The Whale got off to a poor start at home Tuesday night in front of 2,718. The Portland Pirates had scored three times in the first period sending goal tender Cam Talbot to the bench for the start of the second period. That change allowed the back up goalie, Jason Missiaen, to get a chance to keep the Whale in the game. Missiaen did just that, he played 45 minutes and stopped all 26 shots he faced.
The Whale were looking to get back into the game and it was Chris Kreider who stepped up to do it. Chris Kreider has come to life recently on the Whale, in the last three games he has scored four goals. He scored two of those four goals last night, one of them on the power play, something the Rangers sure could use help with. Kreider hasn’t looked this good since he was in the playoffs for the Rangers last April.
Kreider was really gunning for a hat trick and had more than one chance at a natural hat trick; A natural hat trick is scoring the first three goals of the game. Kreider scored the first two goals for the Whale. The first goal looked like a piece of cake. Kreider parked himself in front of the Portland net and waited for a pass from Whale defenseman Logan Pyett. Pyett put a pass right on the blade of Kreider’s stick. All he had to do was angle his stick to deflect the puck into the net passed Portland goalie Chad Johnson, and that’s exactly what happened. Pyett notched his 25th assist giving him a career high 31 points in the AHL.
With about 7 minutes left in the first period Andrew Carroll put a full body check on Pirates center Jordan Martinook. Both players came crashing to the ice, but just as soon as both got up Carroll was jumped by the 6’ 7” 255 pound Slovakian defenseman Boris Valabik. Carroll from Minnesota and is 7 inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter than Valabik. As former Yankee Billy Martin used to say; it’s not the size of the man but the size of the fight in the man. Watch here as Carroll handles the Slovakian Giant like it’s just another fight.
The amount of Whale players who aren’t afraid to mix it up is amazing. The team has completely turned around now that they are scrappy and they definitely have a tougher edge then they did in the first half of the season. Brandon Mashinter and Andrew Carroll are not afraid of anybody and Kris Newbury and Dylan McIlrath aren’t afraid of anything.
The Whale have vastly improved in many key areas. The first 32 games of the season the Whale had a goal against average of 3.34. The last 26 games the Whale had a goal against average of 2.60. The defense of the team has greatly improved and a big part of that is McIlrath. He rejoined the team from injury 27 games ago and has really cemented the Whale defense. Fans at the XL Center hold up signs that say; “Feel The McIlrath” as he tends to drop the gloves often as well.
The Whale have only 18 games left in the season. They still sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. One point behind seventh place Wilkes Barre/Scranton and three points ahead of ninth place Albany. They are going to need to keep ahead and hopefully jump a few teams to make sure they make the playoffs. The Whale have 10 road games and only 8 home games remaining.