The Whale were back at the XL Center on Friday night after a weekend road trip. Their short road trip had not fared well. The Whale lost last Saturday night 2-1 in overtime against the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins, and last Sunday the Whale lost 4-0 against the Syracuse Crunch.
Last night the Whale played the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Sound Tigers were in the news after the New York Islanders sent down Rick Dipietro, whom had been playing in the net for them since the 2000-2001 season. Dipietro was last on the Sound Tigers in the 2009-2010 season, He hasn't played more then 30 games in a season since the 2007-2008 season when he posted a 2.82 goals against average over 63 contests.
The Connecticut Whale didn't exactly welcome him back to the AHL last night. They just buried him with pucks in the net. The Whale jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first period and Dipietro was on the bench by the start of the second period. Dipietro gave up five goals on twelve shots. The first two Whale shots hit the back of the net. The Sound Tigers defense after the game said that they had played poorly in front of Dipietro. However, just days ago Dipietro had expressed his disappointment with being sent down to the Sound Tigers. It certainly appeared that Dipietro was not focused on the hockey game that was in front of him. It will be very interesting to see if Dipietro gets the start in Bridgeport against the Whale on Sunday, especially if he plays well against the Phantoms in Bridgeport tonight.
After the 5-0 lead the Whale kept the game out of reach, although they were out shot 38-30. The final score was 7-3. Kris Newbury had a three point night(1G,2A) as well as Christian Thomas(2G,1A). Mike Vernace, Brandon Mashinter, Brandon Segal and even Kris Kreider were on the game sheet with a goal.
The Whale are holding onto that eighth and final playoff spot by three points. They have nine home games remaining and eleven road games left. The tricky part of the schedule for the Whale is going to be the five game road trip to end the season. The Whale play Manchester, Adirondack, Springfield, Albany and Portland all on the road to end the season. They may need to win those road games to keep their playoff spot. The Whale are not a bad road team as they are 12-15 on the road thus far. It is really going to come down to where they stand when that five game road trip starts.
The Global Spectrum MSG marriage is complete. The Whale will remain here for three more seasons. When that is up there are two one year one year extensions available for the Rangers. The Rangers wanted to change the name to either Rangers or Wolf Pack. The deal was just about complete, but for some reason a two week wait followed. The only thing that may have held up the contract was the name of the team. There were several big meetings last week between Global Spectrum and the Rangers and Global and the State. That decision must have changed after receiving many fans complaints. I personally saw dozens of letters from fans asking Global Spectrum, the Capital Region Development Authority, and MSG to keep the Whale name. Many of the letters were very well thought out, sincere and well written. There were several letters from fans who were considering canceling their season tickets if they had to endure another rebrand.
The Rangers may have lost the battle over the name but they still got a great deal. The State really wanted to keep them in the city. The Rangers affiliation fee to Global was 1.4 million dollars. That's almost 400 thousand more than what they charged Whaler Sports and Entertainment and almost three times what AEG, the current manager of the XL Center, paid this year. There is a concern from fans that this will put a serious increase on the price of tickets. Global Spectrum's Senior Vice President, Frank Russo, told the 'Hartford Courant' that he would start marketing the Whale for the upcoming season by next week.
It is very interesting that the deal was not a longer then three years. That could be because there are many leases in the AHL coming due for the 2016-2017 season. The Rangers may be interested in another venue by that time, this way both companies have options available in three years. Some earlier rumors about the agreement had a five year deal being made with a five year option. That would encompass Global Spectrum's time frame on the contract with the XL Center but that didn't happen. The CRDA wanted a team locked up for the XL Center and now that Global Spectrum has done that the State will now solidify Global Spectrum's contract to manage the XL Center and Rentschler Field.