Couturier Blast Overtime Winner
If the NHL lockout comes to an end this week, we may have seen the last of Sean Couturier in Glens Falls. If so then what a swan-song! The 20-year-old blasted home a one-timer from the right circle in overtime to propel the Phantoms past the Connecticut Whale on Saturday night. A large and boisterous crowd of 4,634 enjoyed the intense match.
What a night. And what a win. When Couturier's 10th goal of the season was blasted home after Danny Syvret slid it right over to him it triggered a massive celebration for the Phantoms beginning with a pretty hard tackle from Tye McGinn.
"It was a big power play for us late in the game," Couturier humbly stated. "We haven't been too good on the power play this season. But when we have a chance to create something we have to capitalize and it was a big goal in a key situation.
Head Coach Terry Murray was pleased with his team's composure in the dramatic finish. "It was a good set-up. The guys took their time. They won the face-off right away. That's obviously the critical thing at the start of it. You move the puck around and get some movement and shoot the puck."
The game was the 2013 home debut for the Phantoms. And comes just one day after the big announcement that the Phantoms would return to Glens Falls in 2013-14 for a 25th season of American League Hockey in the North Country. The fans responded to the news and the big Saturday night game by coming out in full-force to watch their Phantoms tangle with the AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers.
It was perhaps the last game of the Lockout-era version of the AHL in which the fans have enjoyed the highest caliber of hockey ever seen in the North Country due to the influx of so many current NHL players on the Phantoms and all of their opponents.
Adirondack played well throughout the contest and picked up big saves from winning goalie Cal Heeter when they needed him in the clutch. For the rookie out of Ohio State, it was his first win in Glens Falls and he was most deserving after is 30-save effort.
The Phantoms almost won the game on a few earlier chances. Danny Syvret's blast from the right point rang off the post. And late in the third-period, Couturier slid a shot from the left ring that clanged off the base of the far-post and stayed out.
"I thought we had some good looks tonight just putting pucks to the net," Murray said. "There was some really good recovery of pucks and we moved our feet well. We stayed hungry and stayed after it."
Couturier wouldn't miss on his next big chance though as Adirondack improved to 2-1 in overtime games this season and 4-2 in games decided after regulation (overtime or shootout).
Adirondack was especially strong on the boards and won many puck battles from the Whale. Through much of the first and second periods, they appeared to have Connecticut on the ropes with lots of continuous puck possession while the Whale struggled to get the puck out of their zone.
The Phantoms kept on coming and coming. But they could not push past their 1-0 lead which they enjoyed since the three-minute mark of the game when Tye McGinn wristed the night's opening tally from the right circle after an intercept by Rob Bordson. It was McGinn's 9th of the year.
Murray frequently emphasizes the importance of getting a good, quality start right from the drop of the first puck. That goal three minutes into the game came not long after a new line-combo provided an early spark. "The energy line gave us a good start with (Ian) Slater, (Tyler) Brown and (Zac) Rinaldo. I thought they did a nice job with their purpose and what they needed to do for the team here tonight. To get pucks in and get after it, recover pucks. And give us high energy and I thought everyone followed up with that."
For center Ian Slater, it was his Adirondack Phantoms debut following a reassignment from Trenton (ECHL). The Western Michigan University product had a couple near-misses to scoring a goal in his first AHL game.
Connecticut hung around in the game thanks to some nice stops from Cam Talbot. They broke through late in the second period with a goal by Chad Kolarik on the rebound to the left of the goal that needed to be confirmed via video-review.
Cal Heeter's best stop of the night happened in the second period when Tommy Grant received a chip up the ice and was clear for a breakaway. Heeter slid to his left to go with the shooter and got a leg-pad on the attempt in one of his several fine stops on the game.
"Heeter was good. I thought he was much better tonight than last night although I liked his game last night," Murray said. "Obviously I came back with him for back-to-back games which was the first time for him this year. He was a little more under control, more composure, and maybe it was because he played in back-to-back. It demanded that he stay in better positions and be more composed in those situations."
It was a nice way to kick-off play at home in 2013 for the Phantoms. With a great crowd truly enjoying the moment and perhaps the last games in the North Country for some talented NHL players like Couturier and Schenn.
And if it truly was the swan-song for those players and perhaps a few others in Glens Falls if the lockout does end? "I was reading before the game it looks like things are pretty positive," Murray said. "That's good for hockey. We need to get back and play at the NHL level. We'll see what happens from there and hopefully the deal is going to be done really soon and it's going to be a long time before we see this again."
The Phantoms don't play again until next Friday and Saturday when they travel to the Binghamton Senators and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins back-to-back. Adirondack's next home game is Friday, January 18 against the Albany Devils presented by Glens Falls Plastic Surgery for a Time Warner Cable Cup rivalry game. Friday, January 25 is Pink in the Rink Night featuring pink jerseys and a post-game auction. Call the Phantoms for tickets at 518-480-3355.
The game-winning goal from Couturier! You can barely see the puck above the knob of the goalies stick. And the water-bottle on top of the goal has moved. Great pic, Andy!
The Phantoms celebrate the first goal of the night by Tye McGinn.
Photographic proof that the video-review was indeed correct on the only goal that Connecticut scored in the game. That distance between the puck and the line was precisely how close Cal Heeter came to his first career pro shutout.
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