By Bruce Berlet
When Chad Kolarik was asked how the Connecticut Whale had been able to make such a dramatic turnaround the past month, you could almost hear the surfer sounds of America’s band, the Beach Boys, reverberating through the XL Center.
“Catch the Wave, man,” Kolarik said, a wry smile filling his face.
Yes, Catch the Wave and you’re sitting on top of the world.
As coach Ken Gernander pointed out, the Whale is “a long way from home” in a quest for the franchise’s 13th playoff berth in its 14th AHL season. But Whale players felt on top of their hockey world Friday night after Kolarik converted a 2-on-1 with Wade Redden with 29.5 seconds left in overtime to beat the Worcester Sharks, 3-2.
The players seemingly surfed across the XL Center ice to mob Kolarik as “Brass Bonanza” blared after the skillful right wing patiently picked his spot and beat Alex Stalock high to the glove side for his seventh goal and first winner in 15 games since being acquired for former Wolf Pack captain Dane Byers on Nov. 11.
Kolarik’s 11th goal of the season enabled the Whale (14-11-2-4) to extend their winning streak to six games, the franchise’s longest since the Wolf Pack won seven in a row from Feb. 20 to March 4, 2009. The Whale also has a 10-game point streak (8-0-0-2) and is 8-0-0-1 since being rebranded from the Wolf Pack on Nov. 27 and making Catch the Wave the marketing theme.
The catchy phrase is part of a new website, and several players implore fans to hop aboard the wave as their faces flash across the video board before every home game. The only thing missing seemed to be the Brian, Dennis and Wilson brothers, cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine strumming guitars, beating the drum and belting out lyrics with California girls dancing in the background. Or maybe Carrie Underwood, who beat Taylor Swift in a most popular singer contest among Whale players.
The Wolf Pack didn’t become the Whale until three weeks ago because of protracted negotiations between Whalers Sports and Entertainment and AEG and the New York Rangers, delaying Wolf Pack blue from becoming Whale(rs) green again. The new blue uniforms are scheduled to be shipped Dec. 22 and arrive Dec. 27, two days before the Whale’s next home game against the Portland Pirates, coached by former Whalers captain Kevin Dineen.
But by then the Whale could be on a 13-game point streak, so why bother ditching the lucky green?
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