Syracuse, NY - Syracuse Crunch goaltender Iiro Tarkki narrowly outdueled his Connecticut Whale counterpart, Cam Talbot, Saturday night at the Onondaga County War Memorial at Oncenter, in the Whale’s last game of the regular season, a 2-1 Crunch shootout win.
Tarkki stopped 44 Whale shots in regulation and overtime, and then went four-for-four in the shootout. Talbot stopped 37 out of 38 shots in regulation and overtime, but was beaten on two out of three shootout bids.
The game was meaningless in the standings for Connecticut, which was already locked into sixth place in the Eastern Conference, but it was vital to the Crunch, who entered the game one point out of the last playoff spot in the East.
Riley Holzapfel scored a first-period goal for the Crunch and also scored in the shootout, and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault had a second-period power-play tally for the Whale.
“I thought our guys put in a real good effort,” Whale head coach Ken Gernander said. “That’s got to be among one of our season highs as far as shots on goal, and I think it came in large part due to how hard we worked tonight.”
The Whale came out firing in the first period, outshooting the Crunch, 19-8, but it was Syracuse that got the only goal. That came at 12:56, when Holzapfel got his 16th of the season, on a rebound of a Kyle Palmieri shot. Talbot got his pads on Palmieri’s drive from off right wing, but the rebound went right to Holzapfel on the left side of the slot, and he had most of the net to shoot at.
The Whale finally solved Tarkki at 11:48 of the second period, as Crunch scoring leader Patrick Maroon was unable to convert on a shorthanded chance and Kris Newbury and Audy-Marchessault broke in on a two-on-one. Newbury sent a pass to Audy-Marchessault to the left of the goalmouth, and Audy-Marchessault appeared to miss partially on his shot, but he put it perfectly over Tarkki’s stick-side arm for Audy-Marchessault’s 24th goal of the season.
That was the balance of the scoring, as both goaltenders stood tall in an evenly-played third period, and Talbot stopped seven shots in an overtime in which the Whale were outshot 7-1.
The Crunch found the range in the shootout, however, with both Maroon and Holzapfel scoring, and Tarkki denied Casey Wellman, Newbury, Audy-Marchessault and Mike Vernace.
“I thought he had a real strong night tonight,” Gernander said of Talbot, “some real key saves for us. It’s a shame how it ends in the shootout type of situation, but I thought his 65 minutes of actual play was real good.”
The Whale, who finished the regular season 36-26-7-7 for 86 points, begin their 14th trip to the Calder Cup playoffs in 15 years of existence this Thursday night, April 19, when Connecticut travels to Bridgeport for Game One of their best-of-five Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Sound Tigers. Faceoff is 7:00 PM (“The Rock” 106.9 WCCC-FM, www.ctwhale.com). The Whale’s first home game in that series is Game Three, Sunday, April 22, with faceoff at 5:00 at the XL Center. If a Game Four is necessary in the series, it will also be at the XL Center, Wednesday, April 25 at 7:00.
Tickets to Whale home games can be purchased at the Public Power Ticket Office at the XL Center, as well as on-line at www.ctwhale.com and through TicketMaster Charge-by-phone at 1-800-745-3000. Playoff ticket packages are also available that include tickets to all possible home playoff games. To speak to a Whale account executive about a playoff ticket package, call (860) 728-3366. More information is available at www.ctwhale.com.
Connecticut Whale 1 at Syracuse Crunch 2 (SO)
Saturday, April 14, 2012 - Onondaga County War Memorial at Oncenter
Connecticut 0 1 0 0 - 1
Syracuse 1 0 0 0 - 2
1st Period-1, Syracuse, Holzapfel 16 (Palmieri, Maroon), 12:56. Penalties-Tessier Ct (roughing), 6:23; Holzapfel Syr (roughing), 6:23; Etem Syr (tripping), 9:25; Parlett Ct (elbowing), 16:50; Jacques Syr (roughing), 16:50.