Game 63: Hartford Wolf Pack 0 @ Houston Aeros 1
Saturday March 08th 2008, 1:37 am

For the third consecutive game the Pack got off to a slow and sloppy start, allowing their opponent to take a first period lead and forcing themselves to play from behind. Tonight they had to do it without captain Andrew Hutchinson, who missed the game with a hand injury and did not travel to Texas with the team, and Alex Bourret, who’s been battling a foot injury and was forced out of the game in the second half of the first period.

Earlier in the first Houston’s Ryan Hamilton got the only goal of the game at the 9:25 mark when Greg Moore inadvertently put the puck on his stick in the crease as he attempted to clear it during a scramble in front following Hamilton’s initial shot. Despite being outnumbered 4 to 1 in the crease, Hamilton was able to sweep the puck past Pack goaltender David LeNeveu, who picked up his second loss in as many games with the Pack,
though neither loss has been his fault. The Pack finished the period with an 11-8 advantage in shots, and both teams would struggle to match their first period shot totals through the next two periods combined in what ultimately became a snooze fest.

The second period started with the three man officiating team one man short, as linesman Paul Wilkinson did not return at the start of the period because of a bout with the flu. He did return around the halfway point of the period, he was missing again at the start of the 3rd and ultimately never returned. During his 2nd period absence, Michael Sauer and Petr Kalus squared off after Sauer took exception to a hit from Kalus, who was a physical force all night. The bout was more of a wrestling match than a fight, with few head shots connecting, but Sauer getting in a few body blows as Kalus held on. The Pack got the only power play opportunity of the period, the only full two minute opportunity they had in the game (they’d gotten a 46 second chance in the 1st), but were unable to do much against Houston’s penalty kill, which is ranked 2nd in the league overall and 1st at home, with an 89.7% success rate.

The Pack played a much improved period in the second, finishing their checks, controlling the puck, and getting the better of the very few scoring chances that were given up in the period — the shot total for the period was a mere 6-3 in favor of the Pack. At the buzzer, in a bit of foreshadowing of things to come, Dane Byers would take a tap in the back of the legs from Aeros goaltender Barry Brust, and return the favor with a shove to which Brust reacted as if shot, falling over backwards and taking Byers’ feet out from under him in the process, sending both players sprawling. Aeros defenseman Clayton Stoner reacted immediately, dropping the gloves and trying to pull Byers up off the ice and into a fight, but he got nowhere with his attempt. Brust and Byers would get coinciding minors for Diving and Unsportsmanlike Conduct, respectively.

The third period continued much the same as the second, as Houston locked things down defensively, limiting the Pack once again to only six shots while putting up only two of their own. Once again the Pack had more puck possession time, and the better of the scoring chances, but that’s not saying much since all but a couple of the shots came from the outside or long-range, and the Houston defense did a superb job keeping the Pack away from the few rebounds that were available.

Anyone who doubts Andrew Hutchinson has been the MVP for the Pack this season need only watch them play without him to have those doubts erased. Not only was his poise with the puck missed on the power play, but so too was his steadying influence absent from the bench. It showed most when the Pack allowed their frustrations over their 3rd consecutive loss, in a chippy, poorly officiated game, in which all manner of hooks, holds, trips and slashes went uncalled on both sides, get the best of them with 11.3 second let to play in the game. Following a scramble in front of the Houston net Byers once again shoved the Aeros’ goaltender Brust, this time in response to a Brust cross check, setting off a scrum in which all players paired off. Even Brust got involved with Pack forward P.A. Parenteau before one of his teammates got in the middle. Off to the side of the net Aeros winger Benoit Pouliot drew the short straw, ending up paired off with an extremely frustrated Dane Byers. Pouliet turtled, but Byers wasn’t about to leave without a fight, and ripped Pouliet’s helmet off and threw a couple punches at the back of his head while he was down, then grabbed the back of his jersey and tried to pull him up out of his turtle position before throwing him back down to the ice. Byers picked up a double minor for Roughing and a game misconduct for Persisting a Fight, which was countered by a single minor to Brust for Cross Checking. With the faceoff moved outside the zone to center ice, and the Pack short a skater, any slim hope of a last minute goal was officially dashed.

Notes
- Pack enforcer Mitch Fritz, set to return from early season shoulder surgery soon, joined Pack radio play-by-play man Bob Crawford on the air during the second period. He’s been skating hard in practice and could receive doctor’s clearance to return within a week or two.
- Tonight marked the first time all season that the Pack have lost three consecutive games in regulation. It was Houston’s 6th straight win.

Pack Scoring
None

Lines
Byers – Moore – Parenteau
Korpikoski – Anisimov – Bourret
Dupont – Ouellette – Jessiman
Gratton – Owens

Potter – Constant
Baranka – Taylor
Pock – Sauer

LeNeveu / Wiikman

Three Stars
1. Barry Brust
2. Ryan Hamilton
3. Adrian Foster

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