By Wil Goldsholl
The Connecticut Whale went head to head with the Albany Devils for the second time in a week at the XL Center in Hartford on Friday. Despite an extremely unfavorable shot count, the Whale hung around late in to the game, only to fall 4-3 to their surging division rival.
The Whale first responded to the Devils’ trap defense by “leading from the back”, as the expression goes. Mike Vernace, Sam Klassen, Logan Pyett, and Matt Gilroy all took their share of opportunities from the blueline in the early goings of the first period.
It was the starting forwards, however, that put the Whale on the board first. Kelsey Tessier fed the puck along the wall to Micheal Haley behind the net. After a brief scrum Haley laid the puck ahead of the short-side post intended for Tessier. Instead, the puck found its way to Ryan Bourque who, while falling, was able to slip it between the legs of Albany backstop Keith Kinkaid. Bourque’s fifth goal of the year came at 6:50 in the first.
Through the first 15 minutes of the period, the Whale defense kept the Devils’ shooters to the outside, and Albany replied by putting more traffic in front of Cam Talbot, who stopped 28 of the 32 shots he faced. Among those saves was a stop on Joe Whitney as he came in on a breakaway with five to play in the first.
An interference call against Ryan Bourque came at 18:39, and the Whale penalty kill would start the second period for 38 seconds.
Shortly after the penalty expired, Tim Sestito potted his second of the season on a shifty backhand. Mattias Tedenby fed David Wohlberg before Sestito blindly wheeled it towards the net. The shot caught Talbot cheating off the post and Sestito would even it up just 95 seconds into period two.
On a choppy chance in front of the net, the Whale earned their first shot of the period nearly seven minutes in. Brandon Segal went for tripping a minute later, but the penalty kill unit had a message to send. Kris Newbury grabbed the puck from Chad Kolarik near center, broke in to the zone and delayed at the circle. Newbury fed it across and the return pass left him alone to finish on the doorstep just 11 seconds in to the man-down situation.
The Devils replied almost instantly. Tedenby picked the puck up behind the net and rolled to the far side. The backhand low-to-high feed found Eric Gelinas at the point for a one-timer to beat Talbot and tie the game yet again.
Second period scoring continued when Jacob Josefson leg-tripped Shayne Wiebe at 11:48, and Mike Sislo was called for cross checking Christian Thomas retreating 17 seconds later. With the extended 5-on-3 opportunity, the Whale converted quickly. J.T. Miller hit Matt Gilroy with a pass at the point. He led the puck across to the young Christian Thomas whose one-time hammer sailed over the shoulder of Kinkaid for the 3-2 edge.
With just over two and a half to go in the period, Sam Klassen’s cross-ice outlet was intercepted by Bobby Butler. He walked in alone and beat Talbot with a top-shelf laser. Despite the Whale being outshot 17-5 in the second, the Whale and the Devils were knotted at 3-3 going in to the third.
The third period rolled by uneventfully; neither team saw a power play opportunity in the final 20 minutes. The squads exchanged chances, but the shooting on the period was only 8-7 in Connecticut’s favor. Kolarik knocked down a breakout pass and hit Miller with a pass that Kinkaid shut down, but that was as close as the Whale would come in the final stanza.
Josefson and Corbin McPherson would assist on a Harri Pesonen game-winning goal that came late. With 2:19 to play, Pesonen collected the puck and slipped between the defenders. A quick release found its way between the legs of Talbot and Albany had the lead for the first and most important time in the game.
Talbot left the net with 1:26 remaining, but the Devils’ trap proved to be too much for the Whale to generate any last-minute opportunities.
No player on the ice produced more than one goal, but Tedenby and Josefson finished with two assists apiece. Kinkaid made 15 saves on 18 Whale shots on goal.
Connecticut will face the Portland Pirates Saturday night at 7pm in Hartford.
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Albany Devils 4 at Connecticut Whale 3
Friday, December 14, 2012 - XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Albany 0 3 1 - 4
Connecticut 1 2 0 - 3
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Bourque 5 (Haley, Vernace), 6:50. Penalties-Bourque Ct (interference), 18:39.
2nd Period-2, Albany, Sestito 2 (Wohlberg, Tedenby), 1:35. 3, Connecticut, Newbury 8 (Kolarik, Pyett), 8:26 (SH). 4, Albany, Gelinas 1 (Tedenby, Josefson), 8:44 (PP). 5, Connecticut, Thomas 7 (Gilroy, Miller), 12:18 (PP). 6, Albany, Butler 9 17:27. Penalties-Segal Ct (tripping), 8:15; Josefson Alb (tripping), 11:48; Sislo Alb (cross-checking), 12:06; McKelvie Alb (roughing), 14:22.
3rd Period-7, Albany, Pesonen 3 (Josefson, McPherson), 17:41. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Albany 8-17-7-32. Connecticut 5-5-8-18.
Power Play Opportunities-Albany 1 / 2; Connecticut 1 / 3.
Goalies-Albany, Kinkaid 6-5-3 (18 shots-15 saves). Connecticut, Talbot 9-9-0 (32 shots-28 saves).
Referees-Jeff Smith (49), Ryan Murphy (5).
Linesmen-Jim Briggs (83), Kevin Redding (16).