By Wil Goldsholl
Hartford, CT, December 12, 2012 – The Connecticut Whale hadn’t lost three straight games in regulation on the season, and they kept it that way Wednesday night at the XL Center in Hartford with a 2-1 win over the Worcester Sharks, in which they outshot their Atlantic Division opponents 38-25. Marek Hrivik assisted goals from Chad Kolarik and J.T. Miller to snap a two-game Whale skid.
Early in the first period, Worcester, the San Jose Sharks’ top affiliate, could not seem to clear the puck out of their own end for long stretches of time. Even when they did manage an effective break-in, Connecticut quickly turned it around. Chris Kreider blocked Matt Tennyson’s shot from the point in the first few minutes and broke in alone on Sharks backstop Harri Sateri. His snap shot was denied, but it would set the bar for the first 20 minutes. The Whale had a 9-3 lead in the shot count at the midway mark of the first period.
Kelsey Tessier got held up by Matt Pelech breaking in to the zone at 10:54 and Micheal Haley went straight after Pelech, earning his 11th major of the year for fighting in addition to a roughing minor. The Whale killed that penalty and then received a power play of their own when Christian Thomas drew a hooking minor against blueliner Sean Acolatse. Fast puck movement and perimeter setup helped in breaking down the middle for chances. Ninety-five seconds in the offensive zone demonstrated that the Kolarik-Hrivik-Miller line would be running on all cylinders.
With two and a half to play, Kyle Jean came close on a Blake Parlett feed to the back door. A chance from the point soon after changed directions three or more times on the way to hitting Sateri. The first period would end scoreless; the Whale carrying a 13-6 shot advantage.
Cam Talbot, who made 25 saves on the night, earned four of them in the first 90 seconds of the second period as a Parlett penalty rolled over from the last minute of the first.
The teams traded penalties and scoring chances in the middle portion of the second period but still neither team could find the twine.
Finally, Worcester broke the deadlock with 98 seconds left in the period. James Livingston took a feed from Acolatse at the bench side of the neutral zone and walked in. Seeing Talbot less than perfectly square, snuck a wrister under the glove hand.
The Whale nearly replied a minute later when Tessier received a brilliant outlet pass up the gut. He was hooked on the way in and still got a shot off. Sateri made the save and, sliding backwards, appeared to be completely in the net. The play went for review and was called no goal. Travis Oleksuk was assessed his second minor of the night, this time for hooking at 19:28 of the second.
The third period started with an abbreviated Whale power play, as the second had started for the Sharks.
Mike Brennan came up with two big shot blocks on the PK to start the period; he stayed on for the duration of the kill but undoubtedly needed some ice packs after the game.
Kolarik tallied his team-leading ninth goal of the year to get Connecticut on the board when he received a feed from the point to the half-boards. Kolarik curled the circle and let a wrist shot go. Sateri got a piece of it but the shot forced its way under his stick side arm. Miller and Hrivik assisted. The goal came 1:23 in to the third period and the game was tied at one.
A few quiet minutes went by before Miller struck with one of his own. The breakout, delivered from Parlett, then Hrivik, led Miller in to the zone where he hammered a slapshot from the left circle, once again under the arm of Worcester’s Finnish goalkeeper.
Sateri made numerous timely saves in the later portions of the third period to keep his team alive. A late power play came on a Kris Newbury roughing penalty and Sateri got out of the net with 70 seconds to go, but the Atlantic Division-leading Worcester squad could not get a puck past Talbot again. Sateri finished with 36 saves.
Worcester falls to 12-9-1-2, while the Whale stay afloat in the Northeast with an 11-11-2-0 record overall. Connecticut will host the Albany Devils and the Portland Pirates on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
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Worcester Sharks 1 at Connecticut Whale 2
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Worcester 0 1 0 – 1
Connecticut 0 0 2 – 2
1st Period- No Scoring. Penalties-Pelech Wor (fighting), 10:54; Haley Ct (roughing, fighting), 10:54; Acolatse Wor (hooking), 14:46; Parlett Ct (tripping), 19:27.
2nd Period-1, Worcester, Livingston 1 (Acolatse), 18:22. Penalties-Oleksuk Wor (tripping), 3:44; Miller Ct (hooking), 8:27; Segal Ct (cross-checking), 14:47; Oleksuk Wor (hooking), 19:28.
3rd Period-2, Connecticut, Kolarik 9 (Miller, Hrivik), 1:23 (PP). 3, Connecticut, Miller 5 (Hrivik, Parlett), 6:09. Penalties-Pyett Ct (cross-checking), 8:45; Sheppard Wor (roughing), 12:48; Parlett Ct (roughing), 12:48; Newbury Ct (roughing), 15:31.
Shots on Goal-Worcester 6-14-6-26. Connecticut 13-11-14-38.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 0 / 6; Connecticut 1 / 3.
Goalies-Worcester, Sateri 4-5-1 (38 shots-36 saves). Connecticut, Talbot 9-8-0 (26 shots-25 saves).
Referees-Terry Koharski (10), Jon McIsaac (45).
Linesmen-Luke Galvin (2), Paul Simeon (66).