The Connecticut Whale debuted tonight in Hartford in a 3-2 Shootout win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. New logo, new name, and brass bonanza blaring from the speakers.
(Editor’s Note: I’m fairly biased towards the Whale at this point for the moment.)
The debate over the change from Wolf Pack to Whale has at times been fierce, but what is true is that over 13,000 people came out to see the first game in new colors. Many of the fans were clad in green and white, either old Hartford Whalers gear, or the new Connecticut Whale designs. Others had the Wolf Pack colors though there were fewer this time around. The crowd was a seat of green and white this time around. The teams took the ice and a rousing cheer went up as Brass Bonanza blared through the arena. Chants of either “Let’s go Whalers” or “Lets go Whale” ,depending on preference, started up as well throughout the evening. The crowd was very into it throughout the night, really getting excited as the plays developed. It seemed to lend credence to the marketing strategy involved in mixing nostalgia with the future.
In goal for the Whale, Chad Johnson, and for the Sound Tigers, Nathan Lawson. Both Goalies would allow two goals in regulation though Lawson faced a mountain of shots compared to his counterpart across the ice. The first period was scoreless though each side was getting their punches in, including when Stu Bickel’s fight with Olivier Labelle ended in Bickel knocking Labelle to the ice to the delight of the fans.
Period 2 started up but lacked any scoring for awhile as well, the Whale earned a 5 on 3 power play when two Sound Tigers were sent to the box close to each other, but were unable to capitalize. However later in the period, Bickel’s shot deflected off of Brodie Dupont scoring the first ever Connecticut Whale goal. This of course triggered Brass Bonanza again and the crowd just went nuts. There really is something to the motif. They would hold the lead after period 2.
Period 3 would get especially crazy with Rhett Rakhshani tying the game up for the Sound Tigers. Oren Eizenman regained the lead for the Whale with his goal, but with just minutes to play Anton Klementyev knocked one over Johnson to tie up the game. The scuffling between the two teams continued heavily, though penalties played no role in the scoring. Prior to the Bridgeport goal, the crowd had erupted into a verse of Sweet Caroline when the song was cut off by play starting. With a tie game after 2, overtime started up, but this ended in a tie as well, pitting the two sides against each other in a shootout.After each side traded misses, Chad Kolarik knocked one past Lawson to put Bridgeport on the defensive. They would miss two more times, but as the 5th shooter, Jeremy Williams iced the game with a goal past Lawson as well, while Johnson allowed no shootout points.
There it was, a win for the new franchise colors, and persona, as well as victory over the only other in-state team.