had eight power plays - but some of the youngsters earned kudos.
"Yogan was pretty good, eh," Gernander said. "Aside from the two goals, I thought he made some pretty good passes. We'd seen a bit of Kerbashian, and Wiebe had some pretty good energy. Their size isn't overwhelming, so they're going to have to get in there and get body position. They're going to have to use their quickness and agility to get to loose pucks. And I like McIlrath's game. He has a good package."
The loss, coupled with Portland's 3-2 shootout victory at Albany, assured the Whale (40-31-2-6) would play a best-of-seven, first-round series against the Pirates, who clinched the Atlantic Division title with their win. The first two games of the series will be at Portland on Thursday and Saturday at 7 p.m. Games 3 and 4 will be at the XL Center next Sunday at 6 p.m. and April 19 at 7 p.m. If necessary, Game 5 will at Portland on April 21 at 7 p.m., Game 6 at the XL Center on April 23 at 7 p.m. and Game 7 at Portland on April 25 at 7 p.m. The Whale was 5-3-0-0 against the Pirates, coached by former Hartford Whalers standout wing and captain Kevin Dineen, but six games were decided by one goal, including three overtime wins for the Whale.
The Sound Tigers (29-39-4-7) took the lead for good 10:58 into the game when McNeely's pass deflected off the skate of Whale defenseman Stu Bickel and between Talbot's legs. Just 2:02 later, two Whale players collided along the boards, and Pereira touched the puck to Hisey, who broke in alone to make it 2-0 at 13:00.
Lawson (30 saves) made an excellent stop on Kelsey Tessier's one-timer off a Ryan Garlock pass with 3:37 left in the period. But the Whale got to 2-1 as Tessier made a nifty pass from behind the net to Yogan, who beat Lawson to the glove side for his first pro goal at 1:54 of the second period. Justin Soryal retrieved the puck as a keepsake for Yogan.
McIlrath and the Sound Tigers' Alex O'Neil had a spirited fight at 10:32, and then Colliton made it 3-1 off McNeely's rebound at 12:28.
After the Whale failed on a 5-on-3 power play early in the third period, Pereira, who attended South Kent Prep for two years and then Boston University, took a pass from Brian Day and beat Talbot to the stick side at 9:16 for the winner.
Yogan, who had three goals and one assist in only 10 games with Erie of the Ontario Hockey League after his injury kept him out until mid-March, scored his second of the game on a power play when he redirected Bickel's shot from the right point into the open side of the net with 7:35 left.
"It felt good to get a couple of goals," said Yogan, who received several congratulatory calls from his father after the game. "Obviously I would have felt better if we had won the game, but it was nice to get that behind me. You want to get that monkey off your back and get some confidence in the league. It was a physical game, and I'm big (6-foot-3, 203 pounds) and like to use my body. We really wanted to win this one, and if I can't get excited for this one, you shouldn't be here."
On a later power play, the Whale made it 4-3 as Newbury one-timed Blake Parlett's brilliant cross-slot pass into the right circle past Lawson with 5:52 left.
The Whale continued their frantic late push over the final five minutes and pulled Talbot for a sixth attacker with 1:03 left but couldn't get the equalizer.
"There's a fine line between winning and losing in playoff hockey, and you can't be putting yourself behind the 8-ball from a penalty perspective," Gernander said. "We haven't been killing of late, either, so along those lines, you're overtaxing some of your better players and taking other players out of the flow of the game.
"We want to be careful, too, that we don't take our foot off the pedal at all. Coming out of the game tomorrow (against Norfolk), we have to be ready for the playoffs."
Newbury, who fought Shayne Neigum with 1:23 left after taking an elbow to the head, said he feels the Whale is ready for the postseason.
"We've accomplished one goal at the beginning of the year to make the playoffs," Newbury said. "That was kind of the easy part. Now the hard part begins of trying to get four rounds of winning and hopefully hoisting the (Calder Cup) trophy at the end of it.
"I think we have a good all-around team with four good lines and our defense has gotten better as the season has gone on. If we just play simple hockey and use our forecheck to our advantage, we'll be in good shape. ... Portland is a good hockey team with a lot of speed up front, and their defense is really good at moving the puck and getting the first pass out of their zone. So we'll have to be patient, have a good forecheck, and when we get through the neutral zone, just kind of wait for our chances and hopefully eliminate our turnovers. The playoffs are a different beast, so you have to put what happens on the ice behind you, just worry about the game and do whatever you can to help your team win hockey games. At the end of the day when your teammates look back at that, they'll be a lot more thankful than getting some revenge."
WHALE RECEIVES GEICO CONNECTICUT CUP
Before the game, Newbury accepted the GEICO Connecticut Cup that the Whale clinched with a 4-1 victory at Bridgeport on Friday night. The Whale finished 6-3-0-1 against their intrastate rival. ... The Whale also scratched injured defenseman Michael Del Zotto and forwards Chad Kolarik, Devin DiDiomete and Todd White. ... With Redden scratched, Weise was an alternate captain with Newbury and Jared Nightingale. ... The Sound Tigers scratched forwards Rhett Rakhshani, David Ullstrom, Robin Figren, Brett Gallant, Chris Barton and Jeremy Yablonski and defensemen Dustin Kohn, Cameron Wind, Anton Klementyev and Mark Wotton, the team captain. Rakhshani, an AHL all-rookie team forward, was injured when checked by Dupont on Friday night.
WHALE END REGULAR SEASON AGAINST NORFOLK ON SUNDAY
The Whale will conclude the regular season Sunday at 5 p.m. when the Norfolk Admirals (38-25-9-7) visit the XL Center. The Admirals have qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2007 but have lost three in a row and seven of eight after a 5-4 loss at Syracuse Saturday night. But the Admirals have won two of three meetings with the Whale, who took the last game 3-2 at Norfolk on Jan. 8.
Marc-Antoine Pouliot (24 goals, 46 assists) is the Admirals' runaway leader on offense, followed by Blair Jones (23, 29), Johan Harju (23, 28), Paul Szczechura (20, 30), James Wright (16, 30) and Matt Fornataro (17, 25). Cedrick Desjardins (15-6-1, 2.59, .905) has the two wins against the Whale, allowing only three goals for a 1.50 GAA with a .941 save percentage, but is on recall to the parent Tampa Bay Lightning. The goaltending is now handled by Dustin Tokarski (21-20-4, 2.65 goals-against average, .901 save percentage), Jaroslav Janus (1-5-1, 3.73, .874) and Pat Nagle, who hasn't played an AHL game since signing a free-agent, two-year entry-level contract with the Lightning on March 22 after having an 18-14-5 record with 2.02 GAA, .923 save percentage and three shutouts in his senior year at Ferris State.
Fans will have a chance to win a player's jersey in the annual "Shirts Off Our Backs" promotion, and 3,000 will receive a free Whale T-shirt courtesy of the Connecticut DOT. Entry forms for the "Shirts Off Our Backs" promotion will be handed out at the door, and drop boxes will be throughout the arena. Season ticket holders can enter the public and STH raffle. STH's can go to the fan center to get a special ballot to enter the exclusive season ticket allotment. Half of the team's jersey allotment will be reserved for season ticket holders, the other half is available to all fans, including STH's.
Jersey winners will be announced in the third period and directed to the Prize Den behind Section 124 and escorted to the zamboni entrance by promotion staff. After the stars are announced, winners will line up on the ice to receive their jerseys. The players will come out with the jerseys, present them to the winners, sign them and get their picture taken. The jerseys will be the road blue jerseys. The Whale's team awards will be presented before the jerseys are handed out.
FORMER WOLF PACK CAPTAIN BYERS SETS AHL RECORD
Former Hartford Wolf Pack left wing/captain Dane Byers set an AHL record Saturday night when he played in his 84th game of the season.
Byers had three goals and six assists in 16 games with the Wolf Pack before being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Nov. 11 for right wing Chad Kolarik. After getting nine goals and 16 assists in 48 games with the Springfield Falcons, Byers was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes on Feb. 28 with Rostislav Klesla for Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto. Byers has two goals and nine assists in 20 games with the San Antonio Rampage, enabling him to break the AHL record for games played in a season set by Paxton Schulte in 1995-96 with the Cornwall Aces and Saint John Flames. ... Wethersfield native Colin McDonald continued his torrid finish to the regular season Friday night when he had a career-high four goals in the Oklahoma City Barons' 7-2 victory over the Rampage. The line of McDonald, former Wolf Pack wing Alexandre Giroux and Brad Moran combined for 12 points. McDonald, the son of former Hartford Whalers defenseman Gerry McDonald, got the four goals in 10 shots, and Giroux and Moran each assisted on McDonald's goals. McDonald, who had never scored more than 12 goals in any of his previous three AHL seasons, gained a tie for the league goal-scoring lead with former Wolf Pack wing Nigel Dawes of the Hamilton Bulldogs when he scored his 41st goal in a 2-0 victory over Texas on Saturday night.
INSPIRING RETURN FOR DRURY
New York Rangers captain and Trumbull native Chris Drury made an inspirational return to the lineup Saturday, scoring on his first shift in his first game since Feb. 3 to help the Black-and-Blueshirts rally for a 5-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils and keep their playoff hopes alive. It was the first goal in 24 games this season for Drury, who missed 58 games because of a twice-broken finger and a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery. He had missed 27 games before Saturday.
Rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh, called up from the Whale on Jan. 3, scored his first NHL goal at 11:59 of the second period in his 40th game to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead they never relinquished and earned him the No. 1 star. He also was plus-2, giving him a plus or even rating in 32 of his 40 games and a plus-16 for the season, which is second on the team and sixth among NHL rookies.
But the Rangers needed help from Tampa Bay, and they got it when the Lightning beat the Carolina Hurricanes 6-2 Saturday night, assuring the Rangers wouldn't miss the playoffs for second consecutive year and that the Metropolitan New York area would continue to have a team in the postseason. The last time it didn't happen was 1966. With the Rangers qualifying, McDonagh and goalie Chad Johnson will remain in New York. They were on the Whale's Clear Day list along with wing Mats Zuccarello. Coach John Tortorella said Zuccarello had been brought up in case the game against the Devils when to a shootout.
The man likely to succeed Drury as captain, former Wolf Pack right wing Ryan Callahan, received the Rangers' Players Player Award as voted by the players. The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies what it means to be a teammate. Callahan also was named the winner of the John Halligan Good Guy Award, chosen by the New York chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, which recognizes players' cooperation with the media. The award is named in honor of John Halligan, a longtime Rangers and NHL public relations executive who died in 2010.
Callahan is serving his second year as an alternate captain, though he's out indefinitely after sustaining a broken ankle when hit by a shot by Boston Bruins' defenseman Zdeno Chara late in a 5-4 victory Monday. Callahan, who received a standing ovation when he walked onto the Madison Square Garden ice on crutches, ranks fifth among NHL forwards in blocked shots (77) and is 10th in hits (224). He leads the Rangers in power-play goals (10) and game-winning goals (five), ranks second in goals (24), points (49) and power-play points (15) and third in assists (25).
The media named goalie Henrik Lundqvist the team's MVP for a record fifth consecutive year. Lundqvist leads the NHL in shutouts (11) and is tied for sixth in wins (36), ice time (4,007), save percentage (.923) and goals-against average (2.28). He is the only goalie in NHL history to post at least 30 wins in each of his first six seasons and is the first Rangers goalie to have six straight 30-win seasons.
Feisty left wing Brandon Prust received the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, presented by Lightspeed Trading as voted on by the fans, to recognize the player who performs "above and beyond the call of duty." The award is named after New York City police officer Steven McDonald, who was paralyzed when he was shot in the line of duty in November 1988. McDonald and his son, city cop Conor McDonald, presented the award with Callahan, last year's winner.
The award has been given annually to the player who fans believe plays with extra effort on the ice. Prust is tied for second in the NHL in shorthanded points (seven), tied for third in shorthanded goals (five) and is tied for fourth in fighting majors (18). He's fourth on the team in hits (157).
CONDOLESCENCES TO MCGUIRE CLAN
I was so sorry to hear about the death of former Hartford Wolf Pack coach EJ McGuire on Thursday after losing a five-month battle with cancer that was diagnosed in December.
I didn't start covering the Wolf Pack until the season after EJ left Hartford, but the man who spent more than 40 years in hockey as a coach and administrator was always so pleasant and energetic whenever I met him after he guided the Wolf Pack to an 81-55-17-7 record in 1997-98 and 1998-99 and a berth in the Eastern Conference finals in the team's inaugural season. That included a tenure as vice president of the NHL Central Scouting Bureau, a position he held from 2005 until he got beat by an opponent that no one beats at 58. McGuire was the architect of many of the innovations that Central Scouting pioneered in the past decade to achieve its mandate of providing the teams with the most comprehensive list of NHL entry-draft-eligible prospects.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman related a story that senior vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell told him about when he became coach of the Rangers in the mid-1990s and reached out to McGuire as a possible assistant. But McGuire had already committed to coaching the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League.
"Even though he could have made four times as much money and come to the NHL, he didn't do it because he felt the need and felt it was appropriate, it was his values, to honor the commitment to the youngsters in major junior," Bettman said.
Such a story wouldn't surprise Gernander, who played for McGuire for two seasons.
"Everybody is going to say he was a hard worker, which was a given and probably an understatement," Gernander said. "I remember games where we would come back from a road trip, show up at the rink for a 10 o'clock meeting and he'd have clips from Los Angeles-Calgary the night before at 3 a.m. That's why you hear about (his death) in Bridgeport and on every website because he was such a quality person. I don't think anybody had a bad word to say about him.
"He would go the extra mile to help anybody at any point in time. It seems a little odd to say these things because people always say them when someone passes, but as far as E.J. goes, he was a very quality person."
Gernander said the thing he took most from McGuire's coaching is how much he cared about things.
"He was really detailed-oriented," Gernander said. "I remember he had a ruler on the white board so when he wrote the lines up for the game they were in perfect straight lines and were color coded. So if we were to play Bridgeport, it would be blue with orange highlight in it. He was very meticulous and very thorough, but he truly cared about the team and each individual. He had a big heart and was a really giving guy who had time for everybody. And he loved to run. There were only two people in training camp to beat him, Ed Belfour and John Blue."
I'm sure the passionate, selfless and tireless good guy EJ is smiling through that familiar moustache somewhere in that Great Rink in the Sky.
American Hockey League Stories from April 9, 2011
- Second Place And Home Ice Clinched With Win - Lake Erie Monsters
- 2010-11 IceHogs Team Awards Announced - Rockford IceHogs
- IceHogs Knock Off Griffins 4-2 In Home Finale - Rockford IceHogs
- Bulldogs Defeat Moose 3-1 And Clinch North Division Title - Hamilton Bulldogs
- IceHogs Double up on Griffins, 4-2 - Grand Rapids Griffins
- Sound Tigers get past Whale - Connecticut Whale
- Admirals Stun Rivermen in Regular Season Finale - Peoria Rivermen
- Admirals Capture West Division Crown - Milwaukee Admirals
- Moose Buried By Bulldogs 3-1 In Last Regular Season Game - Manitoba Moose
- Barons beat Texas - Texas Stars
- B-Sens Display Playoff Intensity With Loss To Phantoms In Season Finale - Binghamton Senators
- Rampage Fall To Wolves 5-3 - San Antonio Rampage
- Crunch Nip Norfolk in Home Finale, 5-4 - Syracuse Crunch
- Whale to Meet Portland in First-round Calder Cup Playoff Series - Connecticut Whale
- Wolves Best Rampage, 5-3 - Chicago Wolves
- Special Teams Doom Admirals in Loss at Syracuse - Norfolk Admirals
- More than 11,000 on hand for 6-2 win; Playoffs begin Thursday in Hershey - Charlotte Checkers
- Shootout Loss Spoils TUC Sendoff - Albany Devils
- Matt Read Scores Game-Winner - Adirondack Phantoms
- Sound Tigers Sink Whale 4-3 - Bridgeport Sound Tigers
- Sharks drop season finale 6-2 in Charlotte - Worcester Sharks
- Pirates to Meet Whale in Opening Round - Portland Pirates
- Pirates Shade Devils, Capture Atlantic Division Title - Portland Pirates
- P-Bruins Defeat Falcons 3-2 - Providence Bruins
- Moose Announce Year-End Award Winners - Manitoba Moose
- Ottawa Senators Announce Changes to Coaching Staff - Binghamton Senators
- B-Sens Present 2010-11 Player Awards - Binghamton Senators
- Sound Tigers Sign Mike Sgroi to PTO - Bridgeport Sound Tigers
- Marlies Hand Amerks Fourth Straight Loss - Rochester Americans
- Stars Game Sold Out - Texas Stars
- Klingberg Gets the Call from Atlanta - Chicago Wolves
- Lavin Signs ATO, Rockford's Home Finale Sold Out - Rockford IceHogs
- 2011 Calder Cup Playoff Tickets on Sale Now - Texas Stars
- Admirals Sign Ben Ryan to ATO - Milwaukee Admirals
- Gameday Preview - Oklahoma City at Texas - Texas Stars
- AHL Announces Suspension - AHL
- Falcons Host Bruins in Home Finale - Springfield Falcons
- Senators Recall Forward Cody Bass from Binghamton - Binghamton Senators
- B-Sens Single Game Playoff Tickets Set to Go on Sale Monday - Binghamton Senators
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