It was over before it really began. The Hartford Wolf Pack fell behind 3-0 before fans had even found their seats. The team battled back as best they could, but just could not slow down the red-hot Portland Pirates as they dropped a 7-4 decision in a holiday matinee at the Cumberland County Civic Center Monday afternoon.
Chad Johnson (1 save, 14-9-2) had his second horrendous game in a row as he was pulled after surrendering three goals on four shots in the first 5:32. The first goal came on the game’s first shot just 53 seconds into the contest. Portland advanced the puck on a three-on-two odd man rush. Tyler Ennis advanced the puck up ice and into the Pack zone after taking a pass from Mike Weber. As they closed in on Johnson, Ennis fed Travis Turnbull who deflected in the pass by Johnson.
Then things got nothing short of weird.
Less than three minutes later, Johnson mishandled the puck behind his net and handed it to Pirate winger Kyle Wanvig in the right wing corner. Before the Calgary, Alberta native could get back to his net, Wanvig fed Felix Schutz in front of the net who had the entire 4’x6’ to shoot at and it was 2-0.
Just 1:51 after the last behind-the-net blunder, Johnson abandoned his net to go and field an Ennis dumped in. Johnson misread the puck and it hit the end boards and shot right out to the crease to Cody McCormick for the gift addition to his season’s goal total.
It was 3-0 and Head Coach Ken Gernander had seen enough. Johnson has allowed 10 goals on his last 39 shots over 65:32.
In came Miika Wiikman, himself coming off a very shaky Saturday night showing against Providence when he allowed six goals on 33 shots.
Wiikman was solid and got the Pack out of the period stopping all six shots that he faced.
Nigel Williams got his teammates down two goals, the closest they would get all game long, when he took a Dave Urquhart feed and rushed it up the left wing side. Williams saw Pirate starter, Jhonas Enroth (26 saves, 23-14-1) come WAY out of his net and saw Weber scrambling to cover the front of the net. Williams surprised Weber as he deliberately fired the puck and hit the Pirate defenseman with the puck and it bounced into the net for Williams third on the season. Urquhart’s assist was his second in as many games.
But the Pack defense was just terrible all game long. They played like they expected Wiikman to simply wipe away the plentitude of coverage lapses and giveaways they were making all over the ice. Wiikman battled valiantly, but Terry Sawchuk couldn’t have stopped the collection of scoring chances that were being thrown at him.
Wiikman’s best save came when he erased a wide open Turnbull who was dead red and all alone in front. Wiikman held his ground and evaporated the shot by the Pirate center.
At 7:37, with the Pack scrambling in their own zone and magnificent forechecking, passing and puck control by the home team, Mike Kostka pinched in from the right side and put grabbed the puck. The Pirate defenseman then fed the puck to Turnbull who fired it back on goal. The puck went right to Jeff Cowan who was all alone on the left side and Wiikman had no chance to get back in time to stop him and it was 4-1.
Kenny Roche took a hooking call at 8:10 and then 35 seconds later Williams joined him in confinement when he received a double minor for an attempted spear to Brad Larsen who was called for a cross check giving the Buffalo Sabres top development team a five-on-three advantage for 1:25. The Pack killed off the two man shortage, but with time winding down on the five-on-four, Ennis made it 5-1. At 10:12, Ennis got the power play goal after he put the puck just past the right skate of Wiikman after attacking the net from behind the goal line midway between the goal and the right corner.
Less than three minutes later it was 6-1. Wanvig scored his first of two goals in the game. After what seemed like the fifth or sixth consecutive turn over by the team from Connecticut’s capitol and poor coverage defending in front, Cowan fed Wanvig with a pass just past the Pack defenders, who both went after Cowan and deserted Wanvig, who took the past and blasted it past Wiikman up high for his tenth of the season.
If this team has demonstrated one positive through this horrendous run they’ve been on, is that they don’t quit. Sometimes they’re just massively outplayed by a team with more depth and talent, as they were here, but they don’t quit.
At 13:23, Kenny Roche, who’s played exceptionally well since being recalled from Charlotte on January 23rd, recorded his fourth goal in ten games when he one-timed a Grachev feed and blew it right past Enroth’s glove.
But Portland was showing no sympathy for the injury riddled Wolf Pack. Once again the home team executed well on the power play. With Derek Couture in the penalty box on a tripping call, the Pirates played keep-away and got Hartford scrambling and unable to clear the zone. From his spot on the right wing point, Schutz found Wanvig all alone on the left doorstep and made a perfect pass and the fourth year pro put it away for the five goal lead.
As the second period finally came to a merciful end, the Pack were outshot by their hosts 18-7.
Looking at the stats it would seem like Wiikman had a bad period allowing four goals, given how incredibly poorly the Pack played and the number of bona fide scoring chances in the period , which clearly were in the low to mid-teens, the Pack netminder was solid.
The third period was all Hartford as they battled back back right from the outset…literally.
Just as the puck to start the period was dropped, Brodie Dupont and Wanvig who were in the circle together dropped their gloves. Dupont scored a hard, straight right hand that rattled the Pirate center and he grabbed his Pack opponent and dragged him to the ice. Wanvig left the game under his own power to deal with the his bloodied face.
At 4:45 the Pack got within four as Pack captain Dane Byers, who has clearly been the best Pack player on the ice throughout this bad streak, scored in the manner he has his entire career, going into the rough part of town and knocking pucks into the net. Corey Locke threw the puck in front of the net from behind the goal line and before Enroth could cover it, Byers charged in front from behind the net and knocked it under the Pirate netminder. Locke and Dale Weise got the assists on Byer’s 17th of the season.
It only took 15 seconds for the team to cut it to the three goal deficit they started the game at when Justin Soryal deflected a Williams shot from the left point for his third of the season.
The Pack had a late chance to get back into it with a four minute power play but were unable to break through on Enroth.
Portland only had four shots on goal that were all handled easily by Wiikman in the third period.
Bob Crawford should be getting hazard pay for having to call the last three games. The voice of the Pack since it’s inception wrote up his perspective which can be found at Hartfordwolfpack.com. For the view from the home team, you’ll find it at PortlandPirates.com. On Tuesday you’ll be able to find a story at PressHerald.com.
GAME SUMMARY and OFFICIAL SCORERS SHEET
|6. WOLF PACK
|7. Sound Tigers
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* The Pack have surrendered twenty goals in the last three games and have been outscored 20-9. They were outscored 20-4 over a three game span earlier this season. They lost 7-1 at Manchester (December 4th), 4-1 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (December 5th) and then annihilated 9-2 (December 6th) at Hershey.
* After going 35 games without a goal, Soryal has now scored three in his last eight games.
* Steve Valiquette cleared re-entry waivers in a paper move that will allow the Rangers organization the ability to return Matt Zaba to be on the Hartford roster. It’s a pretty safe bet that Zaba will get the start in net when the Pack begin a three game homestand against Norfolk Wednesday night
* The Pack are 10-16-2-2 on the road. When trailing after two, the Pack are 2-21-0-2.
* It’s looking more and more like the only way the Pack are going to get into the playoffs is by finishing 5th in their division and playing in the East Division playoffs. The teams still in the hunt for that last playoff spot are Providence, Bridgeport, Norfolk and Wilkes-Barre. Right now, based upon points, Norfolk is in with 58 points in 56 games. Then Hartford and Providence have 57 points in 55 games with Bridgeport at 57 points in 56 games. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has 54 points in 54 games. Norfolk or Wilkes-Barre will automatically get one of those spots while the remaining teams will fight for that last playoff berth. Before getting all excited about that last spot, the “winner” of it gets the privilege of getting destroyed by Hershey who we think, unless lighting strikes the team bus, will win a record 11th Calder Cup. Just for the record, the Bears are 41-10-0-2 for 84 points.
Byers © – Dupont – Weise
DiDiomete – Owens – Brashear
Grachev – Locke – Roche
Soryal – Crowder – Couture
Urquhart – Potter
Heikkinen – Schaeffer
Williams – Nightingale
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Andres Ambϋhl – Reassigned to Swiss National Team – Two weeks
Andrew Carroll – Healthy Scratch
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. POR – K. Wanvig
2. POR – J. Cowan
3. POR – M. Kostka
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Zac Wiebe (89)
Landon Bathe (80)
Jeremy Lovett (78)
Bob Crawford is on the air with the pre-game show at 6:30 on Wednesday night as the Pack return home to take on the Norfolk Admirals for their last battle with them for the season.
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.
Hartford Wolf Pack 4 At Portland Pirates 7 – Status: Final
Feb 15, 2010 – Cumberland County Civic Center
Hartford 0 2 2 – 4
Portland 3 4 0 – 7
1st Period-1, Portland, Turnbull 5 (Ennis, Weber), 0:53. 2, Portland, Schutz 10 (Wanvig), 3:42. 3, Portland, McCormick 11 (Ennis, Larsen), 5:32. Penalties-Weber Por (cross-checking), 13:23; Williams Hfd (hooking), 15:50; Whitmore Por (tripping), 15:54; Soryal Hfd (roughing, fighting), 20:00; Enroth Por (slashing), 20:00; Wanvig Por (roughing, fighting), 20:00.
2nd Period-4, Hartford, Williams 3 (Urquhart, Couture), 2:05. 5, Portland, Cowan 16 (Turnbull, Kostka), 7:37. 6, Portland, Ennis 18 (Gragnani, Wanvig), 10:12 (pp). 7, Portland, Wanvig 10 (Cowan, Kostka), 13:02. 8, Hartford, Roche 4 (Dupont, Grachev), 13:23. 9, Portland, Wanvig 11 (Schutz, Brennan), 19:08 (pp). Penalties-Roche Hfd (hooking), 8:10; Williams Hfd (double minor – spearing (attempt)), 8:45; Larsen Por (cross-checking), 8:45; Couture Hfd (tripping), 18:09.
3rd Period-10, Hartford, Byers 17 (Locke, Weise), 4:45. 11, Hartford, Soryal 3 (Williams, Couture), 5:00. Penalties-Dupont Hfd (fighting), 0:01; Wanvig Por (fighting), 0:01; Couture Hfd (hooking), 5:28; Schutz Por (delay of game), 7:59; Crowder Hfd (holding), 9:26; Larsen Por (double minor – high-sticking), 15:05.
Shots on Goal-Hartford 13-7-10-30. Portland 10-18-4-32.
Power Play Opportunities-Hartford 0 of 6; Portland 2 of 6.
Goalies-Hartford, Johnson 14-9-2 (4 shots-1 saves); Wiikman 2-4-0 (28 shots-24 saves). Portland, Enroth 23-14-1 (30 shots-26 saves).