On Friday, the Whale hosted the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and lost 3-0. Chad Johnson played for just 9:01 of the game before allowing three goals on 13 shots, and being pulled from the net. Cam Talbot made 18 saves in relief.
Then on Saturday, the Whale hosted the Adirondack Phantoms and defeated them 3-0. Talbot improved his shutout streak to 110:59, stopping all 26 shots-against; earning his third shutout of the season and 13th win. Forward Kelsey Tessier scored twice in the win, while Casey Wellman added a goal and an assist.
Connecticut hosted the Providence Bruins on Sunday, and lost 3-2 in overtime on a goal scored with just 2.1 seconds remaining. Talbot’s shutout streak was snapped at 145:35 (minutes: seconds), but he still provided the Whale with a solid 28 save effort. Kris Newbury had a goal and an assist in the game, and rookie Jonathan Audy-Marchessault added helpers on both goals. Wade Redden also scored in the overtime loss.
The Whale’s record now looks like 34-24-7-5 (80 points), and they are seated second in the Northeast Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference. They need six points to clinch a playoff berth with six games remaining in their regular season.
“(Right now) everyone is watching the standings for points, and it becomes more important to win games,” Whale head coach Ken Gernander said following Saturday’s win. “At this point our margin of error is such that you’re not afforded mistakes,” he added on the playoff topic after Sunday’s game.
The Whale will play another three games this weekend, beginning with a home game on Friday at 7pm (ET) against the Manchester Monarchs. Then on Saturday, the Whale visits the Penguins for a 7:05pm puck-drop, followed by a 5pm game in Hershey against the Bears on Sunday.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (83 points; first in the Northeast) play three times week, with home games on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Adirondack (72 points; third in the Northeast) will play three times this weekend, while both Springfield (72 points; fourth in the Northeast) and Albany (71 points; fifth in the Northeast) play once mid-week, and twice over the weekend.
If the Whale can win all three of its games this weekend, then a playoff berth will be clinched. Depending on how the teams mentioned above, along with the Portland Pirates, perform during the week, Connecticut’s road to the playoffs may become easier and quicker.
Saturday morning, realizing that a line-up spot was available, the Whale contacted 20-year-old winger Marek Hrivik—a native of Zilina, Slovakia, and former member of Slovakia U-20 in 2008-09—and signed him to an Amateur Tryout (ATO) agreement. Hrivik was a member of the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats for three seasons, and completed his final junior season on March 27, 2012 with a 5-4 loss to the Halifax Mooseheads.
“It’s a good opportunity for me…we finished the playoffs early in Moncton, so (the Whale) called me and offered me, so I appreciated that and I am here to work hard,” Hrivik said after Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Phantoms.
Hrivik was an offensive powerhouse during his junior career with Moncton, reaching 26 goals or more in each season, and collecting two 70 point campaigns. The 6-foot-1, 197-pound, winger totaled 93 goals and 204 points in 179 junior games.
“I’m and offensive player…I can make little plays, handle the puck well and create opportunities for my teammates,” he said.
Gernander was happy with Hrivik’s performances, and said “the more he played, the better he played, so we kept calling his number,” following their win on Saturday. After Sunday’s game, Gernander commented on what Hrivik brings to the table in terms of skill and ability.
“He’s got a little bit of size, he’s got poise and patience with the puck and doesn’t force his plays…his pace is good and his poise is good,” said Gernander.
Hrivik started Saturday’s game on the fourth-line with Andreas Thuresson and Jeff Prough, but was quickly moved the second line with fellow rookie Steve Moses and fellow Quebec-leaguer Audy-Marchessault, who Hrivik said that he is familiar with from the QMJHL.
“There was a good rivalry between Moncton and the Quebec Remparts (Audy-Marchessault’s junior club), he was always a dangerous player...we worked well together and had some opportunities (tonight),” said Hrivik.
On Sunday, the line of Hrivik, Moses and Audy-Marchessault remained intact until the third period, when Wellman was placed on the line and Audy-Marchessault was moved to the top-line. Both Hrivik and Wellman collected four shots in the game, while Moses fired three. The trio worked hard in the third period, and although they were unable to score, they came close multiple times and the coach was happy with what he saw.
“There was some line changing made, but I thought all three of them played well (throughout the game)…we had some good efforts tonight,” said Gernander.
So far the Whale has added forwards Andrew Yogan, Moses and Hrivik; along with defenseman Peter Ceresnak through ATO’s. More players may be joining the Whale this week with the CHL playoffs closing in on round 2.
The 30 winners of the AHL’s IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award were announced today, and the Whale representative was Tessier. This award is given to a player for their outstanding contributions to the local community and charities during the season. The AHL will select one of the 30 winners as the 2011-12 Yanick Dupre’ Memorial Award winner later this season…the Whale’ scoring race remains close, with Newbury ahead of Audy-Marchessault by one point. Newbury has 61 points (24, 37) in 59 games, while Audy-Marchessault has 60 (23, 37) in 70 games…Yogan will receive an MRI this week on his left-ankle. He is expected to miss the remainder of the season…New York Rangers’ forward prospects Christian Thomas and Shane McColgan are expected to join the Whale on ATO’s this week, and goaltender Scott Stajcer may follow…
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