BY: Gerry Cantlon, Special to Howlings
Manchester, New Hampshire – The Hartford Wolf Pack entered the AHL’s lion’s den with the league leading Manchester Monarchs where early on, it look like feeding time.
The Monarchs led 3-1 at the end of the first period.
The Monarchs recently acquired defenseman, Brayden McNabb, was just inside the Wolf Pack blue line on the powerplay when he found Linden Vey on the right wing being chased by Marek Hrivik. Vey dished the puck back to Colin Fraser in the right wing faceoff circle and he fired it past the Pack’s starting netminder, David LeNeveu, for his third goal of the season, at 9:14.
Sensing the team needed a pick me up, the Wolf Pack’s Dylan McIlrath fresh off a faceoff challenged Scott Sabourin, and the two big men just threw bombs at each other in a furious toe-to-toe exchange. McIlrath, with his fifth right hand, staggered Sabourin. To his credit, Sabourin gallantly got up and the southpaw threw some tough shots on “Big Mac” at 11:16.
The Monarchs however were able to get the next goal.
Defenseman Andrew Campbell launched his third of the season from the right point as Wolf Pack defenseman Conor Allen crossed in front of LeNeveu just as the shot was launched and he never saw the puck as it sailed over his right shoulder giving the Monarchs a 2-0 lead.
The Monarchs nearly made it 3-0, but LeNeveu rejected three shots on one rush from Greenwich native Sean Backman, one time Yale Bulldog Brian O’Neill and Campbell.
The Monarchs, perhaps sensing the Pack struggles, expanded their lead to 3-0, when Jordan Weal received a nice pass from behind the net by Zach O’Brien. It was O’Brien who corralled Nike Bodnarchuk’s left point shot that missed the net, but the puck came off the backboards sharply. Weal fired his 16th goal past a besieged LeNeveu at 16:53.
The Wolf Pack did answer back however as Allen, at the left point, beat a pair of Monarchs to a loose puck and found an open T.J. Hensick, who was patient with the puck and let Jean-Francois Berube make the first move. When he did, Hensick was able to slip his 8th of the year between the pads with 23 seconds left.
The second period was a style better suited for the Wolf Pack, who had to slow down Manchester thoroughbred offense as each team had just eight shots on goal.
The first half of the third period the Monarchs team defense lassoed the Wolf Pack offense and limited them to just one shot on goal. That shot came off the stick of Oscar Lindberg. By the same token, Hartford ended the Monarchs’ quality chances and LeNeveu made a crucial stop on O’Neill on a two-on-one to keep the Pack’s chance to get back in the game alive.
On the following shift, the Monarchs’ James Livingston was rejected in just his third game since being acquired from Worcester. The Wolf Pack had chances via the power play, but never tested J.F. Berube going 0-6.
The Wolf Pack began to get their legs with about seven minutes to go and started spending more time in the Manchester zone than in their own end.
Miller had a quality wrist shot chance that went off from the right wing with 4:10 left, but Berube scooped it up.
The Pack finally lit the lamp with 59 seconds left in regulation off a mad scramble at the net. The puck squirted out in front and Miller took it on his backhand, held it, and then sent a forehand pass to a wide-open Hensick, who came on the ice as the extra attacker and buried his second of the game. The lead narrowed to 3-2, but that was as far as their comeback would yield.
Miller has a three game scoring streak with eights point in that stretch and Hensick has four goals in four games.
The Wolf Pack are off until next Friday (14th) when they pay at home at 7pm against Kris Newbury and the Adirondack Phantoms. They then have two road games in Albany and Providence on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
Micheal Haley returned to the lineup after missing four games with a lower body injury. Arron Asham sat out for the Wolf Pack after playing four straight games.
Justin Vaive is still out with a infection in his left hand, but on a good note, was released out of the hospital as of yesterday.
Michael Kantor (concussion) and Stu Bickel (surgery) remain out of the lineup on a long term basis.
Chad Kolarik finished the season as fifth leading scorer (38 points) of the Swedish Hockey League and had the most goals with 30. The LeMat Trophy playoffs start next week.
Russian Olympic coach and former Springfield Falcon assistant coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov resigned from the national team after their poor Olympic performance and signed a deal to be the President/GM of AK Bars Kazan in the KHL,