By Brian Ring
Hartford, CT, April 13, 2012 – The Whale were defeated by the Manchester Monarchs, 5-4 in a shootout, Friday night at the XL Center before a crowd of 5,639 in the Whale’s last regular-season home outing. Justin Azevedo scored twice for the Monarchs and Patrick Mullen netted the shootout winner to defeat the Whale in a see-saw battle.
The Whale were beneficiaries of the first pro points from Steve Moses, who scored twice for the Whale, and Christian Thomas, who scored once and added an assist.
“We got some good scoring,” said Whale head coach Ken Gernander. “We probably should tighten it up a bit defensively but we got a point out of it.”
Despite the Whale carrying the offensive flow early in the game, the Monarchs would score twice before the opening period was half over.
Jake Muzzin would score first in unconventional fashion, his shot hitting off the end boards with the ricochet hitting off of the back of goaltender Chad Johnson’s (34 saves) legs and into the net. Robert Czarnik and Andrew Campbell were credited with the assists on the goal at 5:36.
The Monarchs would make it 2-0 7:48 into the frame, as Azevedo stole the puck in the Whale zone, and beat Johnson high to the glove side as he was left all alone in the slot. The goal was Azevedo’s 26th of the season, coming unassisted.
The Whale finished the first period outshooting the Monarchs, 17-6, but were held scoreless during a pair of power-play opportunities, keeping them off the scoreboard.
Moses would strike for the Whale 5:25 into the second period, cutting the Manchester lead to 2-1 with his first professional goal and point against Manchester goaltender Martin Jones (31 saves). Moses finished off a rebound from Casey Wellman, with Wade Redden recording the secondary assist.
Moses would bring Connecticut even 12:46 into the period, tipping a Pavel Valentenko slapshot from the blue line off his pants and past Jones for his second goal of the night. Wellman set up the play, passing to Valentenko at the point from below the left circle for his second point of the game.
The Whale would take a short-lived 3-2 lead with 4:25 to play in the second, as Kris Newbury’s shot beat a screened Jones for his 25th goal of the season, assisted by Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Thomas. The point was the first of Thomas’ pro career in his fourth game with the Whale.
Manchester, however, would answer right back as Azevedo sent the game into the third period tied with his second goal of the night at 19:07.
Azevedo’s shot managed to sneak through Johnson, bouncing off his left skate and in. Longtime franchise foe Trent Hunter and Stefan Legein assisted on the power-play tally.
The back-and-forth struggle would continue into the third period, with Ray Kaunisto pushing a covered puck over the line to give Manchester a 4-3 lead at 3:18. Johnson appeared to have the puck smothered at the post, but Kaunisto pushed until the puck squeezed in.
The Whale would tie the game back up at four at 5:27, as Thomas ripped a shot from the point past Jones for his first professional goal, assisted by Newbury and Audy-Marchessault.
“It’s a weight off my back, getting that first one is always nice,” said Thomas. “But hopefully in the next game or next couple games I can get a couple more.”
That score would hold through the rest of regulation and an amazing 24th trip to overtime for the Whale, as the teams went to the shootout for the first time in the season series.
Audy-Marchessault would get the Whale out to a 1-0 lead, but Marc-Andre Cliché and Mullen would score for the Monarchs to win the shootout, 2-1, and the game, 5-4.
The Whale will be back in action Saturday, when they make their only visit of the season to the Syracuse Crunch (7:30).
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Manchester Monarchs 5 (SO) at Connecticut Whale 4
Friday, April 13, 2012 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Manchester 2 1 1 0 – 5
Connecticut 0 3 1 0 – 4
1st Period-1, Manchester, Muzzin 7 (Czarnik, Campbell), 5:36. 2, Manchester, Azevedo 26 7:48. Penalties-Kozun Mch (cross-checking), 11:32; Hickey Mch (holding the stick), 17:33.
2nd Period-3, Connecticut, Moses 1 (Wellman, Redden), 5:25. 4, Connecticut, Moses 2 (Valentenko, Wellman), 12:46. 5, Connecticut, Newbury 25 (Audy-Marchessault, Thomas), 15:35. 6, Manchester, Azevedo 27 (Hunter, Legein), 19:07 (PP). Penalties-Grant Ct (slashing), 5:45; Campbell Mch (slashing), 16:17; Tessier Ct (high-sticking), 18:23.
3rd Period-7, Manchester, Kaunisto 7 (Meckler, Muzzin), 3:18. 8, Connecticut, Thomas 1 (Newbury, Audy-Marchessault), 5:27. Penalties-Valentenko Ct (boarding), 15:52.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout – Manchester 2 (Azevedo NG, Vey NG, Cliche G, Mullen G), Connecticut 1 (Wellman NG, Newbury NG, Audy-Marchessault G, Thomas NG, Moses NG).
Shots on Goal-Manchester 6-11-18-3-1-39. Connecticut 17-10-6-2-0-35.
Power Play Opportunities-Manchester 1 / 3; Connecticut 0 / 3.
Goalies-Manchester, Jones 17-17-2 (35 shots-31 saves). Connecticut, Johnson 22-18-6 (38 shots-34 saves).
Referees-David Banfield (44).
Linesmen-Matt MacPherson (83), Luke Galvin (2).