In his first game back in the line-up, on Saturday (12/10), McKelvie registered the game-winning goal for the Whale, his second of the season, at the 5:08 of the third period. The Whale added two more goals during the final frame, and defeated the Bruins 3-0 in front of an excited home crowd.
“Yeah, it was definitely rewarding,” a relieved McKelvie told reporters after the game. “I don’t really care how they come right now, I just want to help the team win and I think I did that tonight.”
Though the goal is likely not going to be a YouTube sensation, or on any highlight-reel’s, McKelvie and the Whale will take them anyway they come.
“Reds (Wade Redden) just made a pretty play to pinch down on (the Bruin) and got the puck towards the net. I just flicked my stick and (the puck) hit it,” said McKelvie.
Prior to his four-game streak as a healthy-scratch for the Whale, McKelvie was playing bottom-6 minutes on a line with fellow hard-workers, Jordan Owens and rookie Scott Tanski. The Whale coaches also used McKelvie as a penalty-killer, which is an area that he has excelled in in the past. McKelvie has played a ‘grind-it-out’ style throughout his hockey career, and is usually one of the more physical and hard-working forwards when he is in the line-up.
“He’s a character kid,” said Whale’ head coach Ken Gernander following Saturday’s win. “He’s a hard-working kid, and we’re all happy for him.”
During his four-year tenure at Bemidji, the 6-foot-1, 191-pound, forward played in 120 games, and totaled 18 goals, 15 assists, 33 points, and 88 penalty-minutes. The Whale—who, at the time, were known as the Hartford Wolf Pack—signed McKelvie to a tryout contract near the end of the 2009-10 season, and his two goal, three point performance in six games earned him an AHL deal over the summer.
Unfortunately for Chris, his AHL rookie season was affected by injuries, which limited him to just 17 games with the Whale, and 16 with the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors. McKelvie worked hard throughout training camp with the Whale, and impressed the coaching staff with his physical play during preseason tilts. His effort paid off, and resulted in his name being penned into Connecticut’s opening night roster.
McKelvie credited the Whale coaching staff and trainers for his success. He also explained how the trainers helped him to stay fresh while he was made a healthy scratch for a number of games.
“When we don’t play, our coaching staff does a good job at making sure that (everyone) is conditioned well, and we’re staying fresh and good,” he said. “I didn’t feel like (Saturday) was my first game in a long time. It was pretty seamless for me.”
He also explained that other players who were in the line-up made sure that he felt like part of the team even if he was scratched from the line-up. In the end, McKelvie was just happy to have played against—and score against—his brother, Zach, who is a member of the Bruins.
“It was fun to play against him,” he said. “We were looking forward to it, I loved playing against him. We’ve got a kind of mutual respect for each other and just go hard against each other.”
For now McKelvie remains in the line-up, lined with Owens and Tanski as part of the bottom-6. He also continues to receive time on the Whale penalty-kill, which was 7-for-8 with McKelvie in the line-up this weekend. When Zuccarello returns to line-up later this month, whether or not McKelvie keeps his spot in the line-up will be determined by the coaches based on his performance. If his playing level over the next week or so is consistent with the effort that he made over the weekend, it is probably safe to say that his name will appear in Connecticut’s line-up card more often than not.
Tomorrow I will be making an appearance on BSURadio at 9 pm (ET) to talk, and give an update on, Connecticut Whale hockey.
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