October 15, 2012

AHL Journal: P-Bruins, Whale stumble out of the gate

By Jesse Connolly

With multiple matchups against one another, it would’ve been foolish to expect all seven AHL teams in New England to get off to strong starts, but that doesn’t make the fashion in which Providence and Connecticut stumbled out of the gate any less disappointing. 

Chris Kreider and the Whale were winless on opening weekend. (Photo by Chris Rutsch/Connecticut Whale)

The P-Bruins and Whale dropped each of their first two games of the 2012-13 season this past weekend and sit at the bottom of the conference standings as the only 0-2-0-0 teams in the East.

Providence – a team that lacked offensive pop last season – managed to score a total of just three goals in the two setbacks. Winger Jamie Tardif had the lone tally on opening night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Friday, as the B’s fell by a score of 3-1 against the visiting Monarchs.

In their second tilt against Bridgeport, Craig Cunningham and Max Sauve found the back of the net, but that wasn’t enough as Michael Hutchinson allowed three goals on 26 shots and the Sound Tigers buried an empty-netter with three ticks left in the contest.

"The crowd always supports us," P-Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told ESPN Boston on Friday. "It's a crowd here, and we've got to start giving them something to cheer about. There are high expectations for home openers, and our season expectations are high. We didn't meet them tonight, and we'll learn from it." 

The Whale’s weekend tale was quite different from Providence's but yielded the same results.

Connecticut got a trio of goals from Kris Newbury and two tallies from rookie Kyle Jean in their pair of games, which saw them score a total of six goals. In both contests, the Whale jumped out to an early lead but things quickly went south.

After scoring twice in the first period on Friday night against the Sound Tigers to take a 2-0 lead into the room, Jason Missiaen coughed up five goals in the middle frame as Bridgeport roared back to take a commanding 5-2 lead, and went on to win by a score of 6-4.

On Sunday, a power-play strike by Newbury put the Whale up 1-0 at the 12:24 mark of their game against St. John’s. The IceCaps tied things up, but Jean put Connecticut back on top in the second period, only for the lead to evaporate once more. Spencer Machacek buried the game-winner for St. John’s midway through the third period.

“There are things that we can correct,” Newbury told Stamford Plus. “We just need to be a little smarter and stay out of the (penalty) box, and that will give us a better chance to win.”

News and Notes

Andover, Mass., native John McCarthy will wear the 'C' for Worcester. (Getty Images)

- The Worcester Sharks, who named John McCarthy (Andover, Mass.) as their captain before the weekend, went 0-1-0-1 in their first two tilts. Alex Stalock stopped 21-of-24 in a 4-2 loss on opening night against Norfolk. Harry Sateri got the nod Saturday against the Admirals and made 25 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss.

- The Springfield Falcons, Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Manchester Monarchs are all off to 2-0-0-0 starts this season. Martin Jones allowed just two goals on 53 shots to backstop Manchester wins over Providence and Albany. The Sound Tigers rode a four-point weekend from Nino Niederreiter, defeating Providence and Connecticut. Springfield’s pummeled St. John’s and Adirondack by a combined scored of 8-2.

- Springfield’s Cam Atkinson (Greenwich, Conn.) and Connecticut’s Chris Kreider (Boxford, Mass.) -- two young locals with NHL experience -- each had two assists over the weekend.

- Bridgeport’s Travis Hamonic ranks sixth in the league through two games with 12 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-2 defenseman, who also has three assists, got a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Friday against the Whale and a 10-minute misconduct for “abuse of officials” with 4:27 gone in the third period.

- South Windsor, Conn., native Jon DiSalvatore had two points (one goal, one assist) in Hershey’s lone game this weekend, a 4-3 loss to the Syracuse Crunch.

- Paul Carey (Weymouth, Mass.) is off to a hot start with Lake Erie, the AHL affiliate of the Avalanche. The two-time national champion at Boston College has 1-2-3 totals through three games.

- Providence had 10,665 fans on hand for their opening night matchup with Monarchs.

- To read more on the Connecticut Whale, click here, and for more on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, click here.

Player of the Week

The first honor for the 2012-13 season goes to Springfield goaltender Curtis McElhinney. A Portland Pirate one year ago and a veteran of 69 NHL games, the 29-year-old netminder was superb this past weekend for the Falcons.

McElhinney (pictured right) stopped 54-of-56 in the team’s two victories, including a 31-save shutout performance on Sunday against a Phantoms squad loaded with offensive talent.

The Week Ahead

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

Friday, Oct. 19

Providence Bruins @ Manchester Monarchs (7:00)

Worcester Sharks @ Portland Pirates (7:00)

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins @ Springfield Falcons (7:00)

Connecticut Whale @ Norfolk Admirals (7:30)

Saturday, Oct. 20

Portland Pirates @ Manchester Monarchs (7:00)

Providence Bruins @ Springfield Falcons (7:00)

Albany Devils @ Worcester Sharks (7:00)

Bridgeport Sound Tigers @ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (7:05)

Connecticut Whale @ Norfolk Admirals (7:15)

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