Whale up to Sixth Place in Eastern Conference

The Whale’s two-out-of-three performance this past weekend has lifted them into the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, one point ahead of Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and only three points behind fifth-place Portland.

Of course, the Bears and Penguins still have a game-in-hand on the Whale, and the Pirates have two, and the Whale are still only five points out of ninth place.  Of the nine teams that are clustered from fifth through 13th, though, separated by a total margin of only ten points, only Norfolk, which is tied with Manchester for ninth at 67 points, has put together as good a record as the Whale has over the last ten games.  Both teams are 6-3-0-1 over that span.

The only game the Whale has lost in its last six was Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Adirondack, and that was one of those games that had you thinking that even if the Whale does manage to make the playoffs, it’s not going to give anybody any trouble.

Even though the Whale scored first in that one, the last-place Phantoms carried most of the play from quite early on in the game.  The Whale brought precious little physicality, seemed to handle the puck in the defensive zone as if it were about to explode, and didn’t get much traffic in front of Adirondack goaltender Cal Heeter, who hadn’t played in ten games and looked like he was fighting the puck on almost every shot.

A Whale penalty-killing unit that had gone 28 for 29 in the previous six games coughed up four goals in five times short, and saw the Phantoms’ line of Tye McGinn, Garrett Roe and Jason Akeson do pretty much whatever it wanted out there.

That was as bad a game as the Whale had played in some time, but there response to it the next day couldn’t have been much better.

Sunday’s opponent, the Binghamton Senators, have been one of the top teams in the conference all season, and came into the game winners of three straight and 8-2-0-1 in their previous 11.  The Senators had blanked the Whale the only previous time the two teams met, a 3-0 verdict March 8 in Binghamton, but Sunday they ran into an angry Whale group, which proceeded to take the play right to one of the best teams in the league, less than 24 hours after being cuffed around by one of the least successful.

One of the things that had Ken Gernander the most disgusted about Saturday’s game was the absence of finished checks by his team, and the club obviously took that message to heart.  At least two of the Whale goals Sunday were directly the result of strong physical play in the offensive zone, and two more came from creating plenty of havoc around the Senator net, another element that was conspicuously absent in Saturday’s game.

Andrew Yogan, after being named First Star of Sunday's win over Binghamton.

Andrew Yogan, after being named First Star of Sunday’s win over Binghamton.

And for the Rangers’ player-development staff, reading the stat sheet from the 6-1 Sunday win had to be like opening presents at Christmas, as the three stars were all rookie prospects.  Andrew Yogan had his first three-point game as a pro with two goals and an assist, Christian Thomas bagged a pair of goals to break out of an eight game pointless drought and Dylan McIlrath posted his first multiple-point game, chipping in two assists.

The five-goal win equaled the Whale’s most lopsided victory margin of the season, and was accomplished without leading scorer Kris Newbury, who was called up by the Rangers on Saturday morning.  The Whale now have at least a point in 15 of their last 20 games (12-5-1-2), and since the turn of the New Year, at which point they were tied for last place in the Eastern Conference, the club is now 19-9-3-3 in 34 games, a tidy .647 winning percentage.

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2 Responses to “Whale up to Sixth Place in Eastern Conference”

  1. chris Says:

    another big game for the boys tonight. as they all are and iginla now a penguin that is a big time trade if yall ask me.

  2. chris Says:

    another big win last night

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