It sounds strange but the Connecticut Whale played game five of their Eastern Conference semi-final series against the Norfolk Admirals in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The Whale had to play the home game there because the circus was in town at the XL Center and there was no way to set up the circus and play a hockey home playoff game on Wednesday. It was possible that the game would have a descent crowd because Bridgeport is pretty close to New York, where many Rangers fans live.
However that was not the case the attendance was announced at 1,154 but in reality there were probably under that total. Whale fans were few and far between and they also had to contend with two groups of fans. There were plenty of Norfolk Admiral fans in the stands but what you may have not expected was that there were plenty of bitter Bridgeport Sound Tiger fans who just came to get their shots in after their team was man handled in three games by the Whale in the previous series.
Norfolk even pulled a fast one when starting goalie Dustin Tokarski was benched and coach Jon Cooper of the Admirals put Jaroslav Janus in net. Janus recorded the playoff shutout while making 22 saves.
Norfolk held a 1-0 lead after the first period and the Whale was not too far out of reach but by the end of two periods of play the game was 2-0 and with around 6 minutes left Norfolk pretty much sealed the deal when they took a 3-0 lead. The score was 4-0 by the end of the third period.
The changing of the venue in the middle of the series definitely appeared to have an effect on the Whale. With the game in Bridgeport you can say that the Whale had to play an extra game on the road in this series. There was no fire or passion like you saw in game four at the XL Center.
In game four the Whale came out swinging and pressured Tokarski and it got them a well deserved 4-1 win at the XL Center Sunday night. Game four was one of the best games I have seen the Whale play. They stepped it up and played Norfolk head on and they did it at both ends of the ice.
However game 5 in Bridgeport the Whale looked spent and lost as if they hadn't played with each other in weeks. Almost the entire second period was played in the Whale's end. Jaroslav Janus hardly ever had to make back to back saves in net for Norfolk. The pressure that the Whale put on Norfolk's net was minimal and very ineffective. It appeared that the Admirals were in the middle of their record setting 29 game winning streak, and the Whale played as if they were in the middle of their 11 game winless streak from back in January.
The referees also handled the game a little differently, they had been calling the games pretty tight, the Whale had 61 penalty minutes in game two for example but in game five the referees apparently swallowed their whistles. In game five alone the two teams combined only amassed 32 minutes in penalties.
With the Whale now being down in the series three games to two it will take two monumental road wins at the Scope Center in Norfolk to move on. The Whale haven't beaten Norfolk during the regular season and in their last three trips to Norfolk they have only won once out of six games.
The Whale will get their last chance to even the series tonight in their first elimination game of the playoffs. You can listen to the game on WCCC 106.9 tonight at 7P.M.