The Connecticut Whale concluded its final three-game weekend of the 2011-12 season with games against the Manchester Monarchs, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears. The Whale triumphed over Manchester on Friday and Hershey on Sunday, but was shutout by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the second of the three-games. Despite the loss to the Penguins, the Whale still clinched a playoff berth due to an Adirondack Phantoms to the Rochester Americans on Sunday.
On Friday, the weekend began with a 2-1 overtime win at home against Manchester. Goals were scored in the first period by Whale’ rookie Ryan Bourque (6) and Monarchs’ rookie Linden Vey (18), and the overtime winner was provided by Casey Wellman (23) at 1:16 of the extra frame. Chad Johnson played in goal for the Whale, stopping 32 shots while earning his 22nd win of the season.
Saturday, the Whale allowed a first period goal to Penguins’ rookie Simon Despres (5), and two early second period goals to Bryan Lerg (26) at :49 and Geoff Walker (18) at 5:18 while on the power-play, as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton won, 3-0. Scott Munroe was the Penguin’ netminder, and he made 27 saves in the win. It was Munroe’s third shutout against the Whale this season. Johnson played in goal for the Whale, and allowed three goals on 27 shots.
Then on Sunday, the Whale, led by goaltender Cam Talbot, shutout one of the leagues’ best offenses, 1-0. The Bears fired 24 shots at Talbot, but the 24-year-old stopped all of them and earned his fourth shutout and 14th win of the season. Defenseman Pavel Valentenko provided the Whale’ goal at 7:59 of period 2. It was his fifth of the year.
The win on Sunday, combined with the Adirondack loss, clinched a 2012 AHL Calder Cup Playoff berth for the sixth-place Whale, but there is still plenty of work to be done. The Whale plays three more times this week before finishing its regular season, and they can still climb the standings.
This leads me into part 2…
On Wednesday, the Whale travels to Portland, Maine, to take on the Pirates at 6:30pm (ET). Then on Friday, the Whale hosts the Monarchs for a 7pm battle, which I will be covering live from the XL Center in Hartford beginning with pregame warm-ups. On Saturday, the Whale concludes its 76 game regular season against the Syracuse Crunch (7:30pm).
The Whale can collect a total of 90 points this season, if they can successfully win each game this week. It will be tough to accomplish, but the Whale is still in the hunt for the Northeast Division title; just three points behind the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Whale can also catch the Bears for fifth in the Eastern Conference, but they must win each game and hope that Hershey loses at least two of its last three contests.
In order to win its division, the Whale must either win each of its final three games and the Sound Tigers loss two of their last three tilts, or the Whale must win two of the three games and the Sound Tigers lose all three of their remaining games. Regardless of who wins the division, the Whale and Sound Tigers will most likely face-off in the first-round of the playoffs anyway.
New York Rangers’ prospects Christian Thomas and Shane McColgan both made their pro debuts this weekend. On Saturday, Thomas played on a line with Marek Hrivik and Casey Wellman, while McColgan played with Bourque and Andreas Thuresson.
On Sunday, Thomas was moved to the top-line with Kris Newbury and Hrivik, while McColgan remained with his line mates.
Thomas recorded one shot and was an even-rating in both games, and McColgan was a minus-1. Both rookies will likely play at least two more times this week and possibly in the playoffs. We might see defenseman Peter Ceresnak debut at some point this week, and of course there is the possibility that Chris Kreider signs an Amateur Tryout (ATO) agreement with the Whale after his NCAA season ended on Saturday.
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