Playing with a consistency, passion and sense of desperation like they’ve only found sporadically all season long, the Hartford Wolf Pack put on a first class performance as they dominated all over the ice Saturday Night at the MassMutual Center as they trounced the last place Falcons 6-1 behind multi-point performances from Brodie Dupont, Andres Ambϋhl and Derek Couture and a big night between the pipes for Chad Johnson.
“I thought we were pretty good in a lot of areas.” Head Coach Ken Gernander said. “I thought (Johnson) had a good night tonight. When they had some pressure he made some real good saves on the penalty kill.”
Gernander liked what he saw all over the ice. “The (power play); I thought that was some pretty good offense from them and some of our new guys played well as well.”
“We knew we had to come out hard. We’re fighting for our lives,” the “First Star” Dupont said on his ninth multi-point game of the season. “A lot of guys are scoreboard watching. I think we’re just worried about playing our game and doing what we can control and for us to have any chance I think we’ve got to win out and just take it one game at a time. It’s all part of the journey and I think we played well tonight.”
It only took 47 seconds for the Pack to get a goal on the scoreboard. Defenseman Lee Baldwin earned his first professional point since joining the Wolf Pack on March 22nd, three games ago, when his shot from the left point was deflected in front by Dupont past Falcon’s starting netminder, Bryan Pitton (25 saves, 2-5-0).
But as they have want to do of late, the Pack scored a second goal just 1:10 later.
Derek Couture made a sweep with the puck behind the net from the right to the left and found Justin Soryal alone on the left side of the crease. Couture put the puck right on Soryal’s stick and the New Market, Ontario native slammed it under Pitton’s pads for his second goal in five games after going through a sixteen game drought.
Things pretty much stayed that way until Kris Newbury took a Slashing call at 6:18.
Jordan Eberle, who was named the Best Forward and MVP at the recent World Junior Championships for Team Canada, continues to be red hot since coming to Springfield eight games ago. The 19-year old entered the game with three goals and five helpers in seven games. Eberle put a goal and two assists of which came against the Pack on March 20th. The youngster out of Regina, Saskatchewan ended a four game goalless streak with a nice move and a little luck 34 seconds into the man-advantage. Eberle was on the left side of Johnson (30 saves, 21-18-2) all alone and took a pass and kicked to his stick and then threw it at the net. Dupont sliding back to help his goaltender had the puck hit his shoulder and slide into the net. The goal was Eberle’s fourth at 6:52 off a pass from ex-Pack, Chad Wiseman.
The tide had definitively turned and momentum had swung to the more northern of the two I-91 rival cities.
It didn’t help matters any that at 8:13, Dale Weise took an Interference call sending the Falcons to their third power play of the night. A goal by Springfield here and it could have turned the tide irrevocably for the home team.
But the Pack penalty killers were particularly aggressive on this kill and gave their hosts no room and no time. In fact, the best offensive penetration of the power play, came when Ambϋhl rushed the puck up the left wing side and left a drop pass for Ryan Garlock. The Pack center’s shot from the left side circle looked like it went into the upper corner of the right after it hit Pitton’s shoulder and popped out, but nothing referee Jean Hebert felt it didn’t go in and the play went on.
As things developed in the Pack zone, Ambϋhl make a big play with a huge hit in front of the net that sprung the puck free, and for the recipient of the hit, Chris Minard, probably some of his fillings. Ambϋhl then picked up the puck skated to just inside the top of the left defensive zone circle and put a perfect pass to Weise who was coming out of the penalty box. Weise got behind Ryan O’Marra, stormed in on Pitton and put one perfectly between the Pad’s for his 28th of the season.
“(Weise’s) been playing very well down the stretch here,” Gernander said. “Offensively we’re missing a couple of key guys and he’s picked up the slack and done real well.”
“They took the momentum away from us with (Weise’s) goal,” Eberle said. “That was definitely the turning point in the game.”
From there on it was all Wolf Pack.
After Jean-Francois David took a very sloppy Delay of Game call, the Pack power play unit kept the puck in the Springfield end for most of the two minutes. The Pack were controlling the puck in the zone when just two seconds after the power play expired, Kris Newbury found Couture, who had snuck away from Minard who was defending him, and the right winger took the pass in the slot, turned and beat Pitton high over the glove for his tenth of the season with just 44 seconds left in the second period. It was a crushing blow to the Falcons and they were done for the night.
The Pack picked up where they left off to start the third period and at 1:58 they cashed in.
Garlock made a tremendous pass to set up Ambϋhl in front of Pitton and the 2010 Swiss Olympian lasered it right past the Falcon goalie. The goal was Ambϋhl’s sixth on the season.
“(Ambuhl) had a pretty good night. Nice to see him get rewarded with a goal,” Gernander said. “It was a pretty good effort all the way around.”
Dupont closed out the scoring with his second of the game with just 1:34 left in regulation.
“It was probably my worst opportunity of the night. I just fired it back on the net blind and hoped for a bank. I got the bounce that I wanted and it went in.” Dupont said of his 18th of the season. “I was intending to bank it off of him. The chances of that happening are usually not very good. But I got lucky. It doesn’t show how it goes in on the score sheets,” He said with a laugh. “Guys are playing a little more desperate now that our lives are on the line. I think that’s the way we have to play.”
The versatile Pack forward, who’s seen much of his time this season at center and now is playing wing, summed it all up best saying, “Every game from here on in is going to be our season on the line and we’re basically hoping for a little help around the league and we’ll do our part. Stranger things have happened and we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. We’re not looking past Wednesday night.”
At Hartfordwolfpack.com Bob Crawford sums up a very exciting night for the Insurance Capital’s home team. Meanwhile for the tale of woe for Springfield, you’ll find written up nicely by Robbin Jones, Jr. at MassLive.com.
|5. Sound Tigers||77||36||31||4||6||82||192||215||0-2-0-0||5-4-1-0||1657|
|6. WOLF PACK||76||33||32||6||5||77||217||234||2-0-0-0||6-4-0-0||1495|
x = clinched a playoff spot
y = clinched division title
STANDINGS FOR LAST PLAYOFF SPOTS:
|3. Sound Tigers||77||36||31||3||3||82||Atlantic|
|3. Norfolk Admirals||76||37||33||3||3||80||East|
|4. WOLF PACK||76||33||32||6||5||77||Atlantic|
The top three teams from this list will make the playoffs.
WOLF PACK TRAGIC NUMBER IS 4 (Four)
Any combination of Bridgeport or Lowell, who’s ever on top, getting points and the Pack not getting them reduces that number. Pack have one game in hand on both Bridgeport and Lowell.
Either Wilkes-Barre or Norfolk will make it and be either the three or four seed in their division. The top Atlantic team will be in and depending upon their points, be either the third of fourth seed in the East Division.
A light night in the American League. The only game affecting the Wolf Pack is a big one. Norfolk visits Hershey at 6pm. If ever a team needed the best team in the AHL to win, the Pack need Hershey tonight. Other games see the recently eliminated Providence Bruins in Portland against the Pirates and Manitoba visits Hamilton for a showdown with the Bulldogs.
Things continue to break well for the New York Rangers’ top farm club. On Saturday, Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton had the night off as the Pack used up their game in hand with two points added to the ledger. In Bridgeport, the Sound Tigers lost again, this time to Portland 3-1. Upstate New York saw Norfolk drop a road game to Binghamton 5-3. Worcester couldn’t finish off Lowell and the Devils picked up two points with a win in overtime, 3-2.
In other action, Toronto knocked off Manitoba in a shootout 2-1. Albany beat down Adirondack 4-2. Rochester also won in a shootout over Hamilton 4-3. Hershey destroyed Syracuse (next year’s Springfield Falcons) 6-1. Here’s a surprise, Alex Giroux had another goal. Jay Beagle had two goals and Keith Aucoin had two assists. Providence was eliminated by Manchester with a 3-0 defeat. Peoria doubled up Lake Erie 4-2. San Antonio beat Chicago 3-0. Hugh Jessiman tallied his 20th of the season when he scored for Milwaukee in a 4-0 rout of Rockford. (BTW, for those Jessiman detractors out there, of which we are NOT one, the Big Guy, now has two straight seasons of 20 goals. He also has 20 assists for 40 points this season as well as 106 PIM and a plus-5. In his last full season in Hartford, he had 18 goals ad 24 assists for 42 points and a plus-10 in 71 games, and gotten driven out of town on a rail. Contrast that with the much hyped and little results from Evgeny Grachev. People seem to be lining up to raving so much about his potential. Grachev has not scored a goal in 23 games and just once in his last 34. He’s got 12 goals and 15 assists, 14 PIM and a nifty minus-13 having played in 76 games…food for thought.)
Last, but not lease, we had Houston behind two goals from Robbie Earl defeat Texas 3-2 and Abbotsford knocked off Grand Rapids 2-1.
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* The Pack have struggled on the road all season long. They won for only their second time in the last ten road games (2-6-1-1).
* The win pushed the Pack over the .500 mark with a 33-32-6-5 record good for 77 points.
* American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews has announced that the Hershey Bears and the Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company will host the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic at Giant Center on Sunday, January 30 and Monday, January 31, 2011, during the AHL’s historic 75th anniversary season.
The announcement was made on the Giant Center ice during the first intermission of the Bears’ game tonight against the Syracuse Crunch.
“There is no better place to hold the signature event of our 75th anniversary season than in the most historic and celebrated town in all of professional hockey,” said Andrews. “The 2011 AHL All-Star Classic will give us an opportunity to show the hockey world our sport’s best young players and to celebrate our league and our storied history in a place synonymous with the American Hockey League over the last seven decades.”
The 2011 event will take place Sunday, Jan. 30, and Monday, Jan. 31, and will mark the first time that the AHL All-Star Classic will be held at Giant Center, the 10,500-seat building that has already hosted three Calder Cup Finals and countless other memorable moments during its eight-year existence. Hershey has previously hosted All-Star events at Hersheypark Arena in 1954, 1959 and 1996.
The 2011 AHL All-Star Classic will also mark a return to an East vs. West format, pitting players from each of the AHL’s two conferences against each other. This will be the first East-West All-Star Game in the AHL since 1942.
Hershey, Pa., has been home to the American Hockey League’s most storied franchise since 1938, and the Bears have captured a record 10 Calder Cup championships in that time. Through the decades, Chocolatetown has boasted some of the most notable figures in our sport’s history, including AHL Hall of Famers Frank Mathers, Willie Marshall, Tim Tookey, Mike Nykoluk, Gil Mayer, John Paddock and Bruce Boudreau.
“On behalf of the entire Hershey family, the Bears are honored to be joining the American Hockey League in celebrating its 75th anniversary by hosting the 2011 All-Star Classic here at Giant Center,” said Doug Yingst, President and General Manager of the Hershey Bears. “This world-class event will shine an international spotlight on our community and our fans, and we are excited to be a part of such a historic occasion.”
The event logo for the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic was also unveiled, and can be viewed on theahl.com.
* The Hershey Bears set an all-time American Hockey League record with their 58th win of the season on Saturday night, and in the process captured the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the American Hockey League’s 2009-10 regular-season points champion.
The Bears (58-15-0-3, 119 points) surpassed the record of 57 wins held by the 1992-93 Binghamton Rangers. (Some famous NY Rangers would play on that team including Sergei Zubov (30 games), Alex Kovalev (13 games), Darren Langdon (18 games), and Mike Richter (5 games)) Saturday’s victory was also Hershey’s 33rd of the season on home ice, tying an AHL record. And with four games still left to play, the Bears are five points shy of the 1992-93 Rangers’ all-time record of 124 points in a season.
The Bears had already claimed the F.G. (Teddy) Oke Trophy as the East Division champions, as well as the Frank S. Mathers Trophy as the regular-season champions of the Eastern Conference.
Under rookie head coach Mark French, the Bears have won their third East Division crown and their second Kilpatrick Trophy in four years, and will be bidding for their third Calder Cup title in the last five seasons. Hershey will have home-ice advantage for as long as they are in the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy, which was instituted in 1997, honors the late Macgregor Kilpatrick, a member of the AHL Board of Governors for 27 years and a 2010 inductee into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame. Kilpatrick also served as the AHL’s senior vice president and general counsel during his tenure, and earned the James C. Hendy Award in 1976 as the league’s outstanding executive.
* The Pack fall back to 28/29 on the penalty kill at 79.7% and drop to 17th on the power play at 16.8%.
Byers © – Newbury – Weise
Dupont – Crowder – Grachev
Soryal – Garlock – Ambϋhl
Brashear – McKelvie – Couture
Heikkinen – Sanguinetti
Baldwin – Potter
Brouillette – Nightingale
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
P.A. Parenteau – Recall, NY Rangers
Anders Eriksson – Recall, NY Rangers
Devin DiDiomete – Healthy Scratch
Nigel Williams – Healthy Scratch
Cameron Talbot – Healthy Scratch
Roman Horak – 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. Dupont
2. HFD – D. Couture
3. HFD – A. Ambuhl
Jean Hebert (87)
Chris Low (88)
Jim Briggs (83)
Bob Crawford is on the air at 6:30 with the pre-game Wednesday night from the XL Center. The puck drops for this crucial game against Worcester at 7pm. This will be the next hurdle this team will have to get over if the Pack hope to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.
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.
Hartford Wolf Pack 6 At Springfield Falcons 1 – Status: Final
Apr 3, 2010 – MassMutual Center
Hartford 2 2 2 – 6
Springfield 0 1 0 – 1
1st Period-1, Hartford, Dupont 17 (Baldwin, Crowder), 0:47. 2, Hartford, Soryal 5 (Couture), 2:57. Penalties-Gimblett Spr (roughing), 3:29; Weise Hfd (holding the stick), 4:02; Bendfeld Spr (interference), 10:01; Riley Spr (delay of game), 15:35.
2nd Period-3, Springfield, Eberle 4 (Wiseman), 6:52 (pp). 4, Hartford, Weise 28 (Ambuhl), 10:21. 5, Hartford, Couture 10 (Newbury, Potter), 19:16. Penalties-Gimblett Spr (high-sticking), 1:01; Newbury Hfd (major – slashing), 6:18; Weise Hfd (interference), 8:13; Heikkinen Hfd (fighting), 13:00; McDonald Spr (fighting), 13:00; Weise Hfd (fighting), 16:03; Taylor Spr (fighting), 16:03; David Spr (delay of game), 17:13.
3rd Period-6, Hartford, Ambuhl 6 (Garlock, Brouillette), 1:58. 7, Hartford, Dupont 18 18:26 (sh). Penalties-Garlock Hfd (slashing), 0:00.
Shots on Goal-Hartford 7-10-14-31. Springfield 8-12-11-31.
Power Play Opportunities-Hartford 0 of 5; Springfield 1 of 2.
Goalies-Hartford, Johnson 21-18-2 (31 shots-30 saves). Springfield, Pitton 2-5-0 (31 shots-25 saves).
MEANWHILE BACK IN CHARLOTTE:
CHECKERS CLINCH TOP SEED IN AMERICAN CONFERENCE
Carroll Scores Late Goal To Secure Top Spot For First Time In Franchise History
Andrew Carroll scored a late goal to force overtime and clinch first place in the American Conference as the Charlotte Checkers were edged, 4-3, in a shootout by the Florida Everblades on Saturday.
It is the first ever regular season division and conference title for the Checkers who were 17 points back of first-place South Carolina in mid-January. Charlotte’s 43 wins are the most ever for head coach Derek Wilkinson and the second most in franchise history.
The Checkers will now play Toledo in a best-of-five series in the first round of the Kelly Cup Finals with games 1 and 2 being played Tuesday and Wednesday in Ohio. The teams will return to Charlotte for game 3 Friday and, if necessary, games 4 and 5 on Sunday and Monday.
Charlotte held a 2-2-1 record against the Walleye this season. Toledo has allowed the second most goals of the 15 teams in the ECHL playoffs which is good news for the high-powered Charlotte offense.
Checkers rookie backup goaltender Garrett Zemlak did his best impression of Ryan Munce with 36 saves and five impressive shootout stops on the night to earn a point. Forward David Marshall scored twice on the power play while Carroll, who has a knack for delivering important goals, scored his team-leading 30th late in the third period to lock up first place.
The first period was physical with plenty of scoring chances. The Checkers began the game with a strong forecheck and did a good job of creating offense, but couldn’t seem to find the back of the net.
Zemlak then bailed out his defense several times as a few turnovers in the defensive zone led to a number of high quality shots for Florida.
Charlotte, however, drew first blood at the 12:53 mark of the period, when winger David Marshall scored on the power play. Marshall was left alone at the top of the nearside circle and drove to the net. Center Brock Bradford saucered a pass through the defense and onto the stick of Marshall who put the puck past Florida goaltender Chris Beckford-Tseu.
Florida would strike back when winger Milan Gajic carried the puck into the Checkers zone on a 2-on-1 and blasted a slapshot on the blocker-side past Zemlak to even the score at 1-1.
The two teams’ mutual dislike for one another became clear during the second period and several post-whistle scrums occurred. As a result, 18 penalties were handed out during the period with 12 going to Charlotte.
After Matt Schepke was assessed a cross-checking penalty, Everblades forward Ross Carlson broke the tie with a power-play goal off of a one-time pass from the top of the circle.
Charlotte would then surrender a pair of 5-on-3 power plays and help give Florida the upper hand. On the second two-man advantage, the Everblades added another power-play goal when forward Brandon Buck wristed a shot from the slot into the top corner.
The Checkers headed to the locker room down 3-1 after 40 minutes but came out with one goal in mind – to take the game to overtime and gain the all-important extra point.
Minutes into the third period, Charlotte would cut the deficit to one goal when Marshall collected a David Urquhart pass, went forehand-to-backhand and lifted the puck over a sprawling Beckford-Tseu.
The Checkers remained persistent on the forecheck, keeping Florida on their heels for much of the third period and their determination paid off. Steve Ward drove into the zone, left the puck behind the net for Carroll who then wrapped it around, squeezing it between the post and skate of Beckford-Tseu to tie the game with 2:15 remaining.
After an uneventful overtime period, Shea Guthrie would score the lone shootout goal to give the Everblades the 4-3 victory. The Checkers, however, walked away victorious with the division and conference title.
Charlotte (43-21-8) will face Toledo in the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs on Tuesday and Wednesday before returning home for game 3 on Friday. Ticket information can be obtained by calling 704-342-4-ICE or visiting www.gocheckers.com/playoffs. Season tickets for the inaugural 2010-11 AHL season are now on sale and 40-game packages start as low as $200.
* The Checkers have clinched their first ever regular season division and conference title and will play Toledo in the first round
* Charlotte is 16-3-1 in its last 20 home games and is 12-1-1 in their last 14 overall
* Ryan Munce is 10-1-0 in his last 11 starts and leads the ECHL with a .913 save percentage
* Andrew Carroll leads the ECHL with six shootout-winning goals and leads the Checkers with 30 goals
* Last Saturday’s crowd of 12,044 was the largest in the entire ECHL this season
* The Charlotte Checkers have clinched the top seed in the American Conference and will face the Toledo Walleye in the first round of the 2010 Kelly Cup Playoffs.
American Conference Quarterfinals (best-of-five series)
Game 1 – Tuesday, April 6 – Charlotte at Toledo, time TBD
Game 2 – Wednesday, April 7 – Charlotte at Toledo, time TBD
Game 3 – Friday, April 9 – Toledo at Charlotte, 7 p.m.
Game 4 (if necessary) – Sunday, April 11 – Toledo at Charlotte, 2 p.m.
Game 5 (if necessary) – Monday, April 12 – Toledo at Charlotte, 7 p.m.
Roche – Leveille © – Doig
Stefanishion – Taylor – Slattengren
Schepke – Bradford – Carroll
Urquhart – Schaeffer
Hendrikx – Ward
Berube – Reynolds
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Daniel Tkaczuk – Healthy Scratch
Tysen Dowzak – Healthy Scratch
Jean-Philipp Chabot – Healthy Scratch
Randy Rowe – Recall in Lake Erie
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 – A. Slattengren
2. CHR – M. Stefanishion
3. FLA – M. Pistilli
Tim Mayer (11)
Jay Jacobs (54)
James Johnstone (61)
It’s the Kelly Cup playoffs and the Checkers are the top seed coming out of the American Conference and number two overall. Toledo should be a challenge. Jason Shaya will be on the air likely at 7pm Tuesday night.
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.
Charlotte Checkers 3 At Florida Everblades 1 – Status: Final
Apr 2, 2010 – Germain Arena
Charlotte 0 3 0 – 3
Florida 0 1 0 – 1
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Hendrikx Chr (fighting – major), 2:37; Olson Fla (fighting – major), 2:37; Berube Chr (high-sticking), 4:25; Roche Chr (hooking), 17:59; Olson Fla (cross-checking), 20:00.
2nd Period-1, Charlotte, Slattengren 17 (Stefanishion, Reynolds), 7:41 (sh). 2, Florida, Pistilli 2 (Lang, Nicholson), 8:04. 3, Charlotte, Stefanishion 21 (Slattengren, Taylor), 10:08. 4, Charlotte, Hendrikx 8 (Leveille, Bradford), 12:56 (pp). Penalties-Schepke Chr (holding), 5:46; Olson Fla (hooking), 12:00; Urquhart Chr (fighting – major), 18:31; Baker Fla (cross-checking, fighting – major), 18:31.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Carroll Chr (hooking), 2:34; Stefanishion Chr (roughing), 12:52; Reynolds Chr (cross-checking), 19:42.
Shots on Goal-Charlotte 12-13-2-27. Florida 7-11-8-26.
Power Play Opportunities-Charlotte 1 of 3; Florida 0 of 6.
Goalies-Charlotte, Munce 26-14-2-1 (26 shots-25 saves). Florida, Lemay 1-1-0-0 (27 shots-24 saves).
(Dupont photo courtesy of theahl.com)