Playing it Close to the Vest

For a while, the Whale were having a tough time keeping the puck out of their own net, and their power play was going great guns at the other end.

The two games this past weekend, though, the team had a tough time scoring, and the PP went 0/9 in the game they lost, but the defensive record was much better.

The Whale still gave up their share of chances, but Cam Talbot continued to contribute real solid play in goal.  And, after dropping a frustrating one to old teammate Chad Johnson and the Portland Pirates at home Friday, Connecticut rode some Bay State karma to a satisfying two points Saturday in Worcester.

It was starting to look like Shark backstop Alex Stalock was going to duplicate Johnson’s flummoxing of the Whale, which saw the former Whale mainstay come within 36 seconds of hanging a zero on his old team.  Connecticut was playing well on Saturday but just couldn’t get that final push “over the cliff”, so to speak, when a scoring chance presented itself.

The worm turned early in the third period, however, when the Sharks took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty.

It took the Whale all of four seconds to convert, with Kyle Jean winning the draw back to Matt Gilroy on the blueline, Gilroy drilling just the kind of shot you want on the man-advantage—quick, low and too hard to control—and Chris Kreider lifting in the rebound at 1:40.

Ryan Bourque

The Whale then got a big break 1:17 later, and it would be Kreider’s fellow Boxford, MA native Ryan Bourque who took advantage.

Kelsey Tessier had the puck knocked away along the boards in the Worcester zone, but when the Sharks’ Travis Oleksuk dropped it behind the net to defenseman Taylor Doherty, the puck got away from him.  Right there to pounce on it was Bourque, who had the presence of mind to pirouette quickly before stepping out from below the goal line, and Stalock was left looking the wrong way while Bourque slipped the puck inside the goalpost.

Nice goal to get from your fourth line, which also included Shayne Wiebe, who met the team in Worcester to sign his PTO after being summoned from Greenville.  The Whale needed his services after losing Andrew Yogan to injury in Friday’s game.

Also a good win to get with your leading scorer in injury drydock.  Kris Newbury missed both of the weekend’s games with what he told me is a relatively minor injury, and that forced the Whale to move first Yogan, and then J.T. Miller, to center to fill the void.

It was also the Whale’s second win in two Saturdays at the DCU Center in Worcester, where the Whale had handed the Sharks a 6-2 defeat the Saturday before.  In a scheduling quirk, those are the Whale’s only two visits to Worcester all season, and they might want to petition the AHL to play there a few more times.  With the two wins this year, the Whale franchise is now 17-6-0-2 against the Sharks in 25 all-time trips to the DCU Center.  Amazing.

Saturday was also the first time this season that the Whale won in a game they trailed after two periods, and, perhaps most importantly, it was a positive lead-in to Sunday’s Bowl-a-Thon for Special Olympics Connecticut at AMF Silver Lanes in East Hartford.  That staple of Whale community relations was a big success again this year, raising over $10,000 for SOCT.

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