BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings
HARTFORD, CT - “Offense,” was on display at the XL Center Friday night as the Hartford Wolf Pack scored a season high eight goals in game played more like a pond hockey special as the New York Rangers’ top minor league affiliate defeated the visiting Bridgeport Sound Tigers, 8-6 before a boisterous crowd of 6,671.
“This wasn’t according to plan,” Pack head coach Ken Gernander said. “Moving forward a lot of things need to be corrected in short order.”
The team’s top line of Chris Bourque, Joey Crabb and Oscar Lindberg combined for nine points and a plus-eight for the game.
“Offensively we did things that are a part of our game plan. Whenever we seem to have some breathing room, we deviated from that and we can’t do that.” Gernander said.
The Wolf Pack record improves to 25-13-3-2 (55 points) as the team inched to within one point of the Springfield Falcons who were defeated handily by the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins, 5-0. Second place in the Northeast Division will be on the line when the Falcons and Wolf Pack hook up Saturday night at the XL Center at 7. The Pack have defeated the Falcons the last two times the teams met.
After the loss, the Sound Tigers remain in fifth place in the Northeast Division with a 19-19-5-1 record and head back home to play the Portland Pirates Saturday night.
The Wolf Pack watched a three goal lead they had built shrink down to one nearly midway through the third period. The game’s First Star, Joey Crabb, gave his teammates back the breathing room they needed when he took a short pass from Marek Hrivik, skated to dead center and deked Jessie Graham to the ice. Crabb then put a backhanded pass to Danny Kristo who deposited his second of the night and eleventh of the season into the net at 9:18.
It was the seventh goal that turned out to be the game winner for the Pack.
“It was nice to see him over there and bury it,” Crabb said of Kristo’s goal. “Sometimes you make those plays and it doesn’t work out, so it was good to see (Kristo) over there and finish it off.” Crabb had four points in the game with two goals and two assists.
The Sound Tigers didn’t quit however as Kael Moullierat, who, throughout his career has excelled when playing in the XL Center, was left alone on the left wing. A pass from Cory Conacher to Moullierat led to a shot that banked in off the post for his second of the period and fifth of the period at 15:44 to make it 7-5.
Scooter Vaughan nearly tied the game with almost two and half to go from down on one knee as his shot went through the crease.
Hrivik picked up his second point and squelched a comeback with an empty net goal at 18:51.
The game was made close on a bad play deep in his own zone by Dallas Jackson. The defenseman fired a pass across his own zone that actually became a shot on his own net as Yann Danis stopped Vaughan who’d gotten to the rebound and put it into the net for his eighth of the season at 3:45.
The Wolf Pack penchant for taking bad penalties, especially in the second period, took all of the team’s rhythm away.
“Five-on-five we’re a very good team. We just have to stop takings stupid penalties,” Lindberg said.
On their own powerplay led to the Pack getting burned.
“We obviously didn’t do everything we should have,” Crabb said. “They were making good plays too when (Pack defenseman Matt) Bodie was lying in front of him and putting it into the far corner.” Crabb refers to Moullierat’s shorthanded goal off a two-on-one at 8:01, his first goal of the period that made it 6-5.
The Sound Tigers reduced the lead to one early in the second period on the powerplay.
Griffin Reinhart came in off the left point, took a pass from his defensive partner, Jessie Graham, and beat Danis to the short-side high, over his right shoulder, at 1:40.
The penalty was a double minor held over from the end of the first period after Conor Allen was slapped with an unsportsmanlike call for arguing the hooking call he was assessed with the game’s solo referee, Tim Mayer.
“You can ask Conor what he was thinking. I sure would like to know.” said Gernander.
The Pack regained their two goal lead back on their powerplay scoring 21 seconds into the man advantage. Michael Kostka’s shot found its way through a maze of players including Justin Vaive who was screening in front at 5:06.
The Pack grew that to a three goal advantage once again on the man advantage when Jackson, a former Sound Tiger, hit a sharp diagonal pass that set Kristo free. Kristo then sent a snapshot to the far side for his tenth of the season at 8:50. It was also only Kristo’s second goal in 16 games.
The Wolf Pack’s top line got the team on the scoreboard first in a wild six goal first period.
Lindberg led a break-in and sent a nice short pass to leading scorer Chris Bourque, who slid to the deep part of the right wing circle and stopped on a dime drawing two players o him. Bourque then found Crabb who’d slid to the middle of the slot and got him the puck. Crabb fired his seventh of the season five hole past David Leggio at 4:41.
The Sound Tigers answered back as Jessie Graham fired it from the right point. The shot was stopped by Yann Danis, but Justin Courtnall was able to outwork Kostka and Jackson and backhanded his fourth just 39 seconds later.
The top line factored in the second goal as Crabb returned the favor to freeing Chris Bourque. The elder of the Pack’s two Bourque brothers, came alone down the left wing where he snapped his eighteenth over the glaringly wide open short-side going top shelf at 7:48.
Then they were heavily involved again on the third goal as Lindberg sent Crabb in alone on the left wing shorthanded with a great flip pass. Crabb. a right-handed shot, snapped his second of the period burying it to the far side on Leggio at 10:19.
“What a pass by Lindberg,” Crabb said. “It was a good player making a real creative play and being able to execute that play. Both of my goals came off of great passes from my linemates.”
It was the Wolf Pack’s sixth shorthanded goal of the season.
The Sound Tigers crawled back to within one at 3-2 on a very odd sequence.
Graham, at the left point, found Reinhart alone on the right side. He then fired a shot/pass to a hard charging John Persson. The puck ricocheted off Persson’s skate and into the corner and Persson took out Danis with Allen on his tail.
CJ Stretch picked up the puck in the left wing corner and fired it into an open net for his sixth of the season.
The goal counted as no call was made on Persson, but Allen was hit with a phantom hooking call at 10:40.
The Pack got that one back as Allen, on the powerplay, snapped one from 50 feet out that beat Leggio cleanly to the stick-side at 14:26. It was his second powerplay goal in as many games.
The play made possible with Ryan Malone winning a one-on-one battle along the left wing with Bridgeport. Malone backhandled the puck to Danny Kristo who fed Allen.
Danis came up big late stopping Colton Gillies on a breakaway with 24.6 seconds left.
- The 6,671 in attendance marked the second straight sell-out of the lower bowl for the Pack.
- Tommy Hughes (lower body) is out for another two weeks for the Wolf Pack was the sole injury scratch. Ryan Potulny and Nick Tarnasky were the veteran scratches and Chad Nehring was the healthy scratch.
- Sound Tigers lost team leading goal scorer Colin McDonald (14 goals) to an emergency recall in Long Island and their top goalie Kevin Poulin (lower body injury) who has third best minutes played (1,699:51) and in appearances (29) in the AHL.
- Great National Anthem performed by East Hartford police officer Kevin McCarthy as was the rendition of, “God Bless America” from their Middle School.