You may have heard about the fan games that will be going in Hartford and Springfield. Fan teams from both Hartford and Springfield will be traveling up and down interstate 91. Last Sunday the Whale fan team took the ice to play the Falcons fan team. It was a great event for the fans and the player’s friends and family that attended.
It’s not every day that fans get a moment to step on to the ice where 36 years of professional hockey players have played. The ice in Hartford’s XL Center has been cut up by an uncountable amount of NHL, AHL, WHA superstars. Ever heard of Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Mark Messier and last but certainly not least Ron Francis. This was the same ice that Dineen blew past Larry Robinson to beat Patrick Roy in the Adams Division Semi Finals. This was the same place that the Hartford Wolf Pack beat the Providence Bruins in game 7 to move on to the Calder Cup Finals. They would win against Rochester and bring Hartford its first league championship. The New England Whalers won the WHA Championship in Boston but they did play a WHA Final in Hartford losing to the Winnipeg Jets. This was the same place that Gordie Howe, Marty Howe and Mark Howe played together in the World Hockey League. Its not the house the Ruth built but maybe it should be called the house that Hartford hockey fans built.
With that small look at the history of the building no wonder there was no shortage of fan team players for either Springfield or Hartford. The game was attended by about 200 friends and family of the players and it was open to the public as well with a Connecticut Whale ticket. This was the first of seven games that the Connecticut Whale fan team will play. Below is a list of games if you are interested in seeing how the Connecticut Whale fan team plays the rest of the way.
Game 2: Mass Mutual Center, Springfield, Saturday December 3, 4:30pm
Game 3: XL Center, Hartford, Sunday December 4, 12:00PM (BNG)
Game 4: XL Center, Hartford, Saturday January 7, 4:00PM
Game 5: Mass Mutual Center, Springfield, Sunday January 8, 12:30PM
Game 6: Mass Mutual Center, Springfield, Friday February 10, 5:00PM
Game 7: XL Center, Hartford, Saturday March 17, 4:00PM
The Falcon fan team jumped out to an early 3 goal lead and never relinquished it. The final score was 10-6 as the Falcon fan team took game one. The first two periods were difficult for the Whale fans as they had some trouble with play in their defensive zone. The game had back and forth scoring and both teams goalies had to stop multiple breakaways. Not to mention the amount of penalties as there were 5-3 and 4-3 advantages for both teams. The rhythm really improved for the Whale fan team as they tightened up their defensive zone and held the Springfield fan team in check. The game was actually closer than the score would show. Both teams had many good skaters and the crowd really enjoyed the game. There was always good end to end action. One thing is certain as these games advance on through the season the play of both teams will only improve and the game quality and fan enjoyment will benefit from it. The idea of the fan game is new to the AHL this year and it is something that has brought interest from other teams and the AHL. The first game sets the tone for the series of fan games going forward and that means more exciting fan games to come both in Springfield and in Hartford.
The Connecticut Whale played 3 games in one weekend. The Manchester Monarch’s played the Whale Friday in the XL. The Whale played the Falcons in Springfield on Saturday and they played Springfield at home in the XL on Sunday after the fan game.
After blanking the Monarch’s 5-0 the Whale fought hard on Saturday night and Mats Zuccarello goal late in the game with under five minutes left in the third period led to the eventual win for the Whale. Cam Talbot continued his tally of saves this season stopping 33 of 34 shots to earn the number one star of the game. Zuccarello was the third star.
Just less than 20 hours later the two teams would meet again in the XL Center. With Chad Johnson in net for the Whale, they went on to a commanding 4-1 lead and kept the Falcons scoreless until late in the third period. Blake Parlett scored his first goal of the season a power play goal. Andreas Thuresson scored his second of the season. Jonathen Audy Marchessault had a goal and two assists and was the first star of the game. Tommy Grant got his first goal and assist of the season to be the game’s second star and Chad Johnson who made 27 out of 28 saves was the games third star.
The Whale have quickly pushed their record to 4-1-0-2. There are currently tied for first place. They sit atop the Atlantic Division with the surprising Adirondack Phantoms, both with ten points apiece. The new rivalries are beginning to take shape and the Whale is playing more like a pod of Killer Whales.
The Whale have lost only one game in regulation, but they have earned a point in 6 out of 7 contests. Their great offensive work in addition to the outstanding goalkeeping have kept the Whale in just about every game they have played.
If you were at the game on Sunday you may have noticed the fight between Stu Bickel and former Wolf Pack Captain Dane Byers. Byers had requested a trade out of Hartford last year. The fight had the appearance of being over something that happened previously in the game and it must have made Byers mad as he got a ten minute misconduct penalty to accompany his five minutes for fighting. The Wolf Pack/Whale has not had a Captain since last year and Coach Gernander has not announced a captain. A popular choice among fans is Alternate Captain Wade Redden. Wade will most likely not be called up to the Rangers because of financial reasons. He is a solid defenseman who is loaded with experience. Shouldn’t he be named Captain soon?