Friday, January 4, 2013

Beached 1/4

Earlier this week, Adirondack Phantoms coach Terry Murray said there weren't that many games in 2012 where he ripped his players after a bad loss -- the ones where they didn't compete, focus or do nearly enough to skate away with two points at the end of the day.

Friday was probably one of those games, as they were shut out by the team with the worst defense in the American Hockey League. Cam Talbot made 25 saves to lead the Connecticut Whale, which had allowed an AHL-high 3.34 goals per game, to a 3-0 victory over the Phantoms at XL Center.

Adirondack didn't even generate that many scoring chances throughout the night. At one point early at the start of the third period, I unofficially had Connecticut with 15 scoring chances to Adirondack's seven. The Phantoms then fired a grand total of five shots on goal in the final 20 minutes of play.

That wasn't enough to erase the 2-0 lead Connecticut had taken on goals by Brandon Segal and Chad Kolarik. Then, with a little more than six minutes to go, Whale winger Tommy Grant buried the rebound of Blake Parlett's drive from the right point to put the Whale up 3-0. That's your ballgame.

Talbot was the No. 1 star, the 10th time an opposing goalie has done that in Adirondack's 19 losses.

Rookie Cal Heeter made 30 saves, but inexplicably fell to 4-10-1 on the season and 1-7-1 in his past nine appearances. Can't pin this one on him, though. In fact, on that first goal, he lost his stick while moving from post to post and none of the defensemen even attempted to provide him with their twig.

Segal collected a blocked shot in the slot, turned and fired it past Heeter for all the offense the Whale needed 4:12 into the first period. The Phantoms have now scored two or fewer goals in six of Heeter's past nine appearances. Heeter was Adirondack's best player tonight by a wide margin, but his teammates have been giving him less run support than Miami gave Josh Johnson last season.

Collectively, Adirondack has 77 goals in 32 games. Only one Eastern Conference team has fewer. EDIT: Now that the Western Conference slate is done, you can say only two AHL teams have fewer.

Not coincidentally, the Phantoms have now lost four in a row to fall to 13-17-1-1.

Tonight, they went Wellwood-Couturier-Ford, McGinn-Schenn-Rinaldo, Zolnierczyk-Noebels-Akeson, Brown-Bordson-Testwuide. Matt Konan and Erik Gustafsson sat with injuries, joining Ben Holmstrom (knee-season), Garrett Roe (upper-body) and Marc-Andre Bourdon (concussion).

Recently called-up Ian Slater and Blake Kessel also were scratched and the Phantoms mainly used five defensemen. They rotated Zack FitzGerald in for a few shifts until he charged Ryan Bourque in the third and got thrown out of the game. We'll see if the league office has anything to say about that.

Springfield got three assists from Tim Erixon. They beat Bridgeport 5-4 in the only other game in the Northeast Division. Shane Harper scored a power play goal for Trenton to force overtime, but former Phantoms forward Luke Pither set up Chris Barton's game-winner as Wheeling prevailed 3-2.

They're back at it at 7 p.m. tomorrow when they host this same Whale at the Civic Center.

Until next time,


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