The fourth game in five nights of which the last three straight were all overtime affairs. How about injuries to two of the team’s top defenseman? What about having their replacements rushed up from Charlotte of the ECHL and one of them included a rookie making his AHL debut? Here’s one you might have heard, the team’s best overall forward and best defenseman both out of the lineup on NHL recall. Each one of those would be legitimate excuses for a mixed bag performance that a coach looking for an alibi could call upon without challenge. However, Hartford Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander isn’t that kind of coach. “We got six points (in the last four games) with overtimes and shootouts and you want to keep getting points.” He said. “I thought we played pretty well this week.”
After losing an emotional game in overtime less 24 hours earlier, the Pack worked hard to put themselves in a position to win. Despite starting off slowly, the Pack turned that around and the effort paid off. Over the first 21:41 of the contest the Pack built a two-goal lead. Bridgeport head coach Jack Capuano wasn’t worried. “Even though we were losing the game, I liked what I saw,” he said in his post game comments to reporters. “Systems-wise, what I saw, the way we were moving the puck, we were doing a lot of good things.”
The Packs first came as Andres Ambϋhl, who has greatly improved his game of late, gave the Pack a 1-0 lead with a tally at 9:17 of the first period. Following up his own shot that Bridgeport netminder Scott Munroe (29 saves, 7-5-1) had denied, Devin DiDiomete retrieved the puck in the corner and made a smashingly great feed to Ambϋhl just inside the slot on the left side. The assist was the first point for DiDiomete in his fourth AHL game since returning from a broken arm sustained in training camp.
“This was his best week of hockey since he’s come over and I hope that’s a sign of things to come,” Gernander said of Ambϋhl. “That’s where he’s set the bar for now but he continues to raise it and push. He’s shown marked improvement in the last week and become pretty effective.”
The Pack controlled the play in the first period outshooting the Tigers 13-7. The Tigers best scoring chance of the period came at 14:37. On a break in play, Trevor Smith got ahead of Brodie Dupont going up the slot. Ex-Pack captain, Greg Moore feathered a beautiful lead pass through traffic and Matt Zaba, (39 saves, 1-1-1) making his first start in five games (Nov 19th vs. Wilkes-Barre) made a great play to repel the attack and the Wolf Pack led 1-0 at the first intermission.
Realizing that fatigue could play a factor later, and it did, the Pack came out of the gates to start the second period looking to build on their lead against their hosts. At 1:41, Michael Sauer picked up his first point in seven games when his shot from the right point hit Paul Crowder in front of the net and got past Munroe. Crowder has goals in back-to-back games and four in his last six contests.
But with the two goal lead, Bridgeport raised the level of their play and pressed their visitors hard with good scoring chances. “We’re pretty fortunate that Zabs has fresh legs and made some big saves. I thought he played very well.” Gernander said.
Despite the yeoman effort between the pipes there was nothing he could do on the Sound Tigers first tally. James Sixsmith’s harassment of ECHL call-up Jared Nightingale led to a turnover behind the Pack net. Once with the puck, Sixsmith looked up to find left wing Trevor Smith had beaten Derek Couture and Ryan Garlock coming back up the slot and fed his teammate with a perfect pass that Smith put high over Zaba at 13:38.
The two teams came out of the second intermission and the Pack clearly looked tired. The Tigers had control of the puck in the Pack zone for what seemed like forever. The Tigers were able to make a full line change without leaving the Pack zone. When Brodie Dupont finally got control of the puck it seemed like they would be able to make a change, but he whiffed slightly on his clearing attempt and Smith picked it up and fed Dustin Kohn. The Tigers defenseman carried the puck around the Pack zone like Marques Haynes of the Harlem Globetrotters dribbling through the Washington Generals. Dupont did his best to try and rid the Edmonton native of the puck but he just didn’t have the legs to keep up. Kohn found Andy MacDonald, just back in the AHL from an NHL recall with the Islanders, and blasted a shot from the right point and beat Zaba to the glove side for his second of the season at 1:24.
The game stayed tied through the rest of the period and through overtime as both teams were tired, but clearly the Pack’s legs were gone. “I thought there were times tonight where we could have shot the puck more, not necessarily always to score but to rather than to force a play into coverage, to put it at the net and to hopefully get a rebound opportunity or something like that just to create more pressure.” Gernander said.
In the shootout, the Pack sent out Dale Weise who’s backhanded shot was denied by Munroe. Zaba then stopped Smith with a try for the five-hole. Dane Byers was up next for the Pack, but his try went for naught. Then Moore had a chance to do some damage to his ex-mates and did when he came up the ice slowly and then wristed a hard shot from the left side over Zaba’s shoulder for the 1-0 lead. Paul Crowder was dispensed by Munroe before Greg Mauldin’s shot was as close as you can get without scoring as his high shot rang of the crossbar behind Zaba. The Pack needed a score and the AHL’s leader in that department didn’t fail them as Corey Locke’s fake got Munroe down and then the Toronto native lifted it over him off the backhand. Justin DiBenedetto then rang his shot off the crossbar also and the Pack had a chance to give themselves the lead. But Munroe stopped Ambϋhl with an impressive dive back to the puck that robbed the young German of a score. When Zaba stopped MacDonald’s backhanded bid the shootout would head to extra rounds.
Jordan Owens had the Pack’s first stab at it and put the puck right in the center of Munroe’s chest. That left it to Matt Martin with a chance to win it for the home team. Martin came in with speed and moved the puck and then blasted a wrister from in tight low to the blocker side beating Zaba for the win.
“I thought for both teams that played four games in five nights that was probably one of the best games of the year that I watched from back behind the bench.” Capuano said. “It was exciting to watch. Both teams played well, they were missing players but the guys who stepped in for them did a great job. Tonight though was a really great game for us though. Our puck management was real good. It was a good physical game.” He added, “The way (both teams) played, both teams deserved a point.”
Bob Crawford one again has all the bases covered, not just with great announcing but with a solid look at the game at Hartfordwolfpack.com. Mike Fornabaio brilliantly covers the game from the Bridgeport perspective in The Connecticut Post for the view from inside the Bridgeport locker room.
* Scouts aplenty were in the building for this one. From the Rangers, AGM & Wolf PAck GM, Jim Schoenfeld, Adam Graves, Anders Hedberg were all in the press box. Scouts from the Columbus Blue Jackets were in teh building as was John Ferguson with the San Jose Sharks.
* Four of the top twenty scorers in the AHL are all on recall. Two of them are Wolf Pack, P.A. Parenteau (Who’s not coming back) and Bobby Sanguinetti (Who is). The others are Ryan Keller (Ottawa) and ex-Pack/Ranger Alexandre Giroux (Washington)
* Corey Locke still sits atop the AHL in scoring with 33 points (12g, 21a)…Dale Weise is getting closer and closer to cracking the Top 20 for the first time in his career. He’s currently in 26th place with 19 points (8g, 11a). Just one more point and he’ll be in the Top 20. Weise leads the AHL in shorthanded goals with three. Evgeny Grachev is currently tenth in scoring amongst rookies with 15 points (6g. 9a)
* Another blanked night for the Pack power play and they still are somehow on top of the AHL. They are still sitting at 23.6% but Grand Rapids is right there at 23.4%
* Conversely the Penalty Killing just keeps getting stronger moving up now to 17th at 82.3% Hershey is still tops at 94.7%.
* Despite not playing particularly well the past 4 games, the Pack did manage to pick up six points.
* This was the Pack’s first los when leading after one period, 7-0-0-1 and their second when leading after two, 11-1-0-1
* When outshot by their opponent, the team record is 7-2-0-2 and 4-4-1-2 in one goal games.
* At home the Pack are 8-1-1-1 and on the road 5-7-0-1.
* Michael Sauer ended a six game pointless streak with an assist on the Crowder goal in the second period.
* Dave Urquhart ended a 15 game pointless streak also on the Crowder goal. Urquhart said after the game, “I’ve just been trying to find my game and I feel like it’s getting better. I’m breaking out of that now and I’m going to start putting up plenty of points.”
* Andres Ambϋhl is playing exceptionally well and now has 2 goals in his last three games.
* Grachev has just 1 goal total to show for his last five games and has gone blank the last three.
* Weise was kept off the scorer’s sheet for the first time in six games.
* Devin DiDiomete got his first point of the season with the only assist on the Ambϋhl goal
MEANWHILE DOWN IN CHARLOTTE:
CHECKERS BATTLE BACK FOR DRAMATIC OVERTIME WIN
Doig Nets Winner On OT Penalty Shot; Home Win Streak At Six
The Charlotte Checkers fell behind by two goals in the third period and battled back with a dramatic 5-4 overtime victory over the Gwinnett Gladiators on Sunday afternoon. With the win, the Checkers have now won six straight games at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Tyler Doig registered a “Gordie Howe hat trick” – two goals, an assist and a fighting major – and scored the game-winning goal on a penalty shot in overtime. Charlotte played short-handed with only four defensemen after team captain Jared Nightingale and rookie blueliner Mike Berube were called up to Hartford prior to the game.
Gwinnett drew first blood just over four minutes into the game on a goal by winger Pat Galivan. Gladiators leading scorer Tom Zanoski fed Galivan in the slot who then backhanded a shot past Munce for his ninth of the season.
The Checkers would respond back early in the second period on the power play. Tyler Doig took a pass from Michel Leveille at the point and let go a wrist shot through traffic that beat Gladiators goaltender David Brown. The goal came at the 3:38 mark of the period.
Just one minute and four seconds later, Gwinnett regained the lead on a Checkers turnover in the defensive end. Matt Francis grabbed the puck, took a shot on net and Chad Denny was there to stuff home the rebound.
Charlotte kept coming, however, and tied the game with 32 seconds to play in the second period. Defenseman Chris Snavely took a pass from Jean-Philipp Chabot in the slot and beat Brown with a wrist shot for his first of the season.
In the third period, Gwinnett put their league-leading power play to work and regained the lead on a goal by Matt Siddall. The Gladiators then added another by leading scorer Tom Zanoski to bring the score to 4-2.
The Checkers would not give up and scored a power-play goal with less than five minutes to play to bring them to within one. Randy Rowe took the puck in the slot and fired a shot under the cross-bar for his third in as many games since returning from injury.
With time winding down, Charlotte pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker and it paid off as David Marshall scored the tying goal with 12 seconds to play.
In overtime, T.J. Reynolds made a beautiful pass to Doig who skated in alone on the Gwinnett goaltender but was hauled down. Doig was awarded a penalty shot and made good use of it as he faked a slap shot, fooling the netminder, and tucked it home for the victory.
The Checkers (11-4-2-0) will host Gwinnett on Wednesday at Time Warner Cable Arena. Game time is 7pm and ticket information can be obtained by calling 704-342-4-ICE or visiting www.gocheckers.com
Notes: The Checkers have won six straight games at home…Charlotte has scored 41 goals in its last seven games (5.85 goals per game)…Tyler Doig has 16 points (4g, 12a) in his last nine games…Kenny Roche has seven goals in his last seven games…Randy Rowe has seven points (3g, 4a) in three games since beginning the season on injured reserve…Michel Leveille leads the team in scoring with 25 pts (10g, 15a) in 17 games…T.J. Reynolds leads all ECHL defensemen with 72 penalty minutes and eight fighting majors… Matt Ford remains with Lake Erie (AHL) and defenseman Ethan Graham is with Norfolk (AHL)…Trevor Glass remains on the 21-day injured reserve.
Gwinnett 1 1 2 0 – 4
Charlotte 0 2 2 1 – 5
1st Period-1, Gwinnett, Galivan 9 (Zanoski, Forney), 4:41. Penalties-Reynolds Chr (cross-checking), 2:22; Fritsch Gwt (hooking), 7:39; Zanoski Gwt (interference), 10:28.
2nd Period-2, Charlotte, Doig 5 (Leveille), 3:38. 3, Gwinnett, Denny 2 (Francis, Siddall), 4:42. 4, Charlotte, Snavely 1 (Chabot, Doig), 19:28. Penalties-Siddall Gwt (slashing ), 1:36; Brocklehurst Gwt (hooking), 6:26.
3rd Period-5, Gwinnett, Siddall 5 (Denny, Francis), 4:02 (pp). 6, Gwinnett, Zanoski 12 (Lawrence), 9:30. 7, Charlotte, Rowe 3 (Leveille, Ward), 15:14 (pp). 8, Charlotte, Marshall 3 (Rowe, Roche), 19:48. Penalties-Marshall Chr (slashing ), 1:32; Snavely Chr (delay of game), 2:15; Galivan Gwt (slashing ), 4:20; Lawrence Gwt (holding), 5:04; Leveille Chr (holding the stick), 5:04; Denny Gwt (slashing ), 6:51; Galivan Gwt (fighting – major), 10:51; Doig Chr (slashing , instigating, fighting – major), 10:51; Marchesi Gwt (holding), 13:10; Filangieri Gwt (high-sticking, unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:19.
OT Period-9, Charlotte, Doig 6 2:55 (ps). Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Gwinnett 12-7-11-3-33. Charlotte 9-13-22-6-50.
Power Play Opportunities-Gwinnett 1 of 5; Charlotte 1 of 9.
Goalies-Gwinnett, Brown 1-1-1-0 (50 shots-45 saves). Charlotte, Munce 2-1-0-0 (33 shots-29 saves).
Byers – Dupont – Weise
Grachev – Locke – Ambϋhl
Soryal – Crowder – Owens
DiDiomete – Garlock – Couture
Potter – Berube
Heikkinen – Nightingale
Sauer – Urquhart
(Assistant Captains bold & italicized)
Bobby Sanguinetti – On recall with the NY Rangers
Mathieu Dandenault – Lower Body – Indefinite
Nigel Williams – Concussion – Indefinite
Brent Henley – Lower Body Injury – Four to Six weeks
Chris Chappell – Healthy
1. BRI – M. Martin
2. BRI – T. Smith
3. BRI – A. MacDonald
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Chris Cozzan (68)
Luke Galvin (2)
Brent Colby (7)
After playing four in five nights, including three overtimes and still walking off with 6 points, the Pack get Monday off and then back to the practice ice on Tuesday as they get ready for another three in three starting Friday night against first place Manchester in the battle of the AEG controlled teams. Then they hit the road for two in Pennsylvania …Saturday in Wilkes-Barre and Sunday in Hershey. Howlings will there for both games in both cities as Saturday is my birthday and seeing these two games in person was what I wanted to do. So getting you the info you need to stay current on the team is my gift to you as I officially become older than dirt.
Hartford 1 1 0 0 – 2
Bridgeport 0 1 1 0 – 3
1st Period-1, Hartford, Ambuhl 3 (DiDiomete), 9:17. Penalties-Byers Hfd (fighting), 9:19; Martin Bri (fighting), 9:19.
2nd Period-2, Hartford, Crowder 6 (Sauer, Urquhart), 1:41. 3, Bridgeport, Smith 8 (Sixsmith, Marcinko), 13:38. Penalties-Owens Hfd (boarding), 1:48; Garlock Hfd (roughing), 10:30; Heikkinen Hfd (roughing), 10:30; Bentivoglio Bri (roughing), 10:30; Nightingale Hfd (cross-checking), 16:33; DiBenedetto Bri (roughing), 16:33.
3rd Period-4, Bridgeport, MacDonald 2 (Kohn, Smith), 1:24. Penalties-Nightingale Hfd (roughing), 9:13; Klementyev Bri (roughing), 9:13; Urquhart Hfd (tripping), 10:21; Smith Bri (tripping), 11:47.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout – Hartford 1 (Weise NG, Byers NG, Crowder NG, Locke G, Ambuhl NG, Owens NG), Bridgeport 2 (Smith NG, Moore G, Mauldin NG, DiBenedetto NG, MacDonald NG, Martin G).
Shots on Goal-Hartford 7-13-7-4-0-31. Bridgeport 13-13-11-4-1-42.
Power Play Opportunities-Hartford 0 of 1; Bridgeport 0 of 3.
Goalies-Hartford, Zaba 1-1-1 (41 shots-39 saves). Bridgeport, Munroe 7-5-1 (31 shots-29 saves).