BY: Gerry Cantlon – Special to Howlings
HARTFORD, CT – For the second time in four games, J.T. Miller was a third period hero as the rookie forward scored the game winner in a 2-1 Connecticut Whale win over the Worcester Sharks Wednesday night at the XL Center before the second lowest regular season crowd in franchise history which was announced as just 1,921.
But the story was Miller’s who’s last game winner came just a week ago against Bridgeport.
At 6:09 of the third, a two-on-one odd-man rush developed with Marek Hrivik up the left side. Hrivik and Miller executed their play perfectly as the Cadca, Clovakia native made a pass off the boards right to the stick of the soon to be member of Team USA at the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. Miller then ripped a powerful slap-shot past Finnish netminder Harri Sateri (4-5-1, 36 saves) for his fifth of the season .
“Maybe it’s a Wednesday thing, it’s the only day I can score,” Miller joked afterwards.
The talent displayed by Miller was certainly no joke as it beautifully highlighted just why the East Palestine, Ohio native was the parent New York Rangers first round pick, 15th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft..
“I was late actually getting back in as I lost an edge and River (Marek Hrivik) made a nice pass,” Miller said. “I just picked up speed and I was gonna pass it right away, but I saw the guy (Worcester defenseman Mike Brennan) laid down so I took a shot. I don’t why I took a slapshot on a 2-on-1!”
Based upon the result it’s safe to say Miller’s split-second decision was clearly the right one.
Head coach Ken Gernander was impressed by the whole play. “I thought River made a good play to chip that puck on the wall and (Miller) picked it up. You can get nervous with a two-on-one, but he took a good shot.”
With the Whale win, the team lifted it’s record back to the .500 mark at 11-11-2-0 (24 points) and find themselves tied for second in the Northeast Division the idle Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The team sits in 11th overall in the Eastern Conference.
The Whale evened the score at one taking advantage of a tripping call to Worcester center Travis Oleksuk with just 32 seconds left in the second period. The power play, which has been a struggle for the Whale, came through to start the third frame.
Miller, the game’s First Star, dished a pass off to Chad Kolarik. The veteran forward and the game’s Second Star curled back in the right wing face-off circle and fired a low wrist shot that Sateri never saw as he was screened by Hrivik, the game’s Third Star, at 1:23. For Kolarik, the goal was his ninth of the season.
“I had a screen on that one. Their D guy (Matt) Pelech screened him. I tried to go high blocker on him, but I got him five-hole, so I’ll take it,” a broadly smiling Kolarik said.
Just after the Sharks had broken the scoreless duel against Cam Talbot, (9-8, 25 saves), the Whale had a great chance to tie it, but a controversy surrounded the play.
Center Kelsey Tessier split the defensive pair of Matt Tennyson and Mike Brennan and the right handed Tessier got off a a shot despite a furious hook from Tennyson. Sateri made the save on Tessier’s shot with the glove, but the puck fell between his legs. Sateri dropped his mitt down to cover the puck and stop play, but he kept sliding backward and went into the net. Referee Terry Koharski, standing no more than five feet away, raised his right arm signaling a delayed penalty and play ended.
Video review upheld the non-goal call, but a closer look seemed to show Sateri unable to cover the puck long enough for the play to have stopped. Ironically, the Whale were awarded the power play that they would score on, but the referees called Oleksuk for the hook instead of Tennyson.
The Sharks caught a break to for their goal in the second period.
The Whales Shayne Wiebe playing his first AHL game of the season after being recalled two weeks ago from the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors, sent the puck to the left wing boards in the Sharks zone. San Francisco Bay area bred Sena Acolaste came over and one-hand swiped at the pick chipping it over the glass,but it never left the playing area landing ten feet outside the Whale blue-line. The location of the puck set up a two-on-one break in. James Livingston, a right handed shot on the left side, rushing in with Acolaste, ripped one under Talbot’s arm for a 1-0 Sharks lead, and his first goal of the season.
The Whale have struggled with consistency and on paper didn’t seem to match up well against a Sharks team that kept the team at bay while making Sateri work more in the first. The Whale out shooting their guests 13-6 in the period.
It was a strong start to the game for Wiebe who had amassed seven goals and five assists for twelve points in 12 games in Greenville prior to his recall. On his first shift with the Whale, the Brandon, Manitoba native set up assistant captain Kris Newbury at 3:25 on a bad angle attempt was turned away from Sateri.
On his next shift, Wiebe gained the puck out of a left wing boards scrum and fired a strong shot that was turned away by Sateri as the Whale were able to maintain sustained pressure in the first period.
The Whale are back in action Friday when they play host to the Albany Devils.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS:
The Whale reassigned goalie Jason Missiaen to Greenville after seven games, a 2-3-0 record and a a skyrocketing 4.94 GAA. They called up Bryan Hince from Greenville. Hince was sporting a 1-2 record with a .912 save percentage and 3.36 GAA.
Worcester’s Tim Kennedy a former Wolf Pack/Whale player leads the Sharks in scoring 12 goals 26 points in 12 games
Sharks clearly one of the biggest and toughest teams in the AHL one player at 6’7, two at 6’5, one at 6’4 and two at 6’3 and maybe the toughest guy is 6’1 Curt Gogol whose father was a legendary WHL tough guy in the late ‘70’s and early 80”s. Worcester head coach Roy Sommer sat four of his big guys including Gogol.
The worse crowd in Whale history was against Worcester of 1,553 February of this year.
18 Micheal Haley – 90 Kelsey Tessier – 9 Ryan Bourque
15 Marek Hrivik – 10 JT Miller – 42 Chad Kolarik
24 Shayne Wiebe – 11 Kris Newbury – 26 Brandon Segal
20 Chris Kreider – 7 Kyle Jean – 92 Christian Thomas
33 Cameron Talbot
31 Jason Missiaen
Assistant Captains in BOLD
2 Dylan McIlrath – Knee – 4-6 weeks
8 Jyri Niemi – Concussion – Indefinite
16 Tommy Grant – Healthy Scratch
1. CT – J. Miller
2. CT – C. Kolarik
3. CT – M. Hrivik
Terry Koharski (10)
Jon McIsaac (45)
Luke Galvin (2)
Paul Simeon (66)
The third home game of the week comes Friday night when the Albany Devils return for a rematch with the Whale. You can catch Bob Crawford and all of the action on WCCC-FM or watch it on AHL Live. You can also follow us for all of the play-by-play on Twitter at @HowlingsToday.
Worcester Sharks 1 at Connecticut Whale 2 – Status: Final
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Worcester 0 1 0 – 1
Connecticut 0 0 2 – 2
1st Period– No Scoring.Penalties-Pelech Wor (fighting), 10:54; Haley Ct (roughing, fighting), 10:54; Acolatse Wor (hooking), 14:46; Parlett Ct (tripping), 19:27.
2nd Period-1, Worcester, Livingston 1 (Acolatse), 18:22. Penalties-Oleksuk Wor (tripping), 3:44; Miller Ct (hooking), 8:27; Segal Ct (cross-checking), 14:47; Oleksuk Wor (hooking), 19:28.
3rd Period-2, Connecticut, Kolarik 9 (Miller, Hrivik), 1:23 (PP). 3, Connecticut, Miller 5 (Hrivik, Parlett), 6:09. Penalties-Pyett Ct (cross-checking), 8:45; Sheppard Wor (roughing), 12:48; Parlett Ct (roughing), 12:48; Newbury Ct (roughing), 15:31.
Shots on Goal-Worcester 6-14-6-26. Connecticut 13-11-14-38.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 0 / 6; Connecticut 1 / 3.
Goalies-Worcester, Sateri 4-5-1 (38 shots-36 saves). Connecticut, Talbot 9-8-0 (26 shots-25 saves).
Referees-Terry Koharski (10), Jon McIsaac (45).
Linesmen-Luke Galvin (2), Paul Simeon (66).