“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
As cliché as that phrase might sound, and it’s been used too often, it truly is the best phrase to sum up the entire New York Rangers organization 2009-2010 campaigns in both Hartford and with the parent club.
Each of their season’s came to a close on Sunday as neither club made the post season despite both clubs playing solid hockey at the end of the season. The Wolf Pack won on the road in Bridgeport in their final game of the season with a 2-1 victory, while the New York Rangers suffered a shootout loss on the road to Philadelphia by the same score.
But even winning eight of the team’s last eleven games (8-3-0-0) was of no consolation for Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander. “It was a good effort tonight; a good win. But I guess it was pretty bitter sweet.”
Forward Dane Byers said, “We showed up tonight and it was nice to get the win before a long summer.” But ultimately the emotional reality hasn’t been lost on the Pack’s first year team Captain. “We’re still disappointed that we didn’t make the playoffs. I think if we’d have gotten in we could have made some noise. We were playing our best hockey as of late other than that little hiccup against Worcester.” He said. “So the boys can be happy the way the season ended. A lot of the guys learned a lot of things. It’s a long season and you can’t let up in any games. Every game means something and you can’t take any of the m for granted.”
Dealing with the sting of defeat won’t be easy for Gernander who has never known what it’s like not to be playing in the playoffs even back to his junior days in Mocton. “Who knows how long you can take it with you or what you’re learn from it or gleam from it. But I guess time will tell.”
The Pack and Sound Tigers traded goals in the first period.
As it has all season long, the Pack surrendered the games first tally when Jeremy Reich’s backhander hit the glove of starter Chad Johnson (30 saves, 24-18-2) and flipped in behind him. It was Reich’s 12th of the season.
Hartford got it back just 59 seconds after Bridgeport starter Nathan Lawson (23 saves, 16-16-2) took a Delay-of-Game call for swatting a puck out of the air and into the net behind him.
At 11:57 Sean Bentivoglio lost the puck to Corey Potter in the high slot. Potter flipped it behind him to Ilkka Heikkinen who blasted the puck. Byers then redirected the puck for his 25th of the season.
Heikkinen has previously publically stated that he will not return to Hartford or the Rangers next season.
It was a pretty lifeless second frame, but things certainly picked up in the third.
Nothing much was happening action wise for either squad until Jon Gleed put a his stick into Paul Crowder and went off to the box for a hooking call at 3:05 and the Pack power play almost gave up it’s 13th shorthander of the season when Sean Bentivoglio broke in on Johnson. The Calgary native rose to the occasion and snuffed out the threat.
At 6:01, Ryan Garlock would get the game winner when he beat Jake Gannon back to the front of the Sound Tigers net.
“(Chris McKelvie) was taking the puck wide and he kind of neck-and-neck with their defenseman so I just figured that the puck was going to make it to the net. So I went to the front looking for a rebound or something like that.” Garlock said. “As I was stopping the puck ended up bouncing off my skate and felt and saw it go in. So it was just a matter of getting to the net hard and hoping for a good thing to happen there.”
“I don’t think we have (Garlock) the most glamorous assignments. But he worked hard,” Gernander said in assessing the sixth year pro. “He’s a pretty determined kid. He had some offensive success at the end of the season there with the departure of a few other guys.”
Gernander has been impressed with McKelvie. “He’s a guy who came in on at the end of the season there and had opportunity to get him into the games and he worked hard and made the most of it.”
But Bridgeport isn’t heading into the off season because they quit and lay down when they trail. They’re a group of hard workers and when Brodie Dupont took an interference call just 15 seconds later, the Sound Tigers looked for the equalizer in their second power play. Tyler Haskins and Bentivoglio had golden opportunities with an empty net in front but both missed the net.
Johnson was strong in keeping the puck out as the shots began to pour in.
“(Johnson) probably got a little more comfortable the more playing time; a little more stable environment,” Gernander said. “I think as far as team defense everything goes hand in hand. The more confidence the goalie has the more confident the people are in front of him to make plays. It’s a team game; a team thing. I think one enhances the others.”
Jared Nightingale challenged the penalty killers to rise to the occasion one last time when he got sent off into seclusion for an interference call with just 4:55 remaining in regulation. They looked strong and killed it off despite being the team’s biggest Achilles Heel all season long.
“I would have liked to have seen a little more of (the effort on the penalty kill) through the course of the season,” Gernander stated. “It was a problem a problem all year long. We tried addressing it. Who knows what it was?”
The Pack not only got the win in the game, but also won the season series which clinched for them another GEICO Connecticut Cup. Bridgeport had eleven points on a 5-4-1-0 record while Hartford had twenty posting a 5-3-0-2 record against their intrastate and franchise rival.
Gernander summed it all up. “There’s probably a lot of (positives) and some of it you may be able to see until the start of next season or some time. But at some point in time through the course of next season we say, ‘Boy that guy has come a long way from where he was last year. For some of the younger guys especially it seems to sink in the off season for whatever reason they have some time to decompress a little bit and allows some of these messages to sink in and they’re probably better prepared and have a fuller understanding of what it means to be a professional and you see the that amount of progress throughout the course of an offseason. We’ll let the guys play next season for a bit and see how much they’ve improved.”
Brian Ring has the Hartford story at Hartfordwolfpack.com while the extremely talented Michael Fornabaio has the Bridgeport view from the locker room at CTPost.com.
GAME SUMMARY and OFFICIAL SCORERS SHEET
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* Well at least they didn’t finish last in penalty killing. The Wolf Pack finish 28th of 29 but on the bright side, led the AHL with 18 shorthanded scores. On the other side of the ledger, after leading in the PP for the better part of the first half of the season, the Pack finish 14th overall wit ha 17.4% effectiveness rate.They tied for 10th in surrendering shorthanded goals with 12.
* In terms of overall ranking, the Pack finish a disappointing 20th out of 29 with 83 points (36-33-6-5). They also did manage to finish strong and were over .500 for the thirteenth straight season.
* Attendance wise, the sales staff hit their numbers for this season and while they were only down two people per game from 4,190 to 4,188 this season, the team continued to be headed south attendance wise. But, given how lousy the economy was this season, it’s still quite the accomplishment to even be that close. The league average this season was 5,100 compared to 5,115 last year. Hershey led the league in attendance, as usual, with 9,520.
Byers © – Newbury – Ambϋhl
Soryal – Dupont – Crowder
Brashear – Garlock – Grachev
Heikkinen – Baldwin
Williams – Potter
Brouillette – Nightingale
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
P.A. Parenteau – Recall NY Rangers
Dale Weise – Recall NY Rangers
Anders Eriksson – Recall NY Rangers
Matt Zaba – Healthy Scratch
Derek Couture – Upper Body injury – Season over
Devin DiDiomete – Lower Body injury – Season over
Bobby Sanguinetti – Lower Body injury – Season over
Steven Valiquette – Hand Injury – Season over
Michael Sauer – Shoulder – Season over
Mike Hoffman – Shoulder – Season over
Brent Henley – Knee – Season over
1. HFD – R. Garlock
2. BRI – J. Reich
3. HFD – C. Johnson
Jamie Koharski (84)
Luke Galvin (2)
David Spannaus (8)
Just because the season is over does not mean that we’re over. Training camp is in September, but we’ll be keeping you up to date with any and all information that we come up with all throughout the summer.
Season Tickets can be purchased for the 2010 – 2011 season. For Ticket information call (860) 548-2000.
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Hartford Wolf Pack 2 At Bridgeport Sound Tigers 1 – Status: Final
Apr 11, 2010 – Arena at Harbor Yard
Hartford 1 0 1 – 2
Bridgeport 1 0 0 – 1
1st Period-1, Bridgeport, Reich 12 (Joensuu), 1:34. 2, Hartford, Byers 25 (Heikkinen, Potter), 11:57 (pp). Penalties-Lawson Bri (delay of game), 10:58.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Brashear Hfd (hooking), 12:30; Flood Bri (holding), 17:06.
3rd Period-3, Hartford, Garlock 7 (McKelvie, Nightingale), 6:01. Penalties-Gleed Bri (hooking), 3:05; Dupont Hfd (interference), 6:16; Nightingale Hfd (interference), 14:05.
Shots on Goal-Hartford 9-11-5-25. Bridgeport 11-12-8-31.
Power Play Opportunities-Hartford 1 of 3; Bridgeport 0 of 3.
Goalies-Hartford, Johnson 24-18-2 (31 shots-30 saves). Bridgeport, Lawson 16-16-3 (25 shots-23 saves).
MEANWHILE IN THE CHARLOTTE PLAYOFFS:
CHARLOTTE DOWNS TOLEDO IN OVERTIME TO WIN SERIES
Tkaczuk Scores OT Winner To Edge Walleye 4-3, Advance To Next Round
The Charlotte Checkers scored a third-period goal to force overtime and then made good in the extra frame as they edged the Toledo Walleye, 4-3, to win the series 3-1 and advance to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2006-07.
Daniel Tkaczuk potted two goals, including the game winner while David Marshall chipped in with a goal and two assists. Tkaczuk now has all three game-winning tallies for the Checkers in these playoffs. Charlotte was playing without the services of captain Michel Leveille who sat out with an injury.
The Checkers opened the scoring just three minutes into the game on a goal by Matt Scheke. Marshall picked up the puck on the right wing wall and fed a pass between the defenseman and goaltender. Schepke took the puck off his skates and tucked it home for the early 1-0 lead.
Toledo evened the score on the power play midway through the period when a Derek Nesbitt point shot was redirected in front and snuck past Checkers goaltender Ryan Munce.
Charlotte would take its second lead of the game 2:13 later while on a 5-on-3 power play. Aaron Slattengren, parked on the right wing wall, fed a pass to the point to Mike Bartlett who one-timed it on net. Marshall picked up the rebound and found the back of the net from a bad angle to take a 2-1 lead.
With less than two minutes to play in the period, Matt Stefanishion made it a 3-1 game when he streaked in from the blueline, grabbed a pass from Slattengren and fired a shot into the top corner past Walleye netminder Jordan Pearce.
Toledo then scored its first of three straight goals with 2.5 seconds to play in the first frame when Scooter Smith redirected a shot past Munce in front of the net.
Munce and Toledo forward Adam Keefe engaged in an altercation at the buzzer and the Checkers were somehow handed an extra roughing penalty to start the second period.
On the ensuing power play, Chris Robertson dished the puck back to Simon Danis-Pepin who one-timed a slap shot into the back of the net.
Minutes later, Toledo forward Derek Nesbitt broke in alone on the Charlotte net and Munce made a beautiful pad save to keep it a 3-3 game.
With four minutes to play in the second period, Walleye defenseman J.C. Sawyer grabbed the puck at the blueline and pump-faked a shot to drop a Checkers defender to the ice. He then carried it around and let go a wrist shot that beat Munce between the legs to make a 4-3 Toledo lead.
Early in the third period, Daniel Tkaczuk found a rebound from a Trevor Hendrikx point shot but missed a wide open net. Tkaczuk then made good, seconds later, when he stuffed home another rebound, this time off a shot from the slot by Slattengren, to tie the game at 4-4.
Charlotte had many scoring chances throughout the rest of the third period but Pearce turned everything aside and the two teams headed for sudden-death overtime.
Early in the overtime period, the Checkers were assessed a penalty and Toledo went to work on the power play. The Walleye had several good scoring chances, however Munce shut the door to keep it a tie game.
Minutes later, the Checkers went to work on a power play of their own. Steve Ward made a pass across the blueline to Marshall who took a shot toward the net. Tkaczuk was parked at the side of the net and tipped it home for the game-winning and series-clinching goal.
The Checkers will now host the winner of the South Carolina/Cincinnati series on Friday.
Charlotte (3-1) will host the winner of the South Carolina/Cincinnati series on Friday at 7 p.m.. Ticket information can be obtained by calling 704-342-4-ICE or visiting www.gocheckers.com/playoffs.
GAME SUMMARY and OFFICIAL SCORERS SHEET
* The Checkers advance to the conference semifinals for the first time in three seasons
* Charlotte clinched its first division title and #1 conference seed in franchise history heading into the playoffs
* The Checkers had the four largest crowds in the ECHL this season
* Charlotte is 10-1 in its last 11 home games
* Ryan Munce led the ECHL in save percentage (.913), was third in wins (26) and was named ECHL Goaltender of the Month for March
* Andrew Carroll led the Checkers this season with 30 goals, including six game winners.
Doig – Taylor – Slattengren
Rowe – Tkaczuk – Stefanishion
Roche – Carroll – Bartlett
Marshall – Schepke
Urquhart – Schaeffer
Ward – Reynolds
Hendrikx – (Bartlett)
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Mike Berube – Healthy Scratch
Jean-Philipp Chabot – Healthy Scratch
Brock Bradford – Healthy Scratch
Michel Leveille – Undisclosed Injury
Tysen Dowzak – Recall in Hartford
Matt Ford – Recall in Lake Erie
Julien Brouillette – Recall in Hartford
Ethan Graham – Recall in Texas
Chris Snavely – Wrist Surgery – Season over
Trevor Glass – Back Surgery – Season over
Codey Burki – Undisclosed – Season over
Chris Chappell – Shoulder Surgery – Season over
1. CHR – D. Tkaczuk
2. CHR – D. Marshall
3. CHR – A. Slattengren
Nick Krebsbach (8)
Ray King (39)
Terry Wicklum (98)
The second round of the Kelly Cup playoffs begin on Friday, April 16th against the winner of game five between Cincinnati and South Carolina. Jason Shaya will have all the action with the irrepressible Chris Snavely alongside at 7pm.
For live in-game coverage from your cell phone or computer, we’ll have the action for you at www.twitter.com/howlingstoday.
You can always buy tickets for any Checkers game home or away at Ticketmaster.com.
Should you want to watch this very exciting team from the comfort of your computer chair, all Checkers games are available on B2Live.
Toledo Walleye 4 At Charlotte Checkers 5 (OT) – Status: Final OT
Apr 11, 2010 – Time Warner Cable Arena
Toledo 2 2 0 0 – 4
Charlotte 3 0 1 1 – 5
1st Period-1, Charlotte, Schepke 1 (Carroll, Marshall), 3:10. 2, Toledo, Nesbitt 3 (Danis-Pepin, Piche), 12:35 (pp). 3, Charlotte, Marshall 2 (Slattengren, Bartlett), 14:48 (pp). 4, Charlotte, Stefanishion 1 (Taylor, Slattengren), 18:34. 5, Toledo, Smith 1 (Hedden), 19:58. Penalties-Reynolds Chr (cross-checking), 5:59; Slattengren Chr (high-sticking), 12:09; Romano Tol (hooking), 13:39; Piche Tol (boarding), 14:09; Urquhart Chr (interference), 15:48; Keefe Tol (unsportsmanlike conduct, roughing), 20:00; Munce Chr (roughing), 20:00; Urquhart Chr (roughing, roughing), 20:00.
2nd Period-6, Toledo, Danis-Pepin 1 (Robertson, Nesbitt), 0:45 (pp). 7, Toledo, Sawyer 2 (Charlebois, Robertson), 16:14. Penalties-Ward Chr (roughing), 4:51; Sawyer Tol (slashing ), 5:59; Tanguay Tol (interference), 13:47.
3rd Period-8, Charlotte, Tkaczuk 3 (Doig, Slattengren), 1:42. Penalties-No Penalties
OT Period-9, Charlotte, Tkaczuk 4 (Ward, Marshall), 8:10 (pp). Penalties-Roche Chr (roughing), 4:18; Piche Tol (tripping), 7:43; Roche Chr (unsportsmanlike conduct), 8:10.
Shots on Goal-Toledo 12-12-6-5-35. Charlotte 8-7-11-5-31.
Power Play Opportunities-Toledo 2 of 6; Charlotte 2 of 5.
Goalies-Toledo, Pearce 1-2-1-0 (31 shots-26 saves). Charlotte, Munce 3-1-0-0 (35 shots-31 saves).