Whale Break Some Hexes

The Whale had won three in a row going into Sunday’s visit to Springfield, and the last time they carried a winning streak into a Sunday game against the Falcons, bringing a four-gamer into a contest at the XL Center November 4, they got routed, losing 10-2 for the most lopsided defeat in franchise history.

Happily for the Whale, it was a much different story this time, a fairly tightly-played game that Connecticut won 3-2, courtesy of a Ryan Bourque goal with only 15.6 seconds remaining in the third period.

That capped a sweep of a three-game weekend for the Whale, all against teams that had struggled against in recent meetings.

They had been 0-2 against Springfield, with a 2-0 road shutout to go along with that forgettable 10-2 collapse, 0-2 against Bridgeport, having blown two-goal leads in both of the previous two encounters, and 0-5-1-1 in the previous seven regular-season games against Norfolk, Saturday’s opponent.

The positive tone was set in Friday’s game down at Webster Bank Arena, which seemed to be following the same script as the first two Whale-Sound Tiger battles.  That is, the Whale jumped ahead early, grabbing a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Chris Kreider and Tommy Grant, and then watched Bridgeport take over the game.

It was 3-2 Sound Tigers by the 4:11 mark of the second period, and when Bridgeport built a 5-3 advantage with a pair of early third-period goals, the Whale seemed dead in the water.

A switch seemed to get flipped very shortly thereafter, though, and all of a sudden the Whale started controlling the game.

Matt Gilroy made it 5-4 at 8:33, just 57 seconds after Johan Sundstrom’s second goal of the third had put Bridgeport up by two, and then Chad Kolarik and Kreider scored less than two minutes apart starting at 13:30.

Gilroy tacked on a power-play goal with 2:06 left for a final margin of 7-5, marking the first time the Whale had scored as many as seven goals in game since a 7-2 win in Worcester March 6, 2011.

The Whale then led almost from start to finish in Saturday’s matchup with the defending Calder Cup-champion Admirals, who had hit a considerable skid since a pair of fairly dominating wins over the Whale the second weekend of the season down in Norfolk.

The line of Kris Newbury between Kolarik and Marek Hrivik did most of the damage in what would turn out to be a 5-2 Whale victory, their first at home over Norfolk since February of 2008 after going 0-5-0-1 in the Admirals’ previous six visits.

Kolarik, who had been scuffling a bit for much of the early season while trying to shake off the rust from his lost year last season, continued his quick resurgence with his first regular-season hat trick as a pro, and Hrivik, while he remained goalless for a 14th straight game, had assists on all three of Kolarik’s tallies.

Kolarik, while he can bring plenty of speed and finesse, is most dangerous to opponents when he is buzzing around the net, and I think if you strung together the distance the puck traveled for his four goals on the week, that length wouldn’t reach from the goal line to the hash marks.  They were all right-place-right-time plays, poke-ins and rebounds, the kind of “greasy” goals that so often make the difference in today’s game.  If Taylor Hall hadn’t had a nine-point explosion in three games for Oklahoma City, Kolarik probably would have been the AHL Player of the Week, and he has now jumped into second place, behind Newbury, in Whale team scoring.

Hrivik, meanwhile, finally got his name in the goal column Sunday, putting a first-period rebound into the top shelf for a no-doubt-about-it lamplighter.  Hrivik had five in nine games in the pressure cooker of the playoffs last year, so there was little doubt that he would find the net eventually, and he was definitely getting his share of chances, but it still had to be a relief for the Slovakian youngster to finally have one under “G” to go with his nine “A”’s, a total which is second only on the team to Newbury’s 11.

And then there is Bourque, who has been spending most of his time on the fourth line lately, but who now has a personal pro-best four-game point-scoring streak, after preceding his late game-winner with an assist Sunday.  Bourque is up to four goals and eight points in 13 games on the year, after topping out at six goals and 14 points as a rookie, and looks a world more sure of himself.  He has always been a buzzsaw on the ice in terms of effort, but now looks to be confident of making difference in the offensive end, which rarely seemed to be the case last year.

Bourque’s goal on Sunday was a perfect example of that, a real goal-scorer’s play.  He carried the puck into the zone on left wing, and had Kelsey Tessier headed to the net up the middle, but instead of passing, which I think Falcon goaltender Paul Dainton was expecting him to do, Bourque moved all the way down below the faceoff dot before suddenly wristing the puck at the net.  The perfectly-placed shot found a space between Dainton’s blocking glove and his body, something that just doesn’t happen if the shooter is not confident that something good will occur if he gets the puck on net.

That sort of offensive moxie is contagious, and seemed to be lifting the whole team during the successful three-in-three.  It will get another good test this weekend, with a road game in Providence followed by home battles against Syracuse and the Falcons again.  Don’t forget, the Crunch, because of an affiliation switch, basically consists of last year’s Calder Cup-winning Norfolk roster.  And Norfolk’s play-by-play man, Pete Michaud, told me on Saturday that he thinks that this year’s Crunch might be even better than last season’s Admirals.  That’s certainly saying something, so fasten your seat belts for that one.

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One Response to “Whale Break Some Hexes”

  1. chris Says:

    bob over the past number of days dont rember how many i have come up with a theroy. this theroy is if a mens hockey team had a girl assistaint coach. you could asign that girl coach to one job the other coaches have nothing to do with. and it could give you an advantage other teams dont have. what is that advantage. u see. there are times depending on the positiong of the puck and what team has it where its very hard to make line changes when you want. for example a 5 on 3 power play . the longer a shift the harder it is to defend ag it because you get more tired as a shit goes on. a big part of defense in mens hockey is check and take a puck away. but in these cases its sometimes hard to check if you cant get off the ice as your to tired. in girls hockey they dont check. so having a lady assistaint in a mens hockey team could be an advantage because you can teach your players how to defend without hitting if the need araises. you should always try to keep your shifts short of course but sometimes its doesn’t happen.

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