Wolf Pack Edge Providence 4-3
BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings
HARTFORD, CT – The Hartford Wolf Pack, held off a late rally by the Providence Bruins for an important 4-3 victory Saturday night as the team heads into the AHL All-Star break before a season-best 10,700 fans at the XL Center.
“A slow start, but we scored two big goals late in the first, so we didn’t go in trailing, and that was important,” Pack head coach Ken Gernander said. “We scored again at the end of the second, and in the second period we played more to our liking and a real back and forth third.”
The Pack was able to score twice in the first 5:36 of the third period to establish, for them this season, a rare two-goal lead.
Philip McRae bagged his second of the night and sixth of the season in front of the net converting on a rebound of a Chris Summers shot from the right point at 3:31.
“I was able to be in front. Summers got the shot through a crowd, six inches off the ice. It’s just where you want to be, and I got the rebound. It was a great atmosphere. The crowd really helped us get invested in the game. It was the best crowd of the season and a lot of fun out there,” McRae, who hadn’t scored a goal since December 26th said.
Adam Tambellini followed coming down the left wing side and ripped his shot to the short-side past netminder, Anton Khodobin, who had lost his positioning in playing the shot. It was Tambellini’s eighth of the season. His goal would prove to be the game-winner.
“I don’t think it was the best goal ever, but (Khodobin) was trying to cheat. I saw an opening and shot it,” Tambellini said.
Gernander was pleased he took the shot. “He was really trying to put the puck on the net at that point. At the end of the day, he’ll take it, and we have impressed upon him to have a shooter’s mentality.”
The Bruins showed their resiliency by knocking the lead down to one goal.
At 11:52, Chris Porter took a Jake DeBrusk pass and avoided Ryan Graves, who was attempting a hip check. Porter then a sent a soft, backhanded shot that slipped by Pack goalie, Brandon Halverson, for his second goal.
The two teams did some jockeying in the second period with the Pack gaining the better of the chances. Five of the Pack’s shots came while in shorthanded situations and seemed to jumpstart the Wolf Pack offense.
The best Pack chance came with 8:03 left in the period as Nicklas Jensen came off the left wing and went backhand-to-forehand. Khodobin stood his ground and made the save,
Just before the Jensen chance, Peter Cehlarik had a good left point bid, but his stick shattered as he took the shot.
Providence took a 2-1 lead on the powerplay late in the period at 16:20.
Alex Grant launched a 55-foot rocket that sailed past Halverson who was screened by the Bruins. For Grant, it was his eighth of the season.
Cehlarik got the primary assist, but he was the sole reason the puck was still in the zone after racing back to the right point just as the puck was about to cross the blue. Cehlarik deftly kept the puck in and avoided offsides that began the scorings sequence.
The Pack, as they have shown in recent play, answered back quickly and tied the game at two just 1:17 later.
“I like the fact we didn’t go away quietly,” Gernander stated. “That can happen when the other team scores that late. We got a good lift going into the locker room that was a lot better than sitting around for 18 minutes in between the periods thinking about how we were going to come from behind.”
Tambellini wheeled around in the right wing circle and fired a shot at the net. Matt Carey was occupying space right in front of Khodobin and was knocked down by the Russian netminder with a glove hand swat to the back of his head. Tambellini’s shot went off him and into the net at 17:27. Carey tallied his 12th of the season and extended his point-scoring streak to three games.
“He has been such a good addition to our line. He’s always battling away and makes it all good for us,” remarked Tambellini.
Gernander was quick to praise of Carey’s play. “He has been a big boost for us offensively. The way he goes net-front and with offensive zone puck recovery and he makes plays with Tambo (Tambellini) and Jenner (Jensen). He has found a spot there.”
The Jekyll-and-Hyde Wolf Pack were on display in the first period.
With a season-best crowd on hand, the Pack played a meek, and passive first period. The team went shotless for 13:35 and yet shocking, they were just down 1-0 in the first minute of play.
Wayne Simpson scored on a wraparound sweeping to the left wing side and putting the puck past Halverson for his 14th goal just 43 seconds into the contest.
After watching chance after chance wasted by the Bruins, the Pack finally awoke from their hibernation via the powerplay.
With 2:42 left, Marek Hrivik was left alone on the lower right wing circle. His one-timed slapper was stopped by Khodobin before the Pack tied the game at one.
At the right point, Mat Bodie took a pass from Garrett Noonan and then sent a low, hard snap shot on net. Khodobin couldn’t control the rebound, but Philip McRae was right on the doorstep and jammed home his fifth of the season at 18:39.
Bodie’s assist also extends his point-scoring streak to four games.
The Pack had two solid scoring chances with Greg Carey from the slot with 48 seconds left in the period and then Justin Fontaine all alone as Chris Brown with an effective forecheck forced a turnover and hit him with a quick pass was denied by Khodobin with 14.7 seconds left.
The Pack, on their anniversary card set giveaway recognizing this being the 20th edition of the team, also wore what could be called a fourth jersey for the game. They had a light purple base with the 20th-anniversary logo and were later auctioned off to the fans following the contest.
The jerseys looked a bit similar to the old Philadelphia Phantoms color scheme, just not as a deep of a purple.
Jensen will depart and represent the Pack at the upcoming AHL All-Star game. Jensen has nine points in his last ten games (5-4) and now has a five-game consecutive point streak going (1-4-5).
The Pack lost defenseman Tommy Hughes to a lower body injury (gone for a week) so had to recall Spiro Goulakos from Greenville. With Goulakos playing every player who signed to an AHL contract for the season by the organization has played at least one game in Hartford this year.
Goulakos teamed with Mat Bodie and picked up an assist.
Boo Nieves was a scratch (upper body, gone for a week) as well as joining Mate Stromwall (broken foot), Mike Paliotta (upper body) and Adam Chapie (knee).
None of the last three teams are expected back after the break.
The Pack was riding a hot powerplay of late operating at 50& 6 for 12 in the last three games and 10 for 26 in their last eight at 38,4% prior to the game.
Wolf Pack have won eight of the last nine games (8-1-1) between Providence and the Pack.
Ex-Pack Andre Deveaux, after a year long IIHF ban for a pre-game attack on a player has signed for the rest of the year with HC Sparta Prague, (Czech Republic-CEL).
Another ex-Pack, Akim Aliu, was traded from Florida (ECHL) to Elmira (ECHL).
Cal Babych, the son of ex-Whaler Dave Babych, and the nephew to ex-Whaler, Wayne Babych. The younger earned a recall from Coquitlam (BCHL) by Everett (WHL) he had a previous three-game recall with Vancouver (WHL).
Pack/Rangers fans can be happy with two goalie prospects who had solid games collegiately this week.
Adam Huska turned in a sterling performance in a 3-1 win over Vermont for the Huskies last night at the XL Center, while Tyler Wall (14-8-1) with UMASS-Lowell was sharp in two losses to Northeastern and Boston University.