By Brian Ring
Hartford, CT, February 28, 2012 – The Connecticut Whale defeated the Worcester Sharks, 2-1 in a shootout, Tuesday afternoon at the XL Center in Hartford. Connecticut goaltender Chad Johnson made 33 saves through regulation and overtime, and four more in the shootout to help guide the Whale to two points.
Mats Zuccarello picked up the only regulation goal for the Whale, and also scored in the shootout, along with Kris Newbury. Brandon Mashinter had the only goal of the game for the Sharks.
“[Johnson’s] been a very important part of our recent success here,” said Whale head coach Ken Gernander. “He’s been very good for us, very solid and he’s been a big factor in our turnaround in February.”
The Sharks took the first lead of the game at 9:15 of the opening period, when Mashinter redirected a shot and then buried the rebound past Johnson in the waning seconds of the first power-play of the game. Nathan Moon and Mike Moore both assisted on the goal, Mashinter’s 12th of the season.
Zuccarello would tie the game up with just 50 seconds left in the first, as Newbury fed the Whale forward a great pass from the goal line. Zuccarello redirected the feed through the legs of Sharks goaltender Tyson Sexsmith (21 saves) for the equalizer. New acquisition Mike Vernace received the secondary assist on the goal, in his first game with the Whale.
“I thought [Vernace] played well, I thought he did a lot of things for us,” said Gernander about his new defenseman.
Neither team would score in the middle period, although the Whale were outshot by the Sharks, 14-8, in the second. The Whale were also forced to kill three penalties to the Sharks’ one, with Connecticut managing to negate a pair of five-on-three opportunities for the visitors. Johnson continued his recent hot run in net to keep the game tied headed into the third period.
The Sharks would have two more power-play opportunities in the third period, but the Whale penalty-kill would keep Worcester off the board as they went a perfect six-for-six. Johnson and Sexsmith would both be up to the task in the third, sending the two Eastern Conference foes to overtime.
“The best penalty-killer is your goalie, so we got some important saves there and we were able to kill off some penalties,” said Gernander.
The offensive drought would continue through overtime, necessitating a shootout to determine a winner.
Zuccarello, the first shooter in the tiebreaker, scored on Sexsmith to start things out, but Mashinter would tie it against Johnson in the fourth round. Newbury would then score on a backhand move to seal the win for Connecticut (28-18-5-5, 66 pts.), and move them back into a tie for first place in the Northeast Division with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
The Whale are back in action Friday, when they head to Maine to take on the Portland Pirates at the Cumberland County Civic Center (7:00). Connecticut’s next home game is Friday, March 9, a GEICO Connecticut Cup battle with Bridgeport at 7:00.
Tickets to all 2011-12 Whale home games, are on sale now at the Public Power Ticket Office at the XL Center, as well as on-line at www.ctwhale.com and through TicketMaster Charge-by-phone at 1-800-745-3000.
The Whale and the CT Hockey Hall of Fame will partner to hold a CT Hockey Hall of Fame night at the Whale’s home game at the XL Center Saturday, March 10 vs. the Norfolk Admirals. That night will mark the enshrinement of a new class of 2012 inductees into the CT Hockey Hall of Fame, which has adopted eight members from the storied Hartford Whalers Hall of Fame. The new inductees are: Connecticut-bred Hockey Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, ex-Hartford Whalers 56-goal scorer Blaine Stoughton, former Whalers goaltender Mike Liut, former Whalers captain Pat Verbeek, Connecticut Whale/Hartford Wolf Pack franchise icon, long-time captain and current head coach Ken Gernander, three-time Olympic medalist for Team USA and all-time NCAA women’s leading scorer Julie Chu, and one of the founders of the New England Whalers, William E. Barnes. There will be an induction ceremony during the game, which faces off at 7:00 PM on March 10, and fans can take home a special souvenir of the night, as 5,000 Hall of Fame posters will be given away, courtesy of SuperCuts. This will be the first class of inductees since 1990, and further details are available at cthockeyHOF.org.
College students can get discounted tickets to Whale weekday games with the Whale’s “Ditch the Dorms” deal. For Monday through Friday home games, students who show a valid student ID at the Public Power Ticket Office at the XL Center can get $2 off Upper Level tickets and $5 off Lower Level seats.
Save on your tickets, and get the best seats, with a ticket plan for the Whale’s 2011-12 AHL campaign, which are on sale now. For information on season seats, mini plans and great group discounts, visit www.ctwhale.com, or call the CT Whale ticket office at (860) 728-3366 to talk with an account executive today.
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Worcester Sharks 1 at Connecticut Whale 2 (SO) –
Tuesday, February 28, 2012 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Worcester 1 0 0 0 – 1
Connecticut 1 0 0 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Worcester, Mashinter 12 (Moon, Moore), 9:15. 2, Connecticut, Zuccarello 12 (Newbury, Vernace), 19:10. Penalties-Bell Ct (holding), 7:15; Pelech Wor (roughing), 17:32; Audy-Marchessault Ct (slashing), 17:32.
2nd Period- No Scoring. Penalties-Valentenko Ct (boarding), 6:22; Zuccarello Ct (high-sticking), 7:36; Vernace Ct (hooking), 9:11; Sheppard Wor (hooking), 12:12.
3rd Period- No Scoring. Penalties-Newbury Ct (high-sticking), 0:58; Grant Ct (hooking), 8:33.
OT Period- No Scoring. Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout – Worcester 1 (Reid NG, Sheppard NG, Combs NG, Mashinter G, Lucia NG), Connecticut 2 (Zuccarello G, Wellman NG, Bell NG, Audy-Marchessault NG, Newbury G).
Shots on Goal-Worcester 7-14-9-4-0-34. Connecticut 5-8-8-1-1-23.
Power Play Opportunities-Worcester 0 / 6; Connecticut 0 / 1.
Goalies-Worcester, Sexsmith 10-10-6 (22 shots-21 saves). Connecticut, Johnson 17-11-5 (34 shots-33 saves).
Referees-Ryan Hersey (46), Jon McIsaac (39).
Linesmen-Paul Simeon (66), Kevin Redding (16).