By Brian Ring
Hartford, CT, December 31, 2011 – The Connecticut Whale defeated the Springfield Falcons, 5-2, Saturday night at the XL Center in a New Years’ Eve match-up. Francois Bouchard had three assists for Connecticut, Kris Newbury scored twice and Pavel Valentenko had the game-winner and an assist for the Whale.
The win over the Falcons improved Connecticut to a perfect 5-0-0-0 record against Springfield this season.
“I thought we did a lot of good things,” said Whale head coach Ken Gernander. “But you’ve got to continually get better as the season goes on.”
The Whale got on the board first, as Newbury tipped a Tim Erixon shot from the point past Springfield goaltender Manny Legace (29 saves). The goal gave Newbury a Whale season-high seven game point-scoring streak, over which he has gathered 15 points (4-11-15).
Tomas Kubalik tied the game for Springfield just 1:20 later, beating Whale goaltender Cam Talbot (23 saves) on a breakaway. Kubalik split the Whale defenders on the blue line before heading in for his seventh goal of the season, assisted by Andrew Joudrey and Ryan Russell.
The Falcons took the lead at the 16:00 mark of the first, as Maksim Mayorov and Dane Byers combined for a nifty passing play and a power-play goal. Byers fed Mayorov across the slot in front of Talbot, who promptly sent a return pass to the former Wolf Pack captain for an easy put-in. The goal was Byers’ eighth of the year, and was also assisted by Brett Lebda.
Andreas Thuresson would open the scoring in the second period with his second goal in as many games, wristing a rebound of a Kelsey Tessier shot past Legace to knot the game at two apiece. Thuresson’s goal at 1:06 of the second was also assisted by Bouchard.
Pavel Valentenko gave the Whale a 3-2 lead with the eventual game-winner, as Connecticut’s power-play broke through for the first of two goals on the night. Valentenko’s slap shot from the blue line went through Legace for his fourth of the season. The play was set up by Brendan Bell and Bouchard, who recorded his second assist of the game.
The Whale extended the lead to 4-2 at 4:33 of the third, as Newbury banked a puck off of the skates of Legace and in for his second goal of the night. Valentenko’s shot had hit off the end boards and was recovered by Newbury behind the cage, and Newbury had time to carefully place his shot.
Bell would push the lead to three goals at 6:11, as the Whale again came through on the power-play. Bell’s wrist shot found its way over the glove of Legace, with Bouchard tallying his third assist of the night. Erixon also assisted on the goal, his second helper of the game.
“Hopefully this gets [Bouchard] over the hump,” said Gernander. “He can make a real push and have a good second half.”
The Whale are back in action to start the New Year Monday afternoon, as they take on the Portland Pirates in Maine for a rare 1:00 PM start. The Whale’s next home game is a rematch with the Falcons Saturday, January 7 at 7:00.
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Springfield Falcons 2 at Connecticut Whale 5
Saturday, December 31, 2011 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Springfield 2 0 0 – 2
Connecticut 1 2 2 – 5
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Newbury 11 (Erixon), 7:28. 2, Springfield, Kubalik 7 (Joudrey, Russell), 8:48. 3, Springfield, Byers 8 (Mayorov, Lebda), 16:00 (PP). Penalties-Klassen Ct (hooking), 14:08; Newbury Ct (hooking), 16:46.
2nd Period-4, Connecticut, Thuresson 9 (Tessier, Bouchard), 1:06. 5, Connecticut, Valentenko 4 (Bell, Bouchard), 12:42 (PP). Penalties-Audy-Marchessault Ct (tripping), 5:15; Bell Ct (holding), 7:09; Russell Spr (holding), 11:43; Prough Ct (hooking), 15:13.
3rd Period-6, Connecticut, Newbury 12 (Valentenko, Parlett), 4:33. 7, Connecticut, Bell 6 (Bouchard, Erixon), 6:11 (PP). Penalties-Nightingale Ct (tripping), 1:19; Cullity Spr (roughing), 4:23; Thuresson Ct (roughing), 4:23; Giroux Spr (hooking), 5:14; Byers Spr (roughing, roughing), 8:39; Tessier Ct (roughing), 8:39; Newbury Ct (holding), 13:35; Calvert Spr (tripping), 15:14.
Shots on Goal-Springfield 9-8-8-25. Connecticut 10-13-11-34.
Power Play Opportunities-Springfield 1 / 7; Connecticut 2 / 4.
Goalies-Springfield, Legace 7-11-1 (34 shots-29 saves). Connecticut, Talbot 9-6-0 (25 shots-23 saves).
Referees-Dan Dreger (51).
Linesmen-Luke Galvin (2), Marty Demers (79).