Grachev Scores First Hat Trick
Russian foward scores first pro hat trick and recalled by New York Rangers after the game.
Grachev Nets 1st Pro HatT rick in Win
By Gerry Cantlon
SPRINGFIELD, MA. –Russian Evgeny Grachev scored his first pro at trick in a 5-1 road victory for the Connecticut Whale over the Springfield Falcons on Saturday night before 6,232 at the MassMutual Center.
Grachev the Great (as he is known by the fans sign at home games) put the Whale ahead to stay with two goals in 29 second span in a first period off a wrist shot to the top corner over Swedish rookie goalie Gustav Wesslau on the powerplay at 14:10.
He then swept in off the right wing past defenseman Jonathan Sigalet and Wesslau and baged the puck in the open net for a 2-0 Whale lead
At 19:11 of the third he showed a tenacity that hasn’t been seen racing to a loose puck and drilling his third of the game and 12th of season past Wesslau at 19:11 of the hird.
“The hat trick was nice, but I want to thank my teammates who shared the moment with me and for sure my linemates (Kennedy and All-Star Jeremy Williams),” said Grachev, who has 11 of his 12 goals and five of his six assists since returning from the Rangers on Nov. 8. “Good teams find a way to come back after a tough night, and we did tonight.” And good for Chad. He really came back after a tough night. He’s a pro and knows how to handle stuff. … The last few weeks here, I’ve played better and scored some goals.” Said Grachev who tied a team high with a three game goal scoring streak.
He was recalled to the Rangers because of an injury suffered by winger Brandon Prust and is scheduled to play Monday in Washington Capitals and Russian superstar Alexander Ovechkin.
Grachev and his teammates got a lot of help from goalie Canadian Chad Johnson, who was pulled after allowing three goals on six shots in the loss to Hamilton, denied Chris D’Alvise’s semi-breakaway and rebound at 45 seconds into the contest after allowing two goals on the first two shots Friday night.
“Things like (Friday) night happens, there are going to be games like that, and I can’t worry about, just come out and battle and help the team win games, which is what I wanted to do tonight,” said Johnson, named the game’s No. 3 star. “I just played like (Friday night’s) game didn’t happen and played for today.
“I didn’t worry about what I did positive or negative from the previous day. It’s worrying about preparing for the next game, and that’s kind of what my focus was tonight. It’s important to get that first save. (Friday) night a guy came down, shot through some traffic and beat me, and they kind of had momentum off that. We knew we had to have a good first period, and that definitely meant me having good period, too, and making saves when I had to. There were some bouncing pucks, but you just have to follow through and be smooth and crisp. We got the two points, which is most important.” remarked Johnson who had 35 saves watched his team improve their record (22-17-2-5) and they dropped the Springfield Falcons to (19-20-1-3) and have now lost five of their last six games.
The Whale then allowed only one shot on back-to-back Falcons power plays, but Johnson made an alert save with 8:04 left in the period on a screen shot by Kyle Wilson, reassigned to Springfield by the parent Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.
Chris McKelvie, recalled from Greenville (ECHL) on Thursday, nearly gave the Whale a 3-0 lead at 3:48 of the second period, but Wesslau slid across to deny his backhander.
The Whale took a three-goal lead at 10:48 of the second period off some greatr cycling by the line of DiDiomete, Ryan Garlock and Bretton Cameron, who signed to a PTO agreement earlier in the day from the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. The strong forechecking led to DiDiomete banging in the rebound of Cameron’s shot from 25 feet in the slot at 10:48.
The Falcons got only one shot in the opening 16:23 of the second period, but it was a wraparound goal by Wilson, who had raced down the left wing and got a step on Whale defenseman Jared Nightingale who had 10 shots on goal for the night..
Johnson kept the Whale ahead with a right pad stop on Wilson off a pass from Tom Sestito with 3:10 left in the period. Wesslau, tried to keep the Falcons in the game with 17.7 seconds to go as he robbed a wide-open Kennedy from 15 feet in the slot off a brilliant behind-the-back pass from Grachev.
Johnson kept the Falcons off the scorebaord making bang-bang saves on Sestito’s shot from the right circle and Wilson’s rebound at 1:28. Johnson then stopped Wilson out of the right corner at 4:29 and D’Alvise off the left wing on a 2-on-1 at 5:06.
DiDiomete got his first two-goal game into an empty net with 1:13 left avoiding a scrap when defensmean John Moore had run him a few seconds earlier.
Head coach Ken Gernander could smile after this effort.
“Everyone recognized who had the tough nights (Friday) night, and the good thing to see was the guys in the room and on the bench acknowledge one another for their ability to come back or the desire to improve upon (Friday) night, which are good signs from team perspective. I thought there were a lot of good bounce back efforts by a number of people, starting with Chad, who made the big stops early and again in the third when it was 3-1.
“I didn’t show them any film, just addressed one or two individual plays that had a recurring theme. Chad made some good saves, the defense broke up some really good opportunities with plays net-front and active sticks, and I don’t think we allowed as many opportunities via special teams, turnovers, little things like that. Everything was better tonight. And the message is no different (Saturday night) than (Friday) night. There are opportunities for guys for an increase in responsibility and role. The onus is on the guys to take advantage of it.”
NOTES: Joining Grachev to New York is defenseman Michael DelZotto because Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi was hurt in the game in Carolina. Coming back will be winger Dale Weise...Falcons unveiled new owner Charles Pompea and is expected to keep the team in the city. The teams arena lease and affiliation deal with Columbus were extended a year in the announcement prior to Christmas of Popea's purchase of the team.
Story added on 25th January 2011 at 22:28 GMT
Story submitted by: Gerry Cantlon.