November 5, 2012

AHL Journal: Falcons have field day with Whale

By Jesse Connolly

Chris Kreider (left) battes with Cam Atkinson for position before a faceoff in a game between the Whale and Falcons on Sunday. (Photo by Chris Rutsch/Connecticut Whale)

Heading into Sunday’s clash against Springfield, just about everything was looking up for the Connecticut Whale.

Winners of four straight, the Whale came into the game with a chance to climb within one point of the division-leading Falcons, having gone above .500 for the first time this season.

More importantly, Cam Talbot had returned and brought stability between the pipes. The Whale were winless in their first four games of the season not due to a lack of offense, but a complete inability to stop the opposition from scoring at will, as they coughed up 20 goals and stumbled out of the gate.

On Sunday, however, Connecticut looked a lot more like the team that began the year 0-3-1 than the one that rebounded to right the ship.

The all-but-impenetrable Talbot was chased midway through the first period after allowing three goals on 11 shots, as the Falcons jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. Former Rangers prospect and Whale blueliner Tim Erixon had a hand in every tally, opening the scoring before assisting on Springfield’s next two strikes.

The Whale had every reason to pull Talbot and hope for a change in momentum, but his replacement fared even worse. Jason Missiaen stopped the bleeding temporarily, but Springfield tacked on three more goals in the second period to take an insurmountable 6-0 lead.

Goals late in the second and early in the third from Tommy Grant and Matt Gilroy made it a 6-2 game, but Springfield’s scoring onslaught soon resumed. The Falcons fired four more pucks past Missiaen before the final horn, one of which came from Greenwich, Conn., native Cam Atkinson, as Springfield hit the double-digit mark, crushing the Whale by a score of 10-2.

Just like that, the good times came to a screech halt for Connecticut, who now hold the distinction of being the worst defensive club in the AHL. They’ve given up 37 goals in nine games, in a league where 10 of the other 29 teams have already played ten or more tilts.

Gilroy, who has three years of NHL experience and signed on with the Whale a week before their first regular season game, was a team-worst minus-5 on the day. Missiaen, a first-year pro, now owns a 5.38 goals-against average and .844 save percentage in his first four appearances.

The Whale and Falcons will meet again on Friday night at Mass Mutual Center in Springfield.

News and Notes

- You can bank on Niklas Svedberg getting the majority of starts for Providence going forward. On Friday, Michael Hutchinson fell to 0-4-0 on the year after allowing three goals on just 20 shots in a loss to Worcester. Svedberg improved to 3-1-0 on Sunday with an 18-save shutout against St. Johns and now owns an impressive .927 save percentage – leaps and bounds better than Hutchinson’s .838.

- The Sharks had a three-in-three weekend and continued their effort to overcome a slow start to the season by notching two victories. Alex Stalock (pictured right) was in net for both wins and stopped 59-of-61 (.967) shots, including all 27 he faced in a 1-0 win over the Monarchs on Sunday.

- Portland defeated St. John’s by a score of 3-0 in the Pirates’ lone game this weekend, thanks to a 31-save performance from Chad Johnson and a two-point game (one goal, one assist) from rookie Chris Brown. With the victory, Portland improved to 4-3-1-0 on the year.

- Despite a 38-save shutout – did anyone not earn a shutout this weekend? – effort from Martin Jones, the Monarchs still wound up on the losing end on Sunday, falling 1-0 to Worcester. Jones, who still owns a superb .939 save percentage on the year, allowed two tallies in a 3-0 setback against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday night. Manchester has now lost two in a row for the first time this season.

- Bridgeport won one of their two tilts against Pennsylvania-based foes this past weekend. On Saturday against Hershey, Brock Nelson scored a power-play goal with 3:38 to go that proved to be the game-winner. The following night against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Paul Thompson (Derry, N.H.) scored a natural hat trick in the second period for the Penguins, leading them to a 5-3 win over the Sound Tigers. Brian Gibbons (Braintree, Mass.) picked up his second goal of the year for the Pens.

Player of the Week

Tim Erixon, Springfield Falcons

With four points in Sunday’s 10-2 win over the Whale, Erixon would’ve obviously merited consideration for our Player of the Week honor.

Add in the fact that he was plus-6 in the victory (an AHL season-high thus far) and stuck it to the organization that shipped him off to Columbus as part of the deal that brought Rick Nash to Broadway, and there was simply no chance the gifted rearguard’s weekend wouldn’t garner this recognition.

The Week Ahead

Here’s how the schedule looks for the Seaside Seven:

Wednesday, Nov. 7

Norfolk Admirals @ Bridgeport Sound Tigers (11:00 a.m.)

Friday, Nov. 9

Bridgeport Sound Tigers @ Manchester Monarchs (7:00 p.m.)

Connecticut Whale @ Springfield Falcons (7:00 p.m.)

Albany Devils @ Providence Bruins (7:05 p.m.)

Portland Pirates @ Worcester Sharks (7:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Nov. 10

Providence Bruins @ Manchester Monarchs (7:00 p.m.)

Connecticut Whale at Worcester Sharks (7:00 p.m.)

Portland Pirates at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (7:05 p.m.)

Sunday, Nov. 11

Connecticut Whale @ Bridgeport Sound Tigers (3:00 p.m.)

Worcester Sharks @ Providence Bruins (3:05 p.m.)

Portland Pirates @ Hershey Bears (5:00 p.m.)

Norfolk Admirals @ Springfield Falcons (5:00 p.m.)

Jesse Connolly can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.