Whale Ready Themselves for Back-to-Back with IceCaps

The Whale have been enjoying quite a bit of home cooking lately, as they are in the midst of a stretch of the schedule that has the club playing ten out of 12 games at home.

The two away games in that segment, though, comprise the Whale’s furthest road trip, which is currently underway and has them holed up in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The Whale and St. John’s IceCaps go at it twice this weekend, tonight and tomorrow afternoon, at Mile One Centre in downtown St. John’s, and even though the Whale still have almost 30 games left in their season, these two tilts with the IceCaps have heavy playoff implications.

The Whale come into tonight tied for tenth in the Eastern Conference at 46 points, one point ahead of St. John’s, which is deadlocked with Albany at 45 points apiece.  The Whale are currently only three points out of the last playoff spot, but they already have to climb over three teams to get in, and if the IceCaps were to jump ahead of them it would be four teams.

Especially with the conference-centered schedule, every additional team that you have to get past makes the task that much tougher.

Head Coach Ken Gernander talked Friday about approaching the two games against St. John’s as a kind of mini-playoff series, and Whale veteran forward Kelsey Tessier addressed that at the morning skate Saturday.

“We had that talk (about a playoff approach) yesterday, right after practice,” Tessier said.  “It’s two games in a row, that’s how playoff works.  This is big points for us, we need these four points, to get away from them (the IceCaps) but also to build us up, to make a place in the playoffs.  We don’t want to just make the playoffs, we want to make sure we get in and we’re safe.  We’re a little more than half the season in, but you’ve got to want it, you’ve got to really want it, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Kelsey Tessier scores a shorthanded goal against Albany's Keith Kinkaid.

Kelsey Tessier scores a shorthanded goal against Albany’s Keith Kinkaid.

The Whale have been headed in the right direction, with at least a standings point in 11 of their last 15 games (7-4-2-2), but went winless in the last three games of their six-game homestand, with a regulation loss, an overtime loss and a shootout defeat.  The team has been working some new faces into the mix, with the likes of Nick Palmieri, Benn Ferriero, Brandon Mashinter and most recent arrival Mike Pelech, and Tessier pointed out the value of getting the team together on the road to help build chemistry.

“Definitely when you’re on the road it’s more team bonding,” he said, “airports, buses, or even team events like meals and stuff, really brings the guys in and makes them more comfortable with the new guys, get a couple of laughs in, mess around a little bit, to keep them happy and be like, ‘Oh, this is a fun group.’  So it’s real fun, and you can’t get a better spot than St. John’s here.  It’s a beautiful city and people are nice here, they all greet us well.”

A fringe benefit for Tessier, who hails from the Maritime province of New Brunswick, is that his parents were just able to beat the weather and make it up to St. John’s to see him play.

“They got the last flight out, so they’re lucky,” Tessier laughed, “they’re stuck here with us.”

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