Pack Drop Close One 3-2 to Sound Tigers
BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings
BRIDGEPORT, CT – Despite a strong third period, the Hartford Wolf Pack came up short in a 3-2 loss before 5,000 in attendance at the Webster Bank Arena to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Sunday afternoon.
For the intra-state and franchise rival Sound Tigers, it was their regular season home finale.
The Pack record falls to 24-43-4-2 (54 points) and a league worst, .370 winning percentage. The Sound Tigers improves to 44-26-3-1 (92 points). The Sound Tigers are in a battle with the Hershey Bears and the Providence Bruins for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Both Bridgeport and Hershey have two games left with the Bears holding a one-point lead on the Sound Tigers (93 to 92). The Bears are also ahead by .06 percentage points with Hershey at .628 and Bridgeport at .622. Providence has 95 points but also have a game-in-hand on both teams as they sit in third place.
The Wolf Pack awoke in the third period putting pressure on the Sound Tigers after another middle frame misfortune that put the Pack down 3-0 in a short amount of time.
But much like Saturday night against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the Wolf Pack scored early in the third period to ignite a fire in them.
At 1:17, Vince Pedrie was at the left point and took a point pass from Ryan Graves. Pedrie rocketed a shot on net. Matt Carey, while doing what he does best, screening the goaltender, redirected the shot and put it top shelf and made it 3-1.
“I said to him cross body is easier for me to read,” Carey said of his 21st goal. “I was able to get a stick on it and get it to the back of the net. That gave us some life.”
Head Coach Ken Gernander had a message for his troops in between the second and third periods. “We have said it often enough this year, ‘Pucks and bodies to the net.’ What did Bridgeport do in the second to get three goals? Pucks and bodies to the net.”
The Pack nearly got a second goal shortly after that. Dan Catenacci made a nice move and shot, but he hit the post at 4:31.
At 12:12, the Pack’s hard work paid off with some puck luck.
Rookie Vinni Lettieri fired a shot that missed the right post, but it bounced off the backboards. Catenacci was behind the goal line and able to tuck it into the net for his eighth goal of the season. Catenacci has been quiet with this being just his third goal in his 15 games played since being acquired from the Rochester Americans for Mat Bodie. It was also his first in nine games.
“That’s how you generate 40 shots a game with pucks to the net, tips, and screens,” Gernander said. “If you want to play on the perimeter and your gonna get 17 or 18 shots a game (they ended up with 21) then you have to fight from behind.”
“We were all there. We had chances to bury (a goal), and we didn’t. We had chances on the powerplay. We had several power play chances. We didn’t take advantage of things. We had that four minutes in the first (period). If we score, it’s a different game,” Carey stated.
Gernander was experiencing a bag of mixed emotions. “Our powerplay wasn’t very good. In some instances we were pressing and other times stubbornly (players) going off on their own and not sticking to things. You think a coach might explode at some point?” Gernander said while leaning on some sticks that looked like a few were about to be broken.
The Sound Tigers woke up what started out as a sleepy Sunday afternoon game by scoring three goals in a 3:01 span in the second period.
Former Quinnipiac Bobcat, Travis St. Denis, came charging up the left wing. St. Denis picked up a rebound of a shot from Michael Del Colle that hit him in the chest only to see it fall to his feet. In one motion, he was able to put his shot just inside the left post past Brandon Halverson who was making his first start since March 5th .
After an extensive video review, the goal was affirrmed as a good goal. The Pack had time to recover, but the Sound Tigers quickly extended their lead.
38 seconds later, Sound Tigers’ captain Ben Holmstom got past Mike Paliotta and put in the rebound of a Ross Johnston shot for his third of the season.
The Pack dug a deeper hole for themselves with a penalty. On the ensuing powerplay, just a little over a minute into it, DelColle showed a pump fake from the right point and slipped a pass over Ryan Pulock at the left. Pulock one-timed the pass and took the black out of the puck with one of his patented rockets. All that Halverson could do was send a wave at it as it blew by him at 14:15. For Pulock, it was his 14th goal of the season.
Gernander took his timeout to try to rally his troops.
“We had time to regroup because of the long video review on the first goal and they came right back and scored, and then we compounded things by taking a penalty and those are tough things to overcome.”
The Sound Tigers nearly added two more, but Halverson kept his teammates in the game as he stopped Parker Wotherspoon with a gorgeous glove save with 3:26 left and then Ross Johnston and ex-Pack Andrew Rowe.
The Sound Tigers outshot the Pack 17-6 in the second period, which has become the Pack’s Achilles Heel as of late.
The game started as many do on the third of a three-in-three weekend with sloppy play filled with icings and offsides. Quality scoring chances were few and far between.
The Wolf Pack didn’t put together solid scoring chances until the last three minutes of the period when Ty Ronning came off the right wing with a good scoring chance with 1:09 left.
With 48.4 left, Paliotta’s show from 55-feet resulted from good forechecking by Marek Hrivik on the Sound Tigers’ Kane Lafranchise.
The Pack was without goaltender Magnus Hellberg in New York on recall with the Rangers. New York was resting Henrik Lundqvist and without Antti Raanta, who suffered a minor lower-body injury in Friday’s practice. Hellberg earned his first NHL win in his fourth game.
Pack goalie Chris Nell was sick and forced the team to call the FHL Danbury Titans’ Nick Neidert at about 11:00 am to be an emergency backup.
Neidert hockey resume could be used by Triple AAA as a roadmap. Neidert has had stops in such exotic hockey locales as Iron Range, Minnesota, Brownstown, Michigan, Frisco, TX, Knoxville, TN, Quad City, Illinois and Asheville, NC. When combined with his experience in juniors and minor pro, he has been 38 different cities in 11 different leagues! Neidert has been an emergency backup for both the Sound Tigers and Wolf Pack, plus played for two versions of a team in Danbury.
At 16:36 of the first, Halverson got clipped in front by Dal Colle and lost his helmet. It looked as if Neidert might actually get in the game. Halverson obviously recovered and continued to play.
The Pack made some minor changes from their lines Saturday night.
Halverson and Niedert.
*-indicates changed player
-Michael Joly (facial fractures) and Boo Nieves (concussion) are done for the year.
Sound Tigers lines were:
Andrew Rowe-Bracken Kearns-Jon Landry (usually a defenseman)
Michael Del Colle-Darren Nowick-Travis St. Denis
Kellen Jones-Colin Markison-John Stevens Jr.
Ben Holmstrom-Ross Johnston-Josh Holmstrom.
Ryan Pulock-Kane Lafranchise
Jake Bischoff*-Devon Toews
Kyle Burroughs-Parker Wotherspoon*.
*Reflects rookie player
The Sound Tigers scratched 11 players
Congrats to longtime Bridgeport AHL off ice official Frank Camara who turned 80 years young. Camara has been an off-ice official for minor league hockey since 1957 dating back to the old New Haven Arena with the legendary Eastern Hockey League’s, New Haven Blades.
Camara has worked with the New Haven Nighthawks/Senators from 1972-1993 then the two seasons of the Beast of New Haven (1997-1999) and two seasons with the UHL New Haven Knights (2000-2001).
He has been with Bridgeport all 17 seasons.
Hockey has always been a part of his family. His late father, Ralph Camera, was a goal judge with the Blades starting in 1942. That make it a total of 75 years the Camera’s have been associated with minor pro hockey in the greater New Haven area.
Comrade in arms John Brianti, who has been working with him since 1972, presented him with a giant cannoli stuffed with regular sized cannoli’s to celebrate the occasion.
Camara was just supposed to work a couple of games as the team was shorthanded. 60 years later, he is still going strong.