The next time NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, or AHL Commissioner Dave Andrews needs to explain to someone why hockey is the greatest sport that there is, they won’t have to do anything other than show them a tape of Saturday night’s Bridgeport and Hartford battle at the XL Center in which the Wolf Pack prevailed on a late Bobby Sanguinetti goal, 4-3 in front of 6,921 exuberant fans.
This game had something for everyone. There were fights, big hits great plays on both sides of the puck, a penalty shot, great saves, non-stop action, a come from behind victory that was capped by a thrilling finish. Who could ask for more for their entertainment dollar.
It was a must win game for the home team as they entered the match trailing their guests by nine points for the final playoff spot in the conference. A loss and they would most certainly be making arrangements for early tee times. Even with the victory, the Pack are still up against the wall and must continue to win when they visit Portland to do battle with the playoff bound Pirates.
They wouldn’t be talking about a big game Sunday had not former first round draft pick, Sanguinetti not put on his finest move since donning the Hartford sweater two seasons ago. The right hander unloaded a shot from the left point that missed the net entirely. The puck went around to the right wing side and was retrieved by Corey Locke. The AHL’s third leading scorer would then add to his season assist stat when he heard the Pack defenseman calling for the puck again back on the left side. Locke made the pass that the New Jersey native recovered along the left boards. “I just missed the net on my first try,” Sanguinetti said. “But I saw a lane and Corey made a nice play over to me.” He then simply side-stepped Bridgeport center Michael Haley and defenseman Mark Wotten bit on it as well and took themselves out of the play. “I put on a pump-fake on them, they bit and I was just looking for a hole. He (starting Bridgeport goaltender Scott Munroe) was moving side-to-side and I beat him to the far right side.” (see photo – left). The goal was the only tally by either team in the third frame and came with just 3:20 remaining.
Well, that’s not exactly true.
The Pack had another goal in the period, what would have been Donald Brashear’s first, but after Jared Nightingale put a hard hit on Jean Bourbeau along the boards. Bourbeau, in just his second gain after being recalled from CHL’s Odessa Jackalopes kept after Nightingale to fight. When the gloves dropped, referee Chris Brown was forced to blow the whistle just seconds before Brashear’s guided missile into the net and negated the marker. “(Bourbeau) kept asking me and I was just tempted. I took a peek over to the bench to see if (Assistant Coach) J.J. (Daigneault) was going to tell me ‘no’ or ‘yes’ and then I just went at it.” Nightingale said. “The most important thing at the end of the day is that we’re happy that we and won the game.”
“(Nightingale’s) a physical player,” Head Coach Ken Gernander said. “He gets in a tussle or a dust up with a guy, he doesn’t know what’s going on up ice. It was unfortunate that it negated Brash’s goal, but the important thing is we got the win.”
None of the heroics would have been possible had Chad Johnson (25 saves, 19-16-2) had not kept his teammates in the contest all game long. With just 5:57 left in the game Brendan Witt found Mike Radja all alone in front of the Pack net. Johnson slid across and stonewalled the Sound Tiger centerman. Earlier in the period, Johnson stopped Haley on a great scoring chance at 6:39 and just prior stopped Trevor Smith off a two-on-one rush.
“That’s been a big part of things lately is the big save,” Gernander said. “We’re not giving up volumes and volumes of shots where he’s under constant pressure but he’s had few key saves throughout the course of the last couple of games here and that’s been pretty important for us.”
The Wolf Pack came out of the gates on a mission and it showed. There was LOTS of hard hitting by both sides, but you could feel the Pack starting to make headway and getting more play in the offensive zone.
At 6:41 the hard work paid a dividend.
Justin Soryal broke a 16 game scoreless drought when he dove to connect with a Derek Couture pass from the right side to the left. Munroe slowed the puck as it went under him but it seemed to just pop out the other side of him and replays showed that the puck crossed the goal line by about 2 or 3 inches max. Soryal was embraced by his teammates who recognized the effort of the Pack forward on the play. The goal came at 6:11.
This was a physical game and Bridgeport loves to play the game that way. Pascal Morency who loves to push players buttons, pushed the button of the wrong player when he tried to cheap shot and sucker punched Brashear. The career enforcer who’s 6’3” and 237 pounds didn’t feel much of a threat from the 5’10” 196 pound Montreal native. Brashear then gave Morency a one shot smack to the face with his gloves still on and laid the right winger out. Morency stayed down on the ice for a long time, and someone from off the Pack bench earned an extra minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct when he threw a water bottle out on to the ice and it hit Morency in the side. It was all a big act as Morency didn’t even miss a shift and went right back to his antics.
With 3:16 left in the first and the Pack on a power play with Wotten in the box for Unsportsmanlike Conduct, a turnover in the offensive zone along the left wing boards wound up on the stick of Greg Mauldin. The Tigers’ left wing fed the puck out quickly to Tyler Haskins who had a clean breakaway. Kris Newbury skated back hard and took the legs right out from under him. Brown called a penalty shot.
The Pack outshot the Tigers 15-8 in the first period.
The energy level intensified in the second period. Given the Pack have the worst penalty kill in the American League, any time the Pack wind up shorthanded it’s going to be a “keep-your-fingers-crossed” sort of adventure. Hartford stifled Bridgeport visitors on their first to man advantages, but their third one cost them and broke the stalemate.
With Ryan Garlock in the penalty box on a tripping call at 7:37, the Sound Tigers power play unit went to work.
Bridgeport worked the puck along the outside perimeter. Brett Motherwell gave the puck to Trevor Smith at the right wing point. Smith moved out to the middle of the ice and from just inside the blue line and with lots of traffic in front of Johnson fired a shot that the Pack goaltender never saw and the visiting team had the lead. The goal was Smith’s 20th if the season.
Just a 1:04 Bridgeport would double their lead when Dustin Friesen shot the puck from the right wing side and it hit Nigel Williams stick en route to the net and it lifted into the air and knuckled over Johnson and it was 3-1. The goal was Friesen’s first since signing a PTO after playing most of the season in the East Coast League with Idaho.
But then came the turning point of the game.
Radja was in the penalty box for a delay of game call at 12:51.
With 6:38 to go in the period, and 31 seconds later, on yet another breakaway opportunity, Johnson closed the door on Haskins and kept his team within two.
“It takes guys making big plays, whether it be somebody finishes a big hit rouses the bench or a goal by somebody. Big plays are important in terms of building momentum.” The Pack head coach stated.
“I’ve been working a lot on breakaways after practice because it’s an important skill to have, especially down the stretch,” Johnson said. “I’m starting to get a good feel on the breakaways, whether it’s in the game or in shootouts. They got kind of a lucky bounce on their third goal, but I’ve just been trying to keep the team in the game and do what I have to do.”
21 seconds later, Newbury put a puck on net from the right wing side. Dale Weise occupied Munroe and the defenseman covering, Jon Gleed. But when the netminder could not cleanly swallow it, it left the puck loose along the right wing side. Byers came in, as he often does, to clean up the porch, and that what he did, going backhand to forehand and putting the puck in net past the bewildered Munroe.
“Newbury had lots of time up top all game, so we just wanted him to sho0t,” The Wolf Pack captain said. “Me and Weisey just crashed the net. I went off Weisy and that gave me enough time. There were a couple of guys on Weisy so it gave me enough time to handle the puck and put it in the net.”
But the Pack tallied again just ten seconds later when Andres Ambϋhl found himself with the puck on the left wing side. He wristed the puck with a rising shot through the legs of Friesen and high into the short side corner of then net past Munroe. It was 3-3
The Pack finished the period leading in shots 20-21.
“I’m happy with the two points.” Gernander said.
“It was It was live or die and we had to win this one tongiht,” Sanguinetti said. “We really played well late in the game. This is playoff hockey for us now and we have to try and find our way to get in.”
You really need tofind a way to get into the game next Wednesday, when the Wolf Pack return home against Worcester.
(Photos by Dinur Blum)
Bruce Berlet will be off for a week of well earned vacation. Here’s his final report for for the month at Hartfordwolfpack.com. The great Michael Fornabaio reports from the Bridgeport perspective at CTPost.com.
|5. Sound Tigers||74||35||29||4||6||80||186||206||0-2-0-0||7-2-1-0||1639|
|6. WOLF PACK||72||31||30||6||5||73||201||223||3-0-0-0||5-3-1-1||1417|
x = clinched a playoff spot
y = clinched division title
LAST PLAYOFF SPOT STANDINGS:
|1. Sound Tigers||74||35||29||4||6||80|
|2. Norfolk Admirals||74||36||22||3||3||78|
|3. WOLF PACK||72||31||30||6||5||73|
WOLF PACK TRAGIC NUMBER IS 10 (Ten) Any combination of Bridgeport getting points and the Pack not getting them reduces that number. Pack have two games head-to-head with Bridgeport which are both 4-point games.
The Dunkin Donuts hosts the Providence and Manchester contest. Bridgeport and Lowell do battle at the Tsongas Center. Norfolk has the night off, so the Pack will make up one of their two games in hand.
Toronto and Rochester, Albany and Springfield will meet up at 3pm. Worcester and W-B/Scranton tango at 3:05. Meanwhile at 4pm it’s Texas and Chicago, Houston and Peoria, Lake Erie and San Antonio. Hershey and Binghamton knock heads at 5pm.
Clay Wilson had two goals and a helper as did Mike York, Jamie Johnson had a goal and two apples, Jeff Taffe had a trio of assists and Michael Repik had a duo of assists as Rochester smoked Toronto 7-3. David Desharnais had a duo of goals and helpers, Brock Trotter had a goal and two apples and P.K. Suppan had one of each as Hamilton knocked off Abbotsford 4-0. Texas got two goals from Mathieu Beaudoin and won in a shootout 5-4 over Grand Rapids. Alex Giroux scored for the 41st time this season and for the 101st time in the last two seasons as Hershey doubled up W-B/Scranton 4-2. Oscar Moller had a pair for Manchester and David Laliberte had two for Adirondack and Jon Matsumoto had a marker and two helpers, but it wasn’t enough as the Monarchs knocked off Adirondack 4-3. Portland clinched a playoff spot with a 2-1 win over Springfield and a Norfolk was shut out by Worcester 2-0. Zac Dalpe had a hat trick for next year’s Charlotte Checkers, this year’s Albany River Rats with a 5-2 win. Cam Paddock had a pair of goals and a helper as Peoria defeated Houston 4-1. Chicago shutout Rockford 3-0. Miika Wiikman stopped 29 shots but Lake Erie got one more and they beat San Antonio 5-4.
* If you have yet to sign up for our new service to our readers on Twitter, you’re really missing out on the most extensive coverage of the Wolf Pack and Checkers you’ll find anywhere. In addition to keeping you posted here on all major news stories, visit www.twitter.com/howlingstoday for in-game coverage of both Wolf Pack and Checkers games. Please “Follow” us on Twitter.
* Sanguinetti’s goal set a career high with his 8th of the season and ended a 16 game scoreless streak.
* The three game win streak is the longest for the Pack since a four game run from December 27th to January 3rd.
* The Pack improved their record when tied after two periods 5-2-3-2, 15-10-6-5 is the Pack record in one goal games and 21-13-2-3 when outshooting their opponents.
* Evgeny Grachev has one goal in his last 30 games.
* In the last five years, the Pack are 30-15-0-4 against their instate and franchise rivals from Bridgeport. This season the Pack are 4-3-0-2 and if they win the last game of the season against the Sound Tigers they will tie for the Geico Cup.
* Although there has been some rumblings out of New York about the mindset of these young defensemen with Anders Ericksson getting called up and not one of them, Sanguinetti isn’t feeling that way at all.”We know what we have to do here,” He said. “We just control what we can control and play our game and we’re fighting for a play off spot as well. They have to do what they have to do to get into the playoffs and we’re trying to get it done here.
* This was a well attended game by Wolf Pack standards with 6,921…nothing to sneeze at for sure. Look at the Checkers attendance yesterday, 12,044
Byers © – Newbury – Weise
Dupont – Locke – Grachev
Soryal – Crowder – Couture
Brashear – Garlock – Ambϋhl
Williams – Potter
Heikkinen – Sanguinetti
Nightingale – Brouillette
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
P.A. Parenteau – Recall, NY Rangers
Anders Eriksson – Recall, NY Rangers
Lee Baldwin – Healthy Scratch
Steven Valiquette – Hand Injury – Season over
Michael Sauer – Shoulder – Season over
Mike Hoffman – Shoulder – Season over
Brent Henley – Knee – Season over
1. HFD – B. Sanguinetti
2. HFD – A. Ambuhl
3. HFD – C. Johnson
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Chris Brown (86)
David Spannaus (8)
Luke Galvin (2)
Sunday the Pack put it on the line again at 4pm. Bob Crawford is on the air at 3:30pm.
To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $6.99 at AHL-live.
If you can attend the home games, they cost is as little as $10 a ticket, why not just go? For Ticket information call (860) 548-2000.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3 At Hartford Wolf Pack 4 – Status: Final
Mar 27, 2010 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Bridgeport 1 2 0 – 3
Hartford 1 2 1 – 4
1st Period-1, Hartford, Soryal 4 (Couture), 6:11. 2, Bridgeport, Haskins 11 16:44 (sh ps). Penalties-Morency Bri (roughing), 10:19; Rechlicz Bri (roughing), 10:19; served by Soryal Hfd (bench minor – unsportsmanlike conduct), 10:19; Brashear Hfd (roughing, roughing), 10:19; Wotton Bri (unsportsmanlike conduct), 16:03; Heikkinen Hfd (goaltender interference), 17:41.
2nd Period-3, Bridgeport, Smith 20 (Motherwell, Martin), 8:30 (pp). 4, Bridgeport, Friesen 1 (Radja, Bourbeau), 9:34. 5, Hartford, Byers 21 (Weise, Newbury), 13:43 (pp). 6, Hartford, Ambuhl 5 (Crowder), 13:53. Penalties-Garlock Hfd (tripping), 7:37; Radja Bri (delay of game), 12:51; Nightingale Hfd (high-sticking), 15:24.
3rd Period-7, Hartford, Sanguinetti 8 (Locke, Potter), 16:40. Penalties-Bourbeau Bri (fighting), 7:31; Nightingale Hfd (fighting), 7:31; Potter Hfd (slashing), 8:09.
Shots on Goal-Bridgeport 8-13-7-28. Hartford 15-14-7-36.
Power Play Opportunities-Bridgeport 1 of 5; Hartford 1 of 2.
Goalies-Bridgeport, Munroe 18-15-3 (36 shots-32 saves). Hartford, Johnson 19-16-2 (28 shots-25 saves).
MEANWHILE BACK IN CHARLOTTE:
CHECKERS TREAT SEASON’S BIGGEST CROWD TO VICTORY
Four Unanswered Goals Propels Charlotte To 4-2 Win Over Reading
The Charlotte Checkers fell behind by two and fought back with four unanswered goals as they defeated the Reading Royals, 4-2, on Saturday evening in front of 12,044 enthusiastic fans. The crowd was the largest in the entire ECHL this season.
With the win, their 40th of the season and ninth in 10 games, the Checkers close the gap with South Carolina and are now only one point out of first place in the conference with a game in hand.
David Urquhart notched a goal and an assist while Ryan Munce stopped 29 of 31 for his ninth win in 10 starts. Kevin Schaeffer scored the game-winning goal, David Marshall extended his point streak to seven games with a goal and Daniel Tkaczuk chipped in with two assists.
Andrew Carroll got things going in the first with a big hit that sent a Royals defender flying into the boards. The Checkers responded by raising their play and began buzzing Reading’s Andrew Engelage, but the Royals goaltender stopped a flurry of shots to keep it a scoreless game.
Reading would strike first with 10 seconds to play in the period when Stefano Giliati picked up an unsuccessful clearing attempt by a Charlotte defender and fired it home past Munce.
Early in the second, the Royals took a two-goal lead on a penalty shot off a questionable tripping call against Munce. Andrew Sarauer skated in alone and put on the brakes before beating Munce with a wrist shot blocker side.
The rest of the period was all Checkers as they scored three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead.
Devin DiDiomete sparked the comeback by giving his team some energy when he dropped the gloves with Reading defenseman Scott Fletcher. Just 23 seconds later, David Marshall carried the puck into the Royals’ zone and, using Mike Taylor as a screen, fired a wrist shot between the legs of Engelage for his 21st of the season.
Less than two minutes later, Reading forward Daniel Steiner was assessed a costly interference penalty when he ran into Munce in front of the Charlotte net. The Checkers made good on the power play as Matt Stefanishion won the draw back to Steve Ward who let a wrist shot go that beat Engelage high over the glove.
With six minutes to play in the period, Charlotte took its first lead of the game on a goal by defenseman Kevin Schaeffer. Brock Bradford entered the Reading zone and fed a saucer pass over to Schaeffer who redirected it into the net.
The Checkers then capitalized on a Royals miscue and took a two-goal lead. Daniel Tkaczuk picked up the mishandled puck at his own blue line and skated into the Reading zone on a 1-on-1. Tkaczuk stalled as he waited for help then deked the defender and backhanded a shot on net. David Urquhart joined the play as he skated in and stuffed home the rebound for his second goal in nine games since joining the Checkers.
Reading pulled its goaltender in the dying seconds for the extra attacker but Munce turned aside everything that came his way and walked away with his 24th win of the season. The two teams will meet again tomorrow at 2 p.m.
The Checkers (40-21-7) will host Reading Sunday at 2 p.m. and ticket information can be obtained by calling 704-342-4-ICE or visiting www.gocheckers.com. Season tickets for the inaugural 2010-11 AHL season are now on sale and 40-game packages start as low as $200.
|1. x-South Carolina Sting Rays||69||38||19||6||6||88||236||212||0-2-0-0||3-4-2-1||926|
|2. x-Charlotte Checkers||68||40||21||4||3||87||243||216||1-0-0-0||9-1-0-0||1449|
|3. x- Florida Everblades||69||36||24||4||5||81||223||213||0-1-0-0||5-5-0-0||1237|
|4. Gwinnett Gladiators||67||31||29||4||3||69||236||257||1-0-0-0||5-4-0-1||1082|
* Saturday’s crowd of 12,044 was the largest in the entire ECHL this season
* The Checkers are 14-3-1 in their last 18 home games and are 9-1-0 in their last 10 overall
* Ryan Munce is 9-1-0 in his last 10 starts and leads the ECHL with a .911 save percentage
* David Marshall is currently on a seven-game point streak (6g, 5a)
* Andrew Carroll leads the ECHL with five shootout-winning goals and leads the Checkers with 28 goals
Carroll – Leveille © – Slattengren
Schepke – Tkaczuk – Bradford
Doig – Taylor – Marshall
Stefanishion – DiDiomete
Urquhart – Schaeffer
Berube – Hendrikx
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Ryan Crane – Healthy Scratch
Randy Rowe – Recall in Lake Erie
Matt Ford – Recall in Lake Erie
Julien Brouillette – Recall in Hartford
Ethan Graham – Recall in Texas
Kenny Roche – Recall in Providence
T.J. Reynolds – Lower Body – 2-3 weeks
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. Urquhart
2. CHR – D. Tkaczuk
3. CHR – R. Munce
Jarrod Ragusin (28)
Mathieu Chenier (71)
Ben Shiley (92)
Reading plays the back-end of the back-to-back on the weekend Sunday and then the last regular season home game is Tuesday the 30th against Gwinnett. The Checkers finish the season with two on the road in Florida. Jason Shaya will be on the air Sunday at 2pm.
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.
Reading Royals 2 At Charlotte Checkers 4 – Status: Final
Mar 27, 2010 – Time Warner Cable Arena
Reading 1 1 0 – 2
Charlotte 0 3 1 – 4
1st Period-1, Reading, Giliati 21 19:50 (pp). Penalties-Hendrikx Chr (hooking), 3:10; Cruthers Rea (slashing ), 7:57; Stefanishion Chr (elbowing), 7:57; DiDiomete Chr (high-sticking), 10:32; Gwilliam Rea (interference), 16:04; Berube Chr (boarding), 18:40.
2nd Period-2, Reading, Sarauer 25 4:29 (ps). 3, Charlotte, Marshall 21 (Taylor, Urquhart), 6:46. 4, Charlotte, Ward 6 (Stefanishion, Tkaczuk), 8:20 (pp). 5, Charlotte, Schaeffer 5 (Bradford, Schepke), 13:56. Penalties-LaLonde Rea (unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:39; DiDiomete Chr (unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:39; Fletcher Rea (fighting – major), 6:23; DiDiomete Chr (fighting – major), 6:23; Steiner Rea (interference on the goalkeeper), 7:21; Cavosie Rea (tripping), 8:41; Stefanishion Chr (unsportsmanlike conduct), 8:41; Ward Chr (tripping), 10:53; Brocklehurst Rea (slashing ), 16:52; Giliati Rea (roughing), 19:51; DiDiomete Chr (roughing), 19:51.
3rd Period-6, Charlotte, Urquhart 2 (Tkaczuk), 10:04 (sh). Penalties-Schepke Chr (interference on the goalkeeper), 8:11; Leveille Chr (hooking), 13:29; LaLonde Rea (holding), 16:48.
Shots on Goal-Reading 13-11-7-31. Charlotte 8-17-10-35.
Power Play Opportunities-Reading 1 of 6; Charlotte 1 of 5.
Goalies-Reading, Engelage 7-3-0-0 (35 shots-31 saves). Charlotte, Munce 24-14-2-1 (31 shots-29 saves).