Connecticut Whale 3, Worcester Sharks 2 (SO)
By Brian Ring
Worcester, MA, October 29, 2011 – The Connecticut Whale defeated the Worcester Sharks, 3-2 in a shootout, Saturday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA. Sean Avery provided the shootout winner for Connecticut, who won their fifth straight game. The Whale has earned at least a point in the standings in eight straight contests (6-0-0-2).
The first two periods of game saw no scoring by either team, but a back-and-forth third period would give way to an exciting overtime and shootout.
“They got a big power-play goal to take the lead and then we answered back with one of our own,” said Whale head coach Ken Gernander. “We had pretty good success in the shootout to get the extra point.”
The first period saw little offense, with the Whale outshooting the Sharks by a 9-4 margin. Connecticut was afforded a pair of power-plays within the first half of the frame, but they could not capitalize against Worcester goaltender Tyson Sexsmith (27 saves). The Sharks had one power-play in the period on an Avery unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but the Whale defense did not allow many chances on netminder Chad Johnson (26 saves).
Neither team would score in the second either, despite Connecticut piling up 22 shots through two periods to Worcester’s ten. Sexsmith continued to get quite a bit of action at his end of the ice, but his efforts managed to keep both teams scoreless entering what would be a wild third period.
Andreas Thuresson put the Whale on the board first at 5:01 of the third, wristing a shot past a screened Sexsmith from the top of the left circle. Thuresson’s third goal of the season came unassisted.
The Sharks tied it 12:40 into the period, as a broken-up pass turned into a chance for Cam McIntyre, who managed to put the puck past Johnson. Tommy Wingels and Brandon Mashinter both assisted on the equalizer.
Worcester took a temporary 2-1 lead just moments later on the power-play, with Stu Bickel off for cross-checking. Matt Irwin’s third goal of the season beat Johnson from the left point high to his glove side for the Sharks’ first lead of the night.
It was short-lived, as Andre Deveaux scored his fourth goal of the year, on the power-play, to knot the game up for Connecticut. Deveaux planted himself in front of Sexsmith, fighting off the Worcester defense to put a loose puck past the Sharks’ goaltender. Brendan Bell and Wade Redden assisted on Deveaux’s goal, for Bell it was his fourth helper in four games in a Whale uniform.
Neither team could find the back of the net the rest of the way and overtime proved scoreless, so the two teams headed to the shootout to break their 2-2 tie.
The shootout was tied at two goals each after five rounds, with Mats Zuccarello and Thuresson both scoring for the Whale. Wingels tied it for the Sharks in a do-or-die situation, forcing Avery to make his shootout debut for Connecticut. Avery’s nifty move gave the Whale a lead, and Johnson’s subsequent stop on Mashinter gave Connecticut the 3-2 win.
“Early on in the season we came out to good starts and didn’t sustain it, allowed teams to come back on us. As of late, we’ve had a little bit more killer instinct and been able to close games out,” said Gernander. “Tonight, we had a pretty good opportunity to close the game out, we gave them the lead late in the game, but with a good power-play goal we got ourselves back into the game, and like I said, get the extra point.”
The Whale will be back in action Wednesday morning, when they take on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard in a special school-day game (11:00 AM). Connecticut will finally return home on Friday, when the Whale hosts the brand-new affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets, the St. John’s IceCaps (7:00).