SHADOW OF THEMSELVES

Hartford Wolf Pack puck VERSUS Lowell Devils

****Update****

Howlings had unconfirmed reports earlier that Miika Wiikman was returning to Hartford. The Wolf Pack have now confirmed those reports as true. Wiikman will be with the team tonight when they take on the first place Manchester Monarchs. The question now is simply the status of Steve Valiquette and Matt Zaba. Is one of them injured or could some other announcement be coming regarding one of them? (For the actual release view the bottom of the page).

_____________________________________

The already injured depleted Hartford Wolf Pack suffered not one, but two more injuries to key players Friday night as both defenseman Michael Sauer and fourth line center Ryan Garlock were added to the list of walking wounded. Combine that loss of manpower with a dreadful start with the Pack staking the visiting Lowell Devils a two-goal lead in the first 8:41 of the game, and a perfect storm scenario engulfed the home team in a 3-2 defeat in front of 4,162 at the XL Center in the first of back-to-back home dates.

Garlock left the game in the first period and Sauer left in the second with injuries undisclosed by the team. They join a who’s who of Wolf Pack hockey with NHL veteran Mathieu Dandenault still weeks away with a lower body injury; P.A. Parenteau and Corey Potter out with concussions, Bobby Sanguinetti with a lower body injury and Brent Henley and Mike Hoffman done for the season after having knee and shoulder surgery respectively.

As of right now, the Pack are only playing minus four of the six starters they opened the season with. Only Ilkka Heikkinen and Nigel Williams remain healthy from opening night. Overall, the Pack have lost five defenseman to injury this season.

“I’ve been a pro for nine years and never seen anything like this. We have to say a prayer to God.” Henley told reporters after the game.

After the game, Pack head coach Ken Gernander was on his cell phone with Derek Wilkinson in Charlotte and the decision was made to recall defenseman, Julien Brouillette (10g, 16a, 26pts along with 19PIM and a plus-11 in 39 games with the Checkers) to take Sauer’s place in the lineup. Unconfirmed reports suggest that also returning to Hartford is goaltender Miika Wiikman. The Mariestad, Sweden native has been exceptionally solid in Charlotte. The 5’11” 180-pounder has a 2.77GAA and a .909 save percentage while posting a 9-2-1 record.

The start of the game was clearly the story of this loss, the third straight for Hartford and fourth without a win (0-3-1-0). The Pack were outshot 13-1 before getting a second shot on goal at 14:12.

Starting netminder Steve Valiquette was not sharp either. Valiquette (7 saves) surrendered an early power play goal allowing Nathan Perkovich to slide one between his legs. It was one of those goals that netminders will always say they wanted back. Valiquette then went down too early 3:26 later on Brad Mills’ shot from the right circle. The puck whizzed right over his glove and like that the Pack were down two goals.

Gernander had seen enough and after allowing two goals on nine shots, at 8:41 Matt Zaba (25 saves, 3-6-1) was brought in to tend to the Pack net.

“It’s hard battling back when you get down that quickly,” Wolf Pack captain Dane Byers said to reporters afterwards. “Getting a good start was addressed before the game, and it wasn’t Valiquette’s fault that we got behind so fast. He had to pay for the bad start. We nearly tied it up, but we couldn’t pull it out.”

“We don’t question the guys’ heart or character or ability to fight off the mat, but now we have to question the start and why we put ourselves behind the 8-ball,” Gernander said. “We got stronger as the game went on, had plenty of scoring chances and did some good things, but we paid the price for our start.

It’s often said that a good fight can wake a team up from it’s doldrums. While in terms of scraps, this one wasn’t much, but when Pack forward Justin Soryal dropped the gloves with defenseman Rob Davison behind the Devils net, it gave the Pack life.

“Everyone kind of built off (the fight),” Corey Locke said. “But it shouldn’t take until the 10-minute mark to get started.”

The team used that adrenaline boost wisely and got on the board with a power play goal at 15:10.  Tim Sestito of the Devils was sent to the penalty box on a tripping infraction at 13:47. It took Hartford just 25 seconds to capitalize as Byers beat Devils starter Mike McKenna (35 saves, 16-8-1). Kenny Roche was stationed in the slot and took a pass from  Locke. The recent Charlotte call-up fanned on a shot, but got enough of it that it found its way right to Byers stick. Byers then got it and put the puck under McKenna for his 13th of the season.

In the second period period, Soryal continued his strong play when he rang up his first of the season with an incredible redirection of a laser of a shot from the right side by Jared Nightingale that beat McKenna to the short side of the cage.

The score was even.

But it wasn’t to be as Mills scored his second of the contest when he deflected a Stephen Gionta shot after getting away from Jordan Owens in front of Zaba at 14:12 for what would prove to be the game winner.

It wasn’t like the Pack did not get their chances.

The Pack had three power play chances to tie it through the remainder of the contest, but just could not buy a goal.

“We had numerous chances on every power play,” Locke said. “One sits on the line, and even some of the shots from the point got tipped or just hit him. We just didn’t get the breaks.” The line shot mentioned by Locke came midway through the final frame when Brodie Dupont’s shot sat behind McKenna for what seemed like an eternity before the Devils’ netminder dove back to cover it.

“We need any number of things to turn the momentum, but collectively, everyone has to be better off the get-go.” He added.

“Our start cost us the game,” Locke said. “When you need to come back at home, it’s tough, especially when a lot of guys have to play a lot of minutes due to some injuries. But there were a lot of positives to come out of the game, other than the start.”

Bruce Berlet is on the scene and takes you inside the Pack’s locker room at Hartfordwolfpack.com.  Lowell’s story can only be found on their team website at LowellDevilsHockey.com. There’s also an interesting story about the Devils attendance woes at LowellSun.com.

GAME SUMMARY and OFFICIAL SCORERS SHEET

STANDINGS

TEAM GP W L OTL SOL PTS GF GA STK P 10 PIM
1. Monarchs 49 28 14 2 5 63 136 113 2-0-0-1 4-3-1-2 729
2. Sharks 46 29 14 1 2 61 149 140 1-0-0-0 6-3-0-1 701
3. Devils 49 28 17 3 1 60 156 128 1-0-0-0 6-3-0-1 918
4. Pirates 46 23 16 5 2 53 136 128 2-0-0-0 6-3-1-0 843
5.WOLF PACK 48 23 19 2 4 52 133 140 0-3-1-0 4-5-1-0 981
6. Sound Tigers 49 22 20 2 5 51 119 130 0-1-0-2 3-3-1-3 1126
7. Bruins 47 21 23 3 0 45 111 127 0-1-0-0 3-5-2-0 742
8. Falcons 50 16 24 8 2 42 123 171 1-0-0-0 5-4-1-0 1027

NOTES:

* Former Wolf Pack Enforcer Trevor Gillies will play in only his second NHL game of his career. The 6’3” 215-pounder has been recalled by the New York Islanders. He will play the Marty McSorley role to John Tavares’ Gretzky.

* Howlings has started something new. In addition to keeping you posted here on all major news stories, visit www.twitter.com/howlingstoday for in-game coverage of both the Pack and Checkers games. Please “Follow” us on Twitter.

* Chad Johnson ranks fifth among AHL netminders with a 14-8-2 record and 2.03GAA and a .930%

* Brodie Dupont, Evgeny Grachev and Corey Locke have played in EVERY game thus far for the Pack.

* The Pack’s record in 1-goal games drops to 11-7-2-4 and when they outshoot their opponents its 15-10-1-2.

LINES:

Grachev – Dupont – Weise
Byers ©Locke – Roche
Ambϋhl – Crowder – Owens
Soryal – Garlock – Couture

Urquhart – Sauer
Williams – Nightingale
Heikkinen – Schaeffer

Valiquette
Zaba

(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)

SCRATCHES:

Devin DiDiomete – Healthy Scratch
Bobby Sanguinetti – Lower Body – Day-to-Day
Corey Potter – Concussion – Indefinite
P.A. Parenteau – Concussion – Indefinite
Mathieu Dandenault – Lower Body – Indefinite
Chad Johnson – On recall with the NY Rangers
Brent Henley – Knee  – Season
Mike Hoffman – Shoulder – Season

THREE STARS:

1. LOW – B. Mills
2. LOW – S. Gionta
3. HFD – D. Byers

ON ICE OFFICIALS:

Referee:
Shaun Davis (31)

Linesmen:
Luke Galvin (2)
David Spannaus (8)

NEXT GAME:

The Norfolk Admirals and AHL All-Star Blair Jones, with ex-Ranger Adam Hall and ex-Pack Mitch Fritz continue their northern states visit when they steam into the XL Center for a battle on the ice with the Wolf Pack Wednesday night. One could say this one would be a sea battle since the Admirals embrace the Navy and the Wolf Pack are named after a fleet of submarines. Bob Crawford will have the pre-game at 6:30 and then the call of the contest starting at 7:05

To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $6.99 at AHL-live.

If you can attend the cost is as little as $10 a ticket, why not just go? For Ticket information call (860) 548-2000.

Too far away or can’t make it? Listen live at WTIC.com.

SCORE-SHEET:

Lowell Devils 3 At Hartford Wolf Pack 2 – Status: Final

Jan 29, 2010 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Lowell 2 1 0 – 3

Hartford 1 1 0 – 2

1st Period-1, Lowell, Perkovich 12 (Swift, Eckford), 5:15 (pp). 2, Lowell, Mills 6 (Gionta, Murphy), 8:41. 3, Hartford, Byers 13 (Roche, Locke), 15:10 (pp). Penalties-Roche Hfd (hooking), 4:49; Davison Low (fighting), 10:28; Soryal Hfd (fighting), 10:28; Sestito Low (tripping), 13:47.

2nd Period-4, Hartford, Soryal 1 (Nightingale, Williams), 9:10. 5, Lowell, Mills 7 (Gionta, Murphy), 14:12. Penalties-Swift Low (fighting), 1:35; Nightingale Hfd (fighting), 1:35; Locke Hfd (roughing), 2:43; Sestito Low (slashing), 4:15; Weise Hfd (boarding), 4:54; Robitaille Low (boarding, fighting), 9:29; Byers Hfd (fighting), 9:29; Eckford Low (tripping), 14:59; Couture Hfd (high-sticking), 18:08; Urquhart Hfd (hooking), 19:36.

3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Murphy Low (cross-checking), 3:09; Robitaille Low (misconduct – unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:02; Soryal Hfd (misconduct – unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:02; Murphy Low (slashing), 8:19.

Shots on Goal-Lowell 14-10-11-35. Hartford 8-10-19-37.

Power Play Opportunities-Lowell 1 of 5; Hartford 1 of 6.

Goalies-Lowell, McKenna 16-8-1 (37 shots-35 saves). Hartford, Valiquette 4-5-1 (9 shots-7 saves); Zaba 3-6-1 (26 shots-25 saves).

A-4,162

MEANWHILE BACK IN CHARLOTTE

Charlotte Checkers VERSUS      Johnstown Chiefs

CHECKERS STORM BACK FOR 5-2 VICTORY OVER CHIEFS

Carroll Adds Another Two; Charlotte Undefeated Against Chiefs, East Division

The Charlotte Checkers spotted the Johnstown Chiefs two goals and stormed back for the 5-2 win on Friday night in Western Pennsylvania. With the win, the Checkers improve to 3-0-0 against the Chiefs and 6-0-0 against East Division teams this season.

Andrew Carroll led the charge with two goals, including the game-winner while Tyler Doig, who was returned from Hartford (AHL) earlier in the day, added a goal and two assists. Miika Wiikman stopped 28 of 30 shots for his ninth win of the season. The Swedish netminder has only one regulation loss in his last 13 starts.

Johnstown drew first blood, just over two minutes into the contest, on a fluky goal from 100 feet out. Chiefs defenseman Jonathan Ralph let go a slap shot from the red line that fooled Wiikman and dipped just under the crossbar for the 1-0 lead.

The Chiefs would take a two-goal lead near the end of the period when Connor Shields, stationed in the slot, took a pass from Bryan Marshall and lifted the puck past Wiikman on the blocker side for the shorthanded tally.

For the second game in a row, the Checkers headed to the locker room after 20 minutes down by two goals and came out in the second period looking to turn the tide.

Midway through the second period, David Marshall notched his second goal in as many games to cut the Johnstown lead to 2-1. Defenseman Ethan Graham threw a bomb of a pass to Marshall, who then snuck past the opposing defenders and skated in alone on Chiefs goaltender John Murray. Marshall then slipped the puck between the legs of Murray for his 10th of the season.

Charlotte then tied the game, with less than three minutes to play in the period, when Aaron Slattengren banged home a rebound from a Matt Schepke wrist shot.

The Checkers did not stop there and took their first lead of the game with 38 seconds to play in the frame. Michel Leveille dished a pretty pass over to Carroll who beat an out-of-position Murray for his team-leading 19th of the season.

Charlotte held the 3-2 lead for the first three quarters of the third period before Carroll added another. Doig centered a pass from the wing that was redirected by Carroll past the blocker of Murray, putting the Checkers ahead 4-2 and giving Carroll the third-highest goal total among all ECHL rookies.

Doig then added some insurance, with less than two minutes left, when he fired a slap shot over the shoulder of the Johnstown netminder.

The Checkers killed a late penalty and cruised to a 5-2 victory, their first of the season north of Charlotte.

The Checkers (23-14-5) will continue their northern road trip in Reading tomorrow before returning home on Thursday, Feb. 4 to host the Florida Everblades Ticket information can be obtained by calling 704-342-4-ICE or visiting www.gocheckers.com.

GAME SUMMARY and OFFICIAL SCORERS SHEET

STANDINGS:
TEAM GP W L OTL SOL PTS GF GA STK P 10 PIM
1. South Carolina Sting Rays 48 30 11 3 4 67 169 150 0-2-1-0 5-3-2-0 693
2. Florida Everblades 45 23 16 2 4 52 144 131 1-0-0-0 6-3-0-1 872
3. Charlotte Checkers 42 23 14 3 2 51 157 144 1-0-0-0 5-4-0-1 880
4. Gwinnett Gladiators 42 19 18 3 2 43 149 162 0-1-0-0 4-5-1-0 736

NOTES:

* The Chiefs are owned and coached by Neil Smith. Yes Rangers fans, that Neil Smith.

* Charlotte is 13-3-1 in its last 17 home games

* The Checkers are 6-0-0 against East Division opponents this season

* Andrew Carroll has nine goals and six assists in his last 11 games and his five game-winning goals are the second highest total in the entire ECHL

* Tyler Doig ranks fourth in ECHL scoring with 51 points (12g, 39a) while Leveille ranks tied for 11th with 43 points (14g, 29a)

* Julien Brouillette has eight points (4g, 4a) in his last nine games and ranks seventh among all ECHL defensemen with 26 points (10g, 16a)

* T.J. Reynolds leads all ECHL defensemen with 174 penalty minutes, and is fourth in overall plus-minus with a +17 rating

* Derek Couture, Tyler Doig, Kenny Roche and Kevin Schaeffer are with Hartford (AHL) while Matt Ford and Randy Rowe are with Lake Erie (AHL)

* Trevor Glass, Chris Snavely and Chris Chappell are on the 21-day injured reserve.

LINES:

Carroll –Leveille © – Doig
Slattengren – Tkaczuk – Schepke
Chabot – Taylor – Marshall
Burki

Berube – Reynolds
Graham – Ward
Brouillette – Dowzak

Wiikman
Munce

(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)

SCRATCHES:

Chris Snavely – 21-day IR
Trevor Glass – Close to returning
Chris Chappell – Season ending injury

THREE STARS:

1. CHR – A. Carroll
2. CHR – T. Doig
3. CHR – M. Wiikman

ON ICE OFFICIALS:

Referee:
Geno Binda (15)

Linesmen:
Paul Carnathan (93)
Zach Roberts (77)

NEXT GAME:

The Checkers leave Johnstown to head to Reading for a 7pm faceoff with the East Division leading Royals. Then it’s back on the bus and a return trip to finish what they started with the Chiefs for a Sunday tilt at 5:30.

You can 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.

SCORE-SHEET:

Charlotte Checkers 5 At Johnstown Chiefs 2 – Status: Final

Jan 29, 2010 – Cambria County War Memorial Arena

Charlotte 0 3 2 – 5

Johnstown 2 0 0 – 2

1st Period-1, Johnstown, Ralph 2 (Murray), 2:33. 2, Johnstown, Shields 16 (Marshall, Zarb), 18:29 (sh). Penalties-Berube Chr (fighting – major), 5:25; Schwab Jhn (fighting – major), 5:25; Myers Jhn (interference), 7:09; Doig Chr (slashing ), 10:37; Hendrikx Jhn (slashing ), 10:37; Reynolds Chr (roughing), 14:55; Ralph Jhn (hooking), 17:18; Chabot Chr (fighting – major), 20:00; Hendrikx Jhn (cross-checking, fighting – major), 20:00.

2nd Period-3, Charlotte, Marshall 10 (Graham, Wiikman), 11:06. 4, Charlotte, Slattengren 10 (Schepke, Tkaczuk), 17:46. 5, Charlotte, Carroll 19 (Doig, Leveille), 19:22. Penalties-Dowzak Chr (hooking), 6:39; Myers Jhn (roughing), 8:43; Schwab Jhn (slashing ), 12:50.

3rd Period-6, Charlotte, Carroll 20 (Doig), 14:29. 7, Charlotte, Doig 12   18:39. Penalties-Zarb Jhn (delay of game), 3:10; Dowzak Chr (hooking), 15:41; Berube Chr (delay of game), 18:49.

Shots on Goal-Charlotte 11-13-8-32. Johnstown 12-11-7-30.

Power Play Opportunities-Charlotte 0 of 6; Johnstown 0 of 4.

Goalies-Charlotte, Wiikman 9-2-1-2 (30 shots-28 saves). Johnstown, Murray 3-10-2-0 (32 shots-27 saves).

A-2,208

Here’s the official release on Brouillette coming to Hartford:

WOLF PACK SIGN DEFENSEMAN JULIEN BROUILLETTE TO PTO
* * * *
Was Leading Scorer Among ECHL Charlotte’s Defensemen

Hartford Wolf Pack general manager Jim Schoenfeld announced today that the team has signed defenseman Julien Brouillette to a Professional Tryout (PTO) agreement.

Brouillette, currently in his third year of pro hockey, is the leading point, goal and assist-producer among defensemen for the Wolf Pack’s ECHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, with 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points in 38 games. Brouillette is also tied for second among all ECHL defensemen in goals, and tied for sixth among league blueliners in points.

The 5-11, 185-pound St. Esprit, Quebec native has also played three AHL games this year for the Providence Bruins, registering one assist. Last season Brouillette topped all Charlotte defensemen in points and goals, and finished tied for fifth overall on the Checker team in points, with 11-18-29 in 70 games.

In 175 career ECHL games with Charlotte and the Columbia Inferno, the 23-year old Brouillette has totaled 27 goals and 45 assists for 72 points, along with 141 penalty minutes. Prior to turning pro, he played four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, amassing 27 goals and 96 assists for 123 points, plus 206 PIM, in 227 career games.

Here is the Wiikman press release:

GOALTENDER MIIKA WIIKMAN RE-JOINS WOLF PACK

* * * *

Had 9-3-2 Record in 16 Games with ECHL Charlotte

Hartford Wolf Pack general manager Jim Schoenfeld announced today that the parent New York Rangers have reassigned goaltender Miika Wiikman to the Wolf Pack from the team’s ECHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers.

Prior to being assigned to the Checkers October 31, Wiikman appeared in four games with the Wolf Pack, going 2-2-0 with a 3.27 goals-against average and an 88.8% save percentage. In 16 ECHL games with Charlotte, the 5-11, 187-pound native of Mariestad Sweden has compiled a 9-3-2 slate, with a 2.77 GAA, a 90.9% save percentage and one shutout. His 2.77 goals-against average ranks seventh among ECHL netminders.

Wiikman, who is in his third year of North American pro hockey, has played in 79 career AHL games with the Wolf Pack and has gone 44-28-7, with a 2.56 GAA, a 91.0% save percentage and four shutouts. In 20 career ECHL contests with Charlotte, Wiikman is 10-4-2 with a 2.68 GAA and a 91.2% save percentage.

Wiikman signed as a free agent with the Rangers April 24, 2008.

The Wolf Pack are back in action tonight at the XL Center, hosting the Atlantic Division-leading Manchester Monarchs in a 7:00 PM game

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