Monday, April 11, 2011

McIlrath Makes Connecticut Debut

Bridgeport Sound Tigers 4, Connecticut Whale 3

By Bruce Berlet

HARTFORD, Conn. – With a playoff berth having been secured 24 hours earlier, the Connecticut Whale went with a young lineup against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Saturday night that included the six college and junior players signed to amateur tryout contracts the past two weeks.

The group included defenseman Dylan McIlrath, the New York Rangers’ first-round pick (10th overall) in 2010 who played in his first pro game, along with backup goalie Jason Missiaen and forwards Shayne Wiebe and Andrew Yogan, who worked out with the Whale for several weeks while recovering from an injury. Wings Tommy Grant and Kale Kerbashian played in their sixth and fourth pro games.

The Whale had a different look on all four lines and two of their three defensive pairings as goalie Dov Grumet-Morris, defensemen Wade Redden and Pavel Valentenko and forwards Brodie Dupont, John Mitchell and All-Star Jeremy Williams sat out. Valentenko’s scratch meant the Whale wouldn’t have any player to play all 80 games.

The Sound Tigers had 10 players who had signed ATOs and two more who had professional tryout contracts. It all made for a scrambly game in front of goalies Nathan Lawson and the Whale’s Cam Talbot, who faced several odd-man rushes, including a three-on-none off a turnover that produced Bridgeport’s second goal by Rob Hisey.

Yogan scored his first two goals in his first pro game, but the Sound Tigers made fewer mistakes and won a penalty-filled game 4-3 on goals by Hisey, Tyler McNeely, Jeremy Colliton and West Haven native Joe Pereira before 6,952 at the XL Center.

Whale coach Ken Gernander didn’t like his team’s lack of discipline – each team had eight power plays – but some of the youngsters earned kudos.

“Yogan was pretty good, eh,” Gernander said. “Aside from the two goals, I thought he made some pretty good passes. We’d seen a bit of Kerbashian, and Wiebe had some pretty good energy. Their size isn’t overwhelming, so they’re going to have to get in there and get body position. They’re going to have to use their quickness and agility to get to loose pucks. And I like McIlrath’s game. He has a good package.”
The Sound Tigers (29-39-4-7) took the lead for good 10:58 into the game when McNeely’s pass deflected off the skate of Whale defenseman Stu Bickel and between Talbot’s legs. Just 2:02 later, two Whale players collided along the boards, and Pereira touched the puck to Hisey, who broke in alone to make it 2-0 at 13:00.

Lawson (30 saves) made an excellent stop on Kelsey Tessier’s one-timer off a Ryan Garlock pass with 3:37 left in the period. But the Whale got to 2-1 as Tessier made a nifty pass from behind the net to Yogan, who beat Lawson to the glove side for his first pro goal at 1:54 of the second period. Justin Soryal retrieved the puck as a keepsake for Yogan.

McIlrath and the Sound Tigers’ Alex O’Neil had a spirited fight at 10:32, and then Colliton made it 3-1 off McNeely’s rebound at 12:28.

After the Whale failed on a 5-on-3 power play early in the third period, Pereira, who attended South Kent Prep for two years and then Boston University, took a pass from Brian Day and beat Talbot to the stick side at 9:16 for the winner.

Yogan, who had three goals and one assist in only 10 games with Erie of the Ontario Hockey League after his injury kept him out until mid-March, scored his second of the game on a power play when he redirected Bickel’s shot from the right point into the open side of the net with 7:35 left.

“It felt good to get a couple of goals,” said Yogan, who received several congratulatory calls from his father after the game. “Obviously I would have felt better if we had won the game, but it was nice to get that behind me. You want to get that monkey off your back and get some confidence in the league. It was a physical game, and I’m big (6-foot-3, 203 pounds) and like to use my body. We really wanted to win this one, and if I can’t get excited for this one, you shouldn’t be here.”

On a later power play, the Whale made it 4-3 as Newbury one-timed Blake Parlett’s brilliant cross-slot pass into the right circle past Lawson with 5:52 left.

The Whale continued their frantic late push over the final five minutes and pulled Talbot for a sixth attacker with 1:03 left but couldn’t get the equalizer.

No comments:

Post a Comment