In the last two games the Hartford Wolf Pack have given up a total of thirteen goals. They lost 7-1 to Providence on Friday and dropped a 6-4 decision to in-state and franchise rivals the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the XL Center Saturday night. In the last ten games, the New York Rangers’ top farm team has only been able to taste victory twice going 2-6-2-0 over that span. As bad as that seems on the surface, this team continues to compete but it’s a team that just doesn’t have the level of talent to compete for a Atlantic Division Title, let alone a Calder Cup.
“Right now we have got to get every point we can get because it’s a tight (Atlantic) division, so every game is important from here on in.” Dane Byers said after the game. “We have to eliminate the mistakes, get tighter all over the ice, support each other a lot better and not turn the puck over as much as we are right now.”
Head Coach Ken Gernander told reporters in his post game comments that, “You have to play consistently. You can’t make the little mistakes. If you can do it for one shift, you can do it for six a period and for three periods.”
They say a team wins from the net out. In the last two games, the Pack have not seen the kind of goaltending they need to keep them in games or have had those that have been called upon to replace the slew of injured veterans played the kind of hockey to win games.
Rookie goaltending sensation Chad Johnson, who, in addition to assuming the Pack starting job over incumbents Matt Zaba and Miika Wiikman, also won his first NHL game of his career stopping 34 of 35 shots against the Colorado Avalanche in a 3-1 win on January 31st, was simply awful in allowing seven goals to Providence Friday night.
On Saturday it was Wiikman’s turn in net. Wiikman (2-3-0) was given his first start for the Wolf Pack since getting pulled against the Hershey Bears on October 30th after allowing four goals on thirteen shots in 23:35 of ice time. The Finnish netminder was then sent to Charlotte as the odd man out for the work in Hartford. While playing for the Checkers, Wiikman rediscovered the game that led to his unseating Al Montoya as the Pack starter two seasons ago. The 5’11, 187 pounder amassed a 9-2-3 record with a 2.77GAA and a .909% in sixteen games. General Manager and Head Coach Derek Wilkinson has done nothing but offer effusive praise for his goaltender over multiple conversations. Since arriving back from Charlotte after Steve Valiquette injured his hand in practice, exactly three months after being sent there, Wiikman has spent the last two weeks on the bench. It sounds like a list of excuses for the Finnish netminder’s less than stellar performance in surrendering six goals in the loss to the Sound Tigers, but to pin this loss solely on his shoulders would be completely unfair. However, the Mariestad, Sweden native was not good and clearly struggled in stopping only 27 of 33 shots.
“I thought we gave a pretty good effort and worked hard to get our goals, but it’s a pretty fine line between winning and losing and we can’t keep making mistakes,” Gernander said.
The Pack fell behind just19 seconds into the contest when ex-Pack captain Greg Moore intercepted a telegraphed, defensive-zone cross-ice pass from Jared Nightingale to Illka Heikkinen. Moore charged up the slot and fired a wrister into the upper corner of the net over Wiikman’s blocker.
Byers, the current Pack captain, answered for his teammates at 7:42 when he threw the puck from the left corner at the net and it hit the skate of Sound Tiger defenseman Brett Westgarth and under the pads of Scott Munroe (24 saves, 12-11-3).
But the tie was short lived as the Tigers came back and tallied again at 16:52, just five seconds after Andrew Carroll took an interference call leaving the Pack shorthanded for the second time in the period. Trevor Smith won a faceoff with Brodie Dupont and back to Greg Mauldin at the left point. The shot rebounded in front and Smith slid the puck from the left side of the crease to the right where Ryan Kinasewich, just up from the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL, put it under the glove of the diving Wiikman.
The period ended with the Pack licking their wounds and having been out shot 15-5 by the visitors.
It didn’t take long for the Pack to get the equalizer for a second time.
At 3:57 with the Pack in a four-on-three man advantage, there was a scramble in front of the Bridgeport net. Byers, who has really elevated his play, slid the puck over to the right side where the AHL’s third leading scorer, Corey Locke was waiting. Locke then lifted the puck over the glove of the Tigers’ cage guard.
57 seconds later the Pack had their first and only lead of the contest when they tallied on a great play four-on-four by Locke and Dale Weise. Sean Bentivoglio advanced the puck into the Pack zone on the right wing side. The Tiger’s left winger then attempted to fed NHL veteran Brendan Witt at the point. Weise jumped the pass and knocked it away. He then beat Bentivoglio to the puck and fed it to Locke on the right side. The play became a two-on-one against Witt. Locke fed Weise just after Witt went to the ice and Weise ended an eight game draught with a laser shot past Munroe for his 16th of the season.
Mauldin, who’s five point game (goal and four helpers) tied the Sound Tigers’ single-game point record shared by current New York Islanders Blake Comeau and Jeff Tambellini, knotted the score for the third time when his shot from the left side somehow found it’s way under Wiikman.
While playing four aside, 10:15 seconds later, Bridgeport took the lead for the third time. Mark Wotten put a backhander past the Hartford netminder after Mauldin’s shot that hit the back wall, careened off the side of the Pack net and bounced into the slot past Wiikman. It was Wotten’s third of the season.
Byers scored his second goal of the game and knotted the score for the fourth time at 7:29 of the final frame. With Weise screening Munroe in front, Brodie Dupont took a Nigel Williams feed on the left side, walked in a bit and faked a shot on net. Dupont then fed Byers in the slot and the Pack captain redirected the puck into the corner pocket for his 16th of the season.
But Bridgeport was able to ice the game when they scored two goals in 1:12.
Evgeny Grachev had an excellent scoring chance and coming back the other way, Kinasewich made a spectacular cross ice pass through traffic that found Mauldin open in a two-on-=two rush up the ice. Nightingale was a little flatfooted and screened his own goaltender as Mauldin fired a shot that beat Wiikman over the blocker for what would prove to be the game winner.
48 seconds later, Locke went to the box on a hooking call for the Pack’s sixth penalty kill situation of the game.
Bridgeport capitalized 24 seconds later for their third power play goal of the game when Mark Flood’s seeing eye slapshot from just inside the blue line made it’s way through a seas of people and into the back of the Pack net.
“I thought coming off (Friday) night that the effort was a lot better all over ice, but we still lost the game,” Byers said. “For whatever reason, both teams capitalized on each other’s mistakes, and they were able to capitalize two more times than we capitalized on theirs.
Gernander summed it up saying, “We’re real close, right in the game, and players would like certain plays back. If you take those out of the game, then it’s a different game.”
It’s a home game so readers get the gift of Bruce Berlet back on the beat. Enjoy his literary prowess at Hartfordwolfpack.com. Games between the Pack and Tigers are always great because two great writers work the game. Bask in the work of Mike Fornabaio at CTPost.com.
GAME SUMMARY and OFFICIAL SCORERS SHEET
|6. WOLF PACK
|7. Sound Tigers
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* Pack have not scored two power play goals in a game in six games. The last came on January 27th in Norfolk against the Admirals in a 5-4 Pack loss.
* Thirteen goals in two consecutive losses is the most the Pack have surrendered since allowing fourteen goals in losses to Hershey (9-2) and Portland (5-2) back on December 6th and 11th respectively.
* The Pack are 4-5-0-0 in games decided by two goals and 9-12-2-2 in games where they are outshot by their opponents.
* Brodie Dupont has two assists in the last two games. Dale Weise ended an eight game pointless streak with two points (1g, 1a) as did Kevin Schaeffer with his helper on Byers first goal.
* Evgeny Grachev has had one point (a goal against Providence Friday) in his last ten games. Paul Crowder is pointless in his last seven.
* Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun is reporting that the NY Rangers are shopping former Wolf Pack center, Brandon Dubinsky. If Glen Sather and his management team were really smart the move they should make would be to hold on to Dubinsky and trade John Tortorella. That move alone would probably ignite the barn and get the horses running. The NY Post’s Larry Brooks has an excellent column on the issue regarding his treatment of rookie Michael Del Zotto.
Grachev – Dupont – Roche
DiDiomete – Owens – Brashear
Soryal – Crowder – Couture
Byers © – Locke – Weise
Heikkinen – Nightingale
Williams – Schaeffer
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Andres Ambϋhl – Reassigned to Swiss National Team – Two weeks
Corey Potter – Recall with NY Rangers
Ryan Garlock – Undisclosed – Day-to-Day
Steven Valiquette – Hand Injury – Day-to-Day
Michael Sauer – Undisclosed – Day-to-Day
Bobby Sanguinetti – Lower Body – Day-to-Day
P.A. Parenteau – Concussion – Indefinite
Mathieu Dandenault – Lower Body – Indefinite
Matt Zaba – On recall with the NY Rangers
Brent Henley – Knee – Season
Mike Hoffman – Shoulder – Season
1. BRI – G. Mauldin
2. HFD – D. Byers
3. BRI – M. Flood
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Nygel Pelletier (41)
Paul Simeon (66)
David Spannaus (8)
Pack are off to play the white-hot Portland Pirates who’ve won eight straight and nine of ten for a Monday afternoon tilt at 1pm. Bob Crawford is on the air with the pre-game show at 12:30.
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.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers 6 At Hartford Wolf Pack 4 – Status: Final
Feb 13, 2010 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Bridgeport 2 2 2 – 6
Hartford 1 2 1 – 4
1st Period-1, Bridgeport, Moore 13 0:19. 2, Hartford, Byers 15 (Schaeffer, Urquhart), 7:42. 3, Bridgeport, Kinasewich 1 (Smith, Mauldin), 16:52 (pp). Penalties-Figren Bri (goaltender interference), 1:59; Brashear Hfd (boarding), 8:07; Mauldin Bri (tripping), 12:06; Carroll Hfd (interference), 16:47.
2nd Period-4, Hartford, Locke 21 (Byers, Weise), 3:57 (pp). 5, Hartford, Weise 16 (Locke), 4:54. 6, Bridgeport, Kinasewich 2 (Mauldin, Flood), 6:10 (pp). 7, Bridgeport, Wotton 3 (Mauldin, Flood), 16:25. Penalties-Morency Bri (roughing), 3:21; DiDiomete Hfd (roughing), 3:21; Witt Bri (hooking), 3:26; Dupont Hfd (hooking), 5:43; Gillies Bri (tripping), 8:55; Couture Hfd (high-sticking), 9:42; Weise Hfd (high-sticking), 14:05; Bentivoglio Bri (diving), 16:09; Williams Hfd (hooking), 16:09.
3rd Period-8, Hartford, Byers 16 (Dupont, Williams), 7:29 (pp). 9, Bridgeport, Mauldin 18 (Kinasewich), 13:28. 10, Bridgeport, Flood 7 (Smith, Mauldin), 14:40 (pp). Penalties-Kinasewich Bri (hooking), 6:27; Locke Hfd (holding), 14:16.
Shots on Goal-Bridgeport 15-11-7-33. Hartford 5-10-13-28.
Power Play Opportunities-Bridgeport 3 of 6; Hartford 2 of 5.
Goalies-Bridgeport, Munroe 12-11-3 (28 shots-24 saves). Hartford, Wiikman 2-3-0 (33 shots-27 saves).
MEANWHILE DOWN IN CHARLOTTE
CHECKERS EDGED BY GWINNETT 2-1
Gladiators Netminder Brown Stops 35 of 36 For Important Victory
The Charlotte Checkers fell behind by two goals in the first period and could not bounce back as they were edged 2-1 by the Gwinnett Gladiators on Saturday evening.
The Checkers outshot Gwinnett 36-15 but Gladiators netminder David Brown stopped all but one en route to his fourth win in eight tries against Charlotte. Charlotte now has a 7-4-2 record in 13 games against their division rival.
Coming into the game, the Checkers were on a four-game win streak and had picked up a point in six straight games (5-0-1). Gwinnett held the ninth spot in the American Conference and were five points away from the eighth and final playoff spot.
Just a minute and a half in, the Gladiators opened the scoring on the game’s first shot. Defenseman Chad Denny forced a turnover down low in the Checkers end and wrapped the puck around and in past Charlotte goaltender Ryan Munce for the early 1-0 lead.
With less than seven minutes to play in the period, Gwinnett went to work on the power play and doubled their lead. Phil Youngclaus sent a pass from the right corner to an open Tim Miller in the slot. Miller made no mistake, blasting the puck into the empty cage for his 10th of the year.
Charlotte carried the play in the second period, however Brown continued to dominate, stopping 16 shots to maintain the two-goal lead. The Checkers had three opportunities with the man advantage but were unable to get on the board.
Charlotte held a 24-10 shot advantage through 40 minutes of play but a 2-0 disadvantage on the scoreboard.
The third period was no different as the Checkers outshot and outplayed Gwinnett but were unable to get one past Brown until the final minute when Daniel Tkaczuk broke the shutout attempt. Tkaczuk grabbed the rebound from a David Marshall shot and lifted it over the stacked pads of Brown for his ninth of the season. The goal came with seven seconds to play in the game and the Checkers were unable to complete the comeback.
The Gladiators mustered a season-low 15 shots on net but Brown was the difference and they walked away with the 2-1 victory.
The Checkers (28-16-6) will host the Toledo Walleye on Thursday for the ‘Midnight Game’. Puck drops at 11:59 p.m. and ticket information can be obtained by calling 704-342-4-ICE or visiting www.gocheckers.com.
GAME SUMMARY and OFFICIAL SCORERS SHEET
|1. South Carolina Sting Rays
|2. Charlotte Checkers
|3. Florida Everblades
|4. Gwinnett Gladiators
* Charlotte is 5-1-1 in its last seven games…
* The Checkers lead the ECHL with 35.85 shots per game…
* Mike Taylor is currently riding a four-game point streak (1g, 4a)…
* Goaltender Ryan Munce is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts…
* Julien Brouillette ranks fifth among all ECHL defensemen with 30 points (12g, 18a)…
* Tyler Doig ranks fourth among all ECHL players with 56 points (14g, 42a)…
* T.J. Reynolds leads the ECHL with 202 penalty minutes and is second in overall plus-minus with a +22 rating…
* Andrew Carroll, Derek Couture, Kenny Roche and Kevin Schaeffer are with Hartford (AHL), Matt Ford and Randy Rowe are with Lake Erie (AHL) and Ethan Graham is with Milwaukee (AHL)
Stefanishion – Leveille © – Doig
Slattengren – Tkaczuk – Schepke
Crane – Chabot – Marshall
Brouillette – Ward
Berube – Reynolds
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Trevor Glass – Lower Body – Early March
Chris Snavely – Upper Body – 2-3 weeks
Chris Chappell – Shoulder Surgery – Season Over
1. GWT – D. Brown
2. GWT – T. Miller
3. GWT – C. Denny
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Jarrod Ragusin (28)
David Jones (57)
One thing that has made the Charlotte Checkers so successful is their willingness to try new things and have exciting promotions. At 11:59pm on Thursday night, the puck will drop with the Toledo Walleye. Howlings will be covering the contest and it should be quite interesting to see how many Checkers fans show up for that one. We’re hoping there’s a lot so that teams will try more things like this in the future and think outside of the box. You’ll find in live in-game coverage 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 1 At Gwinnett Gladiators 2 – Status: Final
Feb 13, 2010 – The Arena at Gwinnett Center
Charlotte 0 0 1 – 1
Gwinnett 2 0 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Gwinnett, Denny 7 1:31. 2, Gwinnett, Miller 10 (Youngclaus), 13:51 (pp). Penalties-Reynolds Chr (fighting – major), 3:37; Miller Gwt (fighting – major), 3:37; Paris Gwt (tripping), 4:06; Leveille Chr (interference), 12:52.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Crane Chr (slashing ), 0:39; Stefanishion Chr (roughing), 3:43; Forney Gwt (high-sticking), 3:43; Miller Gwt (hooking), 6:22; Denny Gwt (slashing ), 9:39; Stefanishion Chr (interference on the goalkeeper), 12:05; Francis Gwt (high-sticking), 19:01.
3rd Period-3, Charlotte, Tkaczuk 9 (Marshall, Slattengren), 0:07. Penalties-Chabot Chr (tripping), 10:30; Hurley Gwt (roughing), 15:09.
Shots on Goal-Charlotte 8-16-12-36. Gwinnett 4-6-5-15.
Power Play Opportunities-Charlotte 0 of 5; Gwinnett 1 of 4.
Goalies-Charlotte, Munce 13-10-1-1 (15 shots-13 saves). Gwinnett, Brown 7-10-2-0 (36 shots-35 saves).