BY: Gerry Cantlon, Special to Howlings
Springfield, MA – Swedish defenseman Tim Erixon continues to haunt his former teammates with two powerplay goals in the third period to help the first place Springfield Falcons to a 2-0 win before 5,653 at the Mass Mutual Center Friday night.
The win keeps the Falcons in first place in the AHL’s Northeast Division at 7-1-0-2 for 16 points and the Whale slipped to 4th place at 4-5-0-1 and nine points. The Whale travel to Worcester Saturday and visit Bridgeport Sunday afternoon. The Falcons are idle until Sunday when they host Norfolk.
A late second period penalty by Tommy Grant opened the door for the Falcons as Erixon veering off the right point wound up and blasted a 35 foot shot with a semi-screen off a pass from another ex-Whale, last season’s co-leading scorer, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault with his second of the year at 1:03 on a five on four powerplay.
Sadly, a fairly well played hockey game degenerated in a series of powerplays as referees Chris Cozzan and T.J. Luxmore seemed to be in a contest to see how many they could call. A nearly eight and half minute span went by with no five-on-five hockey. It was either a five-on-four, four-on-three and even five-on-three situations arose as well.
On a shorthanded breakaway chance at 10:48 Whale center Kelsey Tessier went backhand to forehand, but Curtis McElhinney made the stop. A slash to Tessier though went uncalled, but defenseman Mike Vernace was nabbed for the same just 16 seconds earlier.
The kettle finally boiled over when at 12:15 when Whale assistant captain Kris Newbury was called by Luxmore for an awful boarding call on a strong, legal hit on Dalton Prout was carrying the puck behind the net. Luxmore, way out of position at center ice near the Whale bench, made the call.
Newbury received a game misconduct and went to the locker room for arguing with the referee. Ken Gernander was assessed a bench minor – his first penalty since taking over as the Whale Whale head coach six seasons ago. “I couldn’t get the referees to come over and explain the call to me,” Gernander said. “I felt there was a discrepancy in the call or who was going to make the call. I asked for clarification and no one would come to the bench and give me that answer.
“I asked for clarification on their ruling and nobody would come and appease me. I can’t comment on their interpretation of the rule. I wanted a clarification of some things (the penalties) on the ice and I wasn’t granted that.”
A clearly aggitated Gernander let it be known to an off-ice official that he wanted an immediate conference with a league official in attendance.
The resulting five-on-three powerplay saw Erixon again dent the twine with his third goal of the season. After having just been denied at the right side of the net, Erixon took advantage of a fast moving Falcons powerplay and Nick Drazenovic put a perfect pass on his stick blade at the right point and the son of former Rangers winger, Jan Erixon drilled a shot low to the glove side at 13:55 on a four-on-three powerplay courtesy of Gernander’s bench minor.
Gernander, who has been critical of the team because of their early season penchant for bad and ill timed penalties, was not pleased with himself either, “We can’t take penalties, but I’m probably (more) upset with my own (the bench minor)”.
In his post game remarks to his team, Gernander let it be known that he was not pleased with his own behavior. ”He came in and said I can’t (take that penalty) as the leader of the team, you can’t let your emotions get the best of you,” Winger Chad Kolarik said. “But who could blame him?”
Kolarik, had a golden opportunity to score with a seemingly wide open left side of the net with the Whale on a five-on-three advantage at 9:27 of the first period, but Falcons netminder Curtis McElhinney was able to extend his right leg and keep the puck from entering the net.
In the second frame, the Falcons kept up the pressure, but once again Whale netminder Cam Talbot, who is off to a very good start to his season, stonewalled the shot. At 9:56 defenseman John Moore swept around the left side to the right, but Talbot repelled the scoring bid.
Then at 14:10 the duo that destroyed the Rangers AHL affiliate in the front-end of this home-and-home series last Sunday, Audy-Marchessault on the left wing hit Ryan Johansen, but this time Talbot was able to slide over to deny what looked to be a sure goal.
The Whale, who have been on a lucky bounce drought, finally got one when with 1:30 left in the period, Drazenovic was wide-open, dead-center of Talbot, but the puck bounced over his stick.
The Whale got a great chance as Grant snuck behind the Falcons and went in all alone, but McElhinney stacked the pads and robbed Grant’s attempt to break the scoreless hockey game with 30.1 seconds left in the second period.
After the play, Grant and Ryan Craig squared off for a scrap after Craig and Newbury nearly went at it during the breakaway. For some odd reason, Grant was assesssed a holding minor that set the wheels in motion for the events in the third period.
The Whale made several lineup changes inserting Kelsey Tessier for Andrew Yogan, Finnish defenseman Jyri Niemi for Matt Gilroy and putting winger Chad Kolarik on the 4th line.
Falcons again outshot the Whale this time 40-20 for the game.
Finn Niemi and Czech winger Tomas Kubalik dropped the mitts with 8 seconds to go neither got an instigator.
Big night in Montreal at the Bell Centre as the hockey mad city saw the Canadians AHL team Hamilton Bulldogs and Syracuse Crunch squared off before 18,582.
Former Falcon and Hartford Wolf Pack goalie David LeNeveau who played in Oklahoma City last year signed with EHC Linz in Austrian Elite League. Ironically, he replaces another former Wolf Pack goalie and Yale University stand out Alex Westlund who was released and is expected to sign with a new European team next week.