BY: Mitch Beck, Howlings Publisher
The humiliating loss comes after blowing a three-goal lead the previous night to the Syracuse Crunch and a 4-2 wipe-out in Providence Friday.
Everything that the Whale did in their four-game winning streak over the previous weekend just failed to show up Sunday. It started in net and worked it’s way out as rookie Jason Missiaen (23 saves, 2-3-0), who had played well in beating the Falcons in their visit to the MassMutual Center a week earlier, was at times shaky and and off his game.
The defense, which had been sweeping pucks out of the crease and giving the goaltenders clear views of the puck over the winning streak, struggled mightily all weekend long. There were blown coverages; skaters blew right past them and they just could not make the kinds of quick and crisp outlet passes they had been doing. Matt Gilroy and his defensive struggles in particular were omnipresent as the 2009 Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner just seems unsure of himself on the ice and is playing with little to no confidence.
Up front, the smooth passing, hard back-checking and all of the things that Head Coach demands of his players just weren’t there on Sunday.
The most troubling thing on Sunday was that when they got frustrated, the discipline they had been playing with in terms of taking penalties, even in the two previous losses where they took three and two penalties respectively, went out the window as well. Gilroy went to the box twice and team leader Kris Newbury went twice – very late in both the first and second periods – meaning that starting the second and third periods, the Whale were busy killing them off. Blake Parlett went tot he sin bin, as did fellow defenseman Mike Vernace and forward Kelsey Tessier and Michael Haley went for two fights and an extra roughing call for 12 minutes. Two of the five goals that were scored were power play goals.
“I think all three games we got off to a slow start,” Newbury said. “We didn’t have the tempo we needed and didn’t execute the way we wanted and paid the price. I thought we responded well when we got down by three, but it was a little too late then.”
The Whale went down 1-0 just 2:23 into the contest when Cam Atkinson, who will most certainly be headed back to the NHL if and when the NHL lock-out ends, rushed the puck up the right side uncontested and fired a shot from just inside the right face-off circle. Ex-Whale Jonathan Audy-Marchessault charged hard to the net with both Logan Pyett and Gilroy on him. Gilroy fell down and slid into Missiaen pulling him out of the play. Missiaen stopped Atkinson’s initial shot with his pad, but the contact sent the puck into the crease. Pyett and Audy-Marchessault battled for the puck. The ex-Whale spun and took a shot that Pyett went down and blocked, but Atkinson came in hard and flipped it into the empty net for his tenth of the season.
At 12:16, the Falcons doubled their lead on the first of two power play goals when Ryan Johansen worked a perfect give-and-go with Audy-Marchessault.
After receiving a feed from the right point from ex-Whale Tim Erixon, Johansen brought the puck to the top of the circle and fed Audy-Marchessault at the bottom of the circle and headed for the net. Johansen weaved around Brendan Segal and in front of Sean Collins, took the return feed from Audy-Marchessault and put it into the net past Missiaen’s glove in the upper right corner.
The lead became three with 3:58 remaining in the first period.
John Moore picked up a puck travelling around the boards at the left wall at the blueline. Moore fired a slap pass to the middle of the slot where Matt Calvert stood in front of Gilroy and redirected the pass over Missiaen’s left pad and into the back of the net.
The Whale had a couple of scoring chances of their own, most notably a Gilroy and Kyle Jean two-on-one odd man rush against defenseman, David Savard. That break-in was broken up when Jean’s pass to Gilroy was knocked away. At 14:20, Tommy Grant picked off a pass at the blueline and broke in all alone but was denied and then he was stopped again in front of the net by Curtis McElhinney (34 saves, 11-2-0) with a great save with 2:45 left in the period.
It became a four goal lead at 9:46 of the second frame when Marek Hrivik’s pass up the middle of the from the left wing half-boards in the Whale defensive zone for Kyle Jean was missed and picked off by the Falcons’ Sean Collins at the Whale blueline. Collins did an excellent job keeping the puck in the zone and headed for the net. Jean closed in on him as did Hrivik and the Whale’s Collins flashed a stick, but the Falcon’s Collins shot from the top of the right circle beat Missiaen again to the glove side for his fifth of the season.
Ryan Craig would close the game’s scoring in the third period. With Gilroy in the penalty box on a Cross-Checking call, with 5:51 left when Collins hard clearing attempt was kept in at the left point by Savard and quickly moved to Calvert on the right point at high the slot. Calvert quickly moved the puck to Nick Drazenovic in the left side of the slot. The Falcon centerman moved the puck low in the left circle to Atkinson. Sam Klassen went down to the ice to try and block off Atkinson, but the Greenwich, Connecticut native slid the puck through the crease to the wide open Craig who knocked past the outstretched Missiaen.
Our start hurt us,” Newbury said. “(Sunday) seemed like we had a couple of chances. We didn’t execute our passes very well in their zone and get those quality chances like we had last weekend, so we gotta find a way to get back to doing that and putting the puck in the net and then obviously holding on to the lead would help too.”
Several New York Rangers executives were on hand including goaltending coach Benoit Allaire
With the shutout victory by Curtis McElhinney he tied Manny Legace for the most shutouts in one season by a Springfield Falcons goaltender.
Perhaps it’s time to end the Gilroy experiment on defense and move him to his more natural winger position when Dylan McIlrath is healthy enough to play after the new year?
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS:
15 Marek Hrivik – 11 Kris Newbury – 42 Chad Kolarik
20 Chris Kreider – 7 Kyle Jean – 26 Brandon Segal
18 Micheal Haley – 10 JT Miller – 92 Christian Thomas
16 Tommy Grant – 90 Kelsey Tessier – 9 Ryan Bourque
31 Jason Missiaen
33 Cameron Talbot
Assistant Captains in BOLD
2 Dylan McIlrath – Knee – 4-6 weeks
8 Jyri Niemi – Concussion – Indefinite
24 Shayne Wiebe – Healthy Scratch
1. SPR – C. McElhinney
2. SPR – J. Audy-Marchessault
3. SPR – R. Johansen
Chris Brown (86
Derek Wahl (46)
Luke Galvin (2)
The quality opponents for the Whale don’t lighten up as the intrastate and franchise rival Bridgeport Sound Tigers visit the XL Center for what should be a “spirited” game. You can hear the game on WCCC-FM or watch it on AHL Live.
Springfield Falcons 5 at Connecticut Whale 0 – Status: Final
Sunday, December 2, 2012 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Springfield 3 1 1 – 5
Connecticut 0 0 0 – 0
1st Period-1, Springfield, Atkinson 10 (Audy-Marchessault), 2:23. 2, Springfield, Johansen 7 (Audy-Marchessault, Erixon), 12:16 (PP). 3, Springfield, Calvert 6 (Moore), 16:02. Penalties-Cullity Spr (cross-checking), 3:43; Gilroy Ct (hooking), 10:54; Newbury Ct (hooking), 18:53.
2nd Period-4, Springfield, Collins 5 9:46. Penalties-Erixon Spr (interference), 10:06; Smith Spr (fighting), 12:49; Haley Ct (roughing, fighting), 12:49; Tessier Ct (unsportsmanlike conduct), 17:03; Vernace Ct (roughing), 17:03; Newbury Ct (interference), 19:03; Calvert Spr (roughing), 19:15; Parlett Ct (roughing), 19:15.
3rd Period-5, Springfield, Craig 5 (Atkinson, Drazenovic), 14:09 (PP). Penalties-Kubalik Spr (fighting), 9:43; Haley Ct (fighting), 9:43; Gilroy Ct (cross-checking), 13:52.
Shots on Goal-Springfield 7-14-7-28. Connecticut 13-10-11-34.
Power Play Opportunities-Springfield 2 / 7; Connecticut 0 / 2.
Goalies-Springfield, McElhinney 11-2-2 (34 shots-34 saves). Connecticut, Missiaen 2-3-0 (28 shots-23 saves).
Referees-Chris Brown (86).
Linesmen-Derek Wahl (46), Luke Galvin (2).