BY: Mitch Beck, Publisher, Howlings
Wil Goldsholl and Gerry Cantlon contributed to this story
Hartford, CT – Connecticut Whale head coach Ken Gernander had a lineup card that he hadn’t seen in a while – one with no major injured players and all hands-on-deck as all recalled players were back in Hartford. With a healthy and revitalized roster on the XL Center ice Friday night, the New York Rangers’ AHL affiliates found its offensive muscle and beat-up on their intra-state and franchise rival, in the two teams’ eighth meeting of the season, and thrashed the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 7-3 in front of a healthy crowd of 6,620.
Christian Thomas, back in the lineup after his first NHL call-up, lit up the scoreboard with two goals and an assist. Kris Newbury, Friday’s First Star of the Game, had a three-point night, with a goal and two assists. Defenseman Logan Pyett had a hat trick of helpers, while Brandon Mashinter – also back from a Rangers’ call-up, added a goal and assist as did veteran d-man Mike Vernace. Add in solid goaltending by the game’s Second Star, Cam Talbot (20-22-1, 35 saves) and the Whale picked up two critical standings points, keeping the Whale in the eighth and final playoff slot.
The game was also a harsh ending to a tumultuous week for Sound Tigers’ starting netminder, Rick DiPietro (0-1-0, 7 saves).
The thirteenth year pro, DiPietro was sent down to the AHL from the New York Islanders last week and yesterday his comments about suicide made that transition just that much more of a media circus. DiPietro later backed off those comments and said that he was trying to give credit to his wife for helping him through some depression issues. DiPietro signed perhaps the worst contract in NHL history in 2006, a groundbreaking 15-year deal worth $67.5 million, but a seemingly endless series of injuries that have limited him to (if you include the three he played in this season) only fifty games in over five seasons. This was the Boston University product’s first American Hockey League game since January 3, 2010 and it was not a good one.
2:16 into the game, Bridgeport Captain Matt Watkins was whistled for hooking Benn Ferriero on the half-boards. Ferriero was back in the lineup after missing the last eight games with an injury. On the ensuing power play, Vernace fed Newbury from the point to the right wall. Newbury went to the far hash connecting with Pyett who slid the puck to the crease through defender Jon Landry, finding Chris Kreider, who returned to Hartford the day before by the Rangers. Kreider smacked his sixth goal of the season past DiPietro and into the back of the net at 2:59 on the first shot of the game.
Bridgeport didn’t help themselves any when 32 seconds later Matt Donovan was sent to solitary confinement in the sin-bin for cross-checking. Just 57 seconds after Kreider netted a power-play goal, the Whale put their second shot of the game into the net as well.
Pyett led the rush out of the defensive zone sending a break-in pass to Newbury, who notched his second assist in under four minutes of game time when his cross-crease feed to Brandon Segal found a place in the cage behind DiPietro for his season’s 16th of the season.
“We got pucks to the net early and often as possible,” Newbury said. “A few lucky breaks but I think we hurt [DiPietro’s] confidence a little.”
“We (played) well with the puck early,” Gernander said. “We got good speed wide and we caught some breaks, but we got to the lead.”
After a strong penalty kill of a Whale Too Many Men call, the home team’s offense continued to work.
At 10:33, DiPietro lost sight of the puck in traffic after Vernace let go a seeing-eye shot from the point and it beat the struggling netminder to the far side. Four minutes later, Thomas broke in and worked a near-perfect give-and-go with Mashinter for Thomas’ fourteenth with 3:31 left in the first frame giving the Whale a 4-0 lead.
“That was good play we had a lot of movement tonight and Mash made the right play I was able to go back door and we kept it going,” Thomas said.
The Whale would end DiPietro’s night when they added a fifth goal 34 seconds later.
On a deep forecheck, Newbury pursued DiPietro playing the puck behind the net. Newbury read the play perfectly and with a diving effort managed to swat the puck and though it seemed to hit off Segal, it definitely went off the stick of a Bridgeport defender and past DiPietro. Bridgeport head coach Scott Pellerin pulled the plug on DiPietro’s night after the first period ended and sent in Kenny Reiter to start the second frame after DiPietro was lit up for five goals on just twelve shots.
Newbury described the goal that put DiPietro on the bench. “I got a little read on him (DiPietro), tried to give the extra effort; good to get a lucky bounce here and there.”
In the second frame, the Whale had a bit of a letdown in their play and it became a game of special team play dominated with five power plays doled out by referee Jean Hebert.
“We got our game going early, and maybe got a little too comfortable in the second,” Thomas said.
Talbot and Reiter were solid in their respective nets but Bridgeport would tally the period’s only goal.
With 2:11 remaining in the second, Jack Combs went to the end boards and poked the puck out to the circle. Nathan McIver shot through traffic and a screened Talbot was unable to find it making it a 5-1 game.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Talbot said. “They want any momentum they can pick up for Sunday (when the two teams meet again in Bridgeport). We gave them a little too much in the second, but those are some of the prettiest goals we’ve put in all year.”
“Sometimes it can be a 0-0 game or a 1-1 game late, but that’s part of the job of making the saves when you need them,” Gernander said. “In the second Cam made the saves when we needed them because Bridgeport had the edge in the second and more opportunities.”
“They were getting guys in front of the net and trying to make it tough, but we needed saves and I got some good help from the D,” remarked Talbot.
Bridgeport started the third period with momentum and cashed in at 1:56 when Blair Riley with a helper from John Persson and McIver and cut the deficit to three.
To their credit, the Sound Tigers didn’t quit and made it a two-goal game at 7:34.
A Whale turnover to Bridgeport’s Jon Landry led to a shot but it was blocked. Aaron Ness picked up the loose puck and steered a backhander that Talbot had a hard time reading, but stopped. The puck rebounded though to Chad Costello who batted it in to make it 5-3.
Mashinter scored on the goal line when he found a loose puck and jammed it home for his eighth of the season to restore the three-goal lead at 12:25. Thomas tacked on his second of the night on a power play with 54.2 seconds left for the game’s final score.
“You’re always thinking playoffs down the stretch,” Talbot said. “But you’re really just trying to pick up two points every night.”
With a healthy and restored Connecticut lineup, the push for the post season now begins in earnest for the Whale.
- Benn Ferrerio made his return to the lineup after an eight game absence
- With Brandon Segal is closing in on twenty goals (16), the Whale/Wolf Pack have had at least one twenty goal scorer the last 16 years.
- Sound Tigers Nathan McIver had two points a goal and an assist just his second two-point game in his pro career
- Christian Thomas had his first three point game of the year
- The Montreal Canadiens re-signed with the Hamilton Bulldogs for three more years as their top farm team.
- Global Spectrum, who just won the bid to run the XL Center, is also the manager of the Hamilton Copps Coliseum.
20 Chris Kreider – 11 Kris Newbury - 26 Brandon Segal
23 Brandon Mashinter – 90 Kelsey Tessier - 19 Benn Ferriero
21 Andrew Yogan - 7 Kyle Jean– 28 Andrew Carroll
18 Michael Haley - 92 Christian Thomas - 44 Nick Palmieri
33 Cameron Talbot
31 Jason Missiaen
Assistant Captains in BOLD
24 Shayne Wiebe – Knee – Season
15 Marek Hrivik - Upper Body / Concussion – Indefinite
9 Ryan Bourque - Upper Body – Two to Three Weeks
14 Jason Wilson – Healthy Scratch
8 Jyri Niemi – Healthy Scratch
1. CT – K. Newbury
2. CT – C. Talbot
3. BRI – N. McIver
Jean Hebert (43)
Mike Baker (11)
Brent Colby (7)
The Whale return to action Sunday afternoon when they travel downstate to the Webster Bank Arena for the back-end of their home-and-home with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. 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.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3 at CT Whale 7 – Status: Final
Friday, March 1, 2013 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Bridgeport 0 1 2 – 3
Connecticut 5 0 2 – 7
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Kreider 6 (Pyett, Newbury), 2:59 (PP). 2, Connecticut, Segal 16 (Newbury, Pyett), 3:55 (PP). 3, Connecticut, Vernace 6 (Yogan, Carroll), 10:33. 4, Connecticut, Thomas 14 (Mashinter), 16:29. 5, Connecticut, Newbury 18 17:03. Penalties-Watkins Bri (hooking), 2:16; Donovan Bri (cross-checking), 3:31; served by Thomas Ct (bench minor – too many men), 4:53.
2nd Period-6, Bridgeport, McIver 1 (Combs, Niederreiter), 17:49. Penalties-Riley Bri (elbowing), 0:40; Newbury Ct (hooking), 6:36; Mashinter Ct (interference), 12:16; Landry Bri (interference), 14:46; Segal Ct (hooking), 19:30.
3rd Period-7, Bridgeport, Riley 6 (Persson, McIver), 1:56. 8, Bridgeport, Costello 3 (Ness, Landry), 7:34. 9, Connecticut, Mashinter 8 (Thomas, Vernace), 12:25. 10, Connecticut, Thomas 15 (Pyett, Ferriero), 19:05 (PP). Penalties-Vernace Ct (holding), 3:09; Kreider Ct (hooking), 12:45; Niederreiter Bri (interference), 18:01.
Shots on Goal-Bridgeport 13-13-12-38. Connecticut 12-10-8-30.
Power Play Opportunities-Bridgeport 0 / 6; Connecticut 3 / 5.
Goalies-Bridgeport, DiPietro 0-1-0 (12 shots-7 saves); Reiter 0-2-1 (18 shots-16 saves). Connecticut, Talbot 20-22-1 (38 shots-35 saves).
Referees-Jean Hebert (43).
Linesmen-Mike Baker (11), Brent Colby (7).