Sunday no Fun Day for Whale

A Sunday hockey game is great for families looking to finish the weekend with some exciting action and still get home for dinner.  If present trends continue, though, the Whale might refuse ever to play another Sunday home game.

They have played three Sundays on home ice this year and have lost all three, by a combined margin of 16-2.  That’s not going to have you pining for the next time you get to spend Sunday in your own barn.  After this past Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the suddenly hot Albany Devils, the Whale are 1-5-0-0 on Sundays, as compared to 9-6-2-0 the rest of the week.

At least the most recent Sunday game could have gone either way.  Not so the first two home losses, both to Springfield, which were by one-sided margins of 10-2 and 5-0.

After Saturday night’s nightmare of a 9-2 loss in Manchester, in which things went to heck almost right from the start, the Whale were really Action Shot for Blog - 12-10-12good in the first period against Albany, and could have been up a couple of goals at least if they had found some better finishing touch.  The Devils thoroughly dictated play in the second but could only get one goal out of it, and it was mostly Whale again in the third, but Albany netminder Keith Kinkaid would never crack.

So it was either defense or offense missing in the two games over the weekend, and boy, did the defensive play ever take a holiday in Saturday’s game, against a Manchester team that was averaging only 2.59 goals per-game, 23rd in the league, and had won only five of 16 games after a 5-1-0 start.  Neither Cam Talbot nor Jason Missiaen had a glorious evening in goal, but they could hardly take all the blame, as they were both left naked numerous times.

At least the Whale managed to keep the Monarchs to single digits, in contrast to that early-November Sunday game against the Falcons in which they surrendered a franchise-record 10 goals-against.

Losing margins that large have been rare in Whale history, and two in the first 22 games of this year constitutes a rash.  Digging into the archives, I found that the Whale hadn’t lost a game by as many as seven goals since February of 2011, and since the 2000-01 season only once have they had more than one loss by seven goals or more in a single season, and that was in 2009-10, their one non-playoff year.  The franchise has never had three defeats by margins of seven or more in one campaign.

It’s funny, too, how one embarrassing blowout can be such a punch in the gut that it is all you remember from a week that featured two pretty good defensive and goaltending efforts.  Talbot was excellent in Sunday’s game, good bounce-back by him, very narrowly outdueled by Kinkaid, and Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Bridgeport featured the Whale’s lowest shots-against total of the season, 19, including only four in the third period.

So, the 10-2 and 9-2 losses aside, this is not just a bad defensive team.  When all bringing their best game, they are capable of very solid two-way play.  The challenge seems to be just avoiding the ruts of letting one avoidable goal-against turn into three or four.

Regardless of any negatives that came out of the weekend’s two losses, there were nothing but positives Monday, at the kickoff of the Whale’s

Christian Thomas, Dylan McIlrath and friends in "Cigna Hockey in the Streets" action.

Christian Thomas, Dylan McIlrath and friends in “Cigna Hockey in the Streets” action.

Cigna “Hockey in the Streets” program.  Coaches Ken Gernander and Jeff Beukeboom, along with Dylan McIlrath and Christian Thomas, joined Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc, AEG Management CT senior vice-president and GM Chuck Steedman and a host of other dignitaries at the Wilson-Gray YMCA and Family Center on Albany Ave. in Hartford, with Thomas and McIlrath hitting the floor for a spirited game of ball hockey with an enthusiastic group of neighborhood youngsters.

There’s nothing better than watching a group of young kids having fun playing a fun game, and these boys and girls, many of whom have never held a hockey stick before, and whose backgrounds are such that they have had minimal opportunity to be exposed to the game, had an absolute riot chasing the ball around.  McIlrath and Thomas, pretty much big kids themselves, got right into it and were terrific ambassadors.  That, in a nutshell, is the positive side of pro athletics, and making a great impact like that makes the difference between wins and losses seem more than a little trivial by comparison.

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