BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings
HARTFORD, CT – The Hartford Pack used timely scoring from Chris Bourque (goal and two assists) and a strong goaltending effort by Mackenzie Skapski (45 saves) ending their weekend of action on a high note with 4-2 win over the Binghamton Senators at the XL Center Sunday afternoon.
Hartford improves its record to 12-9-2-1 (27 points) while Binghamton, who came into the Connecticut capitol having not gone without a point in its last seven (6-0-0-1) had that streak broken. The Senators record dropped to 11-9-2-1 and they remain in third place in the East Division.
“We were just talking about how we took three of four points away from two of the hottest teams in the American (Hockey) League,” Head Coach Ken Gernander said. “Those are two pretty good hockey teams that we got points from and we played pretty sound hockey.”
In a very physical second period, the Pack won the one-on-one battles and got to the loose pucks that resulted in goals while Skapski not only closed the door, but bolted it shut with 21 saves.
“We talked today about Friday,” Gernander said. In Friday’s game Skapski was pulled after just 3:44 of play. The Pack leader informed Skapski of the start after last night’s game. “I didn’t think it was an indication of how he played. He didn’t have any help out in front of him. (Skapski) is a mentally strong kid and he started out strong and he finds his way to be one of our better players. Mental toughness is one of his strengths.”
Another strength is he uses almost every piece of equipment it seems to make saves.
In that critical second period Patrick Mullen was denied twice at 8:02 as Skapski, with a semi-screen in front of him, made a right pad save while on his back and was able to sweep the loose puck under him.
Then in rapid succession the Senators had several quality chances. Derek Grant, a major wide body screening Skapski, was turned away. Former Wolf Pack captain and now Senators captain, Aaron Johnson, was also denied, this time with the right pad.
Daniel New was rejected by Skapski’s right skate blade with 6:22 remaining and then Shane Prince had a quality backhander gloved away with 4:50 left in the period and Matt Puempel was stopped with 2:12 remaining.
“They have a good power play and like to throw everything at the net to generate their offense,” Skapski said. “I also got some good bounces too and there were in front jamming away at things.”
Skapski tried to go about his preparation as usual, but he knew the importance of the game. “I was little more nervous because I knew it has to be a really good game. They (the coaches) tried not to put too much pressure on me. I just try to be a pretty calm goalie out there,” Skapski remarked.
The Pack went up 3-1 as the recently recalled Shawn O’Donnell was on the right wing and sent a cross ice feed to Chad Nehring on the left side. Nehring then sent a pass/shot to Dallas Jackson who operated as a left wing for the game from his usual defense spot and redirected his first of the season into the right side of the net at 8:57
“Top marks to all three of them for a great all around play they were really effective,” Gernander stated. “I have been pleased with their games. Chad has taken some critical face offs for us. Odie has always been an edgy guy, and whenever he’s asked, Dallas Jackson has done everything. He didn’t look like a guy who was just working hard and filling in, he looked comfortable and was effective.”
Chris Bourque, involved offensively all game long, started their fourth goal by firing an off balance shot that sent a rebound to Marek Hrivik. The puck deflected off his skate right to Danny Kristo who was wide open and easily deposited his second of the game, seventh of the season, into an open net at 9:53 giving the Pack a three goal lead at 4-1.
The Senators scored early in the third period cutting the Wolf Pack lead to two goals.
Jean Gabriel Pageau’s shot deflected off Mike Kostka’s skate and into the back of the net just 13 seconds into the final frame. The Senators put 15 shots on Skapski in the third period and with his personal gas tank reading empty, Skapski put the team on his back and brought home the win.
“He’s been really helping us out all year since he came here. Its good we can rely on him and he’s back there bailing us out,” said Chris Bourque.
The Wolf Pack grabbed the lead on their first power play, a mere five seconds into the man advantage.
Chris Mueller won the draw and got it back to Kostka at the right point. Kostka let a shot go and Chris Bourque fired home his fourth power play goal and ninth of the season at 1:20. In front of the net was a big screen from Justin Vaive, who may have gotten a piece of the puck, but his net presence was what the team was looking for.
“It was a really good start and that’s what we wanted to do better than Friday night, which was an awful period. We turned the page and we got the good start and good effort from us tonight,” said the elder of the Bourque brothers.
The coach was happy as well with the start.
“That was fortunate, but we were playing good hockey (from the start) and we kind of front end loaded it. Playing better at the start, they kind of turned up the pressure on us. We could have done a few things to alleviate that pressure, but we got the job done,” Gernander said.
Binghamton’s Cole Schneider tied the game at one when he converted a rebound of Alex Grant’s right point shot after getting behind Wolf Pack defenseman Henrik Tallinder. The goal was his eighth of the season at 7:45.
The Wolf Pack regained the lead as Kristo took Chris Bourque’s pass off the right-wing half-wall and was able to walk down Broadway as Grant was backing in and gave him the lane. Kristo fired a shot low to the stick side on Senators’ starter, Scott Greenham at 11:48 for his seventh of the season.
“Danny has been playing some of his best hockey since he has been with us. I mean not only his offensive output, but he raced down the ice to negate that icing, collapsed back in the D zone to pick up pucks. I think his overall package has been the best he has shown,” Gernander stated.
- Aaron Johnson the 8th captain in Wolf Pack/CT Whale history was back in the building with the leagues 5th plus/minus at plus 14.
- Chad Nehring got into a second period scrap with a much bigger Darren Kraemer and survived.
- “THE Captain,” Mark Messier took in the game at the XL Center.
- Ranger brass on hand consisted of GM Jim Schoenfeld, Director Player Development Jeff Gorton and Pro Scout former Hartford Whaler Kevin Maxwell.
- Prior to game time work was done on the scoreboard video panels right up until pre-game skate.