By Bruce Berlet
CROMWELL – Winning has a way of curing a lot of ills, as the Connecticut Whale has discovered the past three weeks.
After a 1-9-2-1 slide, the Whale is on a 6-1-0-2 run that has enabled them to escape the Atlantic Division cellar and make life easier for coach Ken Gernander. Winning three one-goal games instead of losing 10 in the early going also helps the psyche. Even the skating sprints at the end of practice don’t seem so bad these days.
“Guys obviously have a little better feeling about themselves as opposed to when things weren’t going our way, but we’re by no means at the finish line,” Gernander said.
Why the turnaround?
“We’re pretty young on defense, so it’s just getting games and getting experience,” said defenseman Jared Nightingale, a fourth-year pro. “I’m a believer that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and we’ve learned from those early struggles. You want to win every game, which isn’t reality, but those one-goal losses build character, and I think our team has the right mindset.
“We’re a battling team, and I don’t think other teams want to play us because we’ve been through a little more adversity. It’s making us a much tighter and strong group, but it doesn’t stop there. We’ve got lots more ahead of us.”
Rookies Ryan McDonagh and Tomas Kundratek have made marked progress while helped along by Nightingale and veterans Wade Redden and Stu Bickel, one of several strong additions during the resurgence. Rookie Jyri Niemi has been serviceable when not a healthy scratch, and trading disgruntled Nigel Williams for Bickel on Nov. 23 was a classic case of addition by subtraction.
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