On Friday the Hartford Wolf Pack put forth a complete effort against the leading team in the Western Conference and came away with two points. On Saturday they faced the Eastern Conference-leading Hershey Bears and put forth an undisciplined, inconsistent effort and came away with three game misconducts and 6-2 defeat.
The Bears were buoyed by the recent return of a number of call-ups to their parent club, the Washington Capitals. Most important among them was former Ranger property and Wolf Pack player Alexandre Giroux, who returned to the Bears on Saturday afternoon and set up three Hershey goals before putting one of his own home to complete the scoring in third period.
The Wolf Pack fell behind early, spotting the Bears a 2-0 lead in the first 6:35 of play. Hershey’s first goal came just 1:25 into the game when a weird bounce off the neutral zone boards got past Hartford rookie Bobby Sanguinetti, sending Giroux into the Hartford zone on a 2-on-1 with Keith Aucoin. Giroux fed Aucoin, who put the puck in the open side of starter Miika Wiikman’s net from just off the right post.
Giroux got his second helper just over five minutes later when Sanguinetti lost his stick and the Pack got caught running around in their own zone. Giroux controlled the puck behind the net and sent a pass out to the low slot, where Graham Mink was left alone and shoveled the puck past Wiikman.
The Wolf Pack got into its first penalty trouble at the thirteen minute mark when P.A. Parenteau was issued a 5-minute major penalty and game misconduct for spearing Hershey defenseman Dean Arsene behind the play. Referee Jamie Koharski missed the spear, but awarded the major after consultation with his linesman. Things got worse for the Pack when Mike Ouellette was whistled for interference two minutes into the major penalty, setting up a full two minutes of 5-on-3 time for the Bears. Impressively, the Hartford penalty kill — the lone highlight of the game — was able to kill off both penalties and escape the first period just two goals down, after being outshot by an 18-7 margin.
Once again the Pack gave up two quick goals in the first 6:20 of the period to start the second frame. The first came just 36 seconds in, when Hershey center Steve Pinizzotto skated across the top of the circles and beat Wiikman with an weak wrist shot. Kyle Wilson put the Bears up by four at 6:20 when he fired home the rebound of defenseman Chris Bourque’s (yes, Ray’s son) shot from the left point.
Hershey got it’s next 5-minute power play at 8:10 of the period. Pinizzatto rocked Brian Fahey — playing only his second game since being knocked out of the line up with a concussion the last time these two teams met — behind the net, and teammate Devin DiDiomete immediately came to Fahey’s aid, pumelling Pinizzatto before the second-year center even knew what hit him. DiDiomete was handed the 2-minute instigator penalty, which cancelled out the original charging call on Pinizzatto, plus five minutes for fighting, and both a ten minute and game misconduct.
Once again Hartford gave the Bears a full two minute, two-man advantage when Fahey was called for high-sticking two minutes later. And once again the Pack penalty kill came up big, holding Hershey off the board.
Hartford then got two power play opportunities of their own — their first of the game. They cashed in on the second, with just .8 seconds remaining in the period when Artem Anisimov feathered a cross-ice pass from the right face-off dot to Greg Moore at the left face-off dot. Moore fired the one-timer past Hershey goaltender Simeon Varlamov for his 11th of the season to make the score 4-1 going into the third period.
Patrick Rissmiller made it seem like the Pack might make a game of it at 1:44 of the third period when a Hershey clearing attempt took an odd carom off the boards and found its way on to Rissmiller’s stick right in front of Varlamov. Rissmiller backhanded a quick chip shot over the Russian rookie for the unassisted goal, his fourth of the season.
That was as close as the Wolf Pack would get. At 3:55 Brodie Dupont was whistled for boarding, and the Bears were finally able to solve the Pack penalty kill. Mink got his second of the game, off Giroux’s third primary assist, at 4:15. Dupont, unhappy with the call, and likely with numerous others, including an early play when he was whistled for the lone roughing penalty when he stepped in to defend Anisimov when he was being mugged in front of the net, let Koharski know what he thought of the job he was doing as he emerged from the penalty box after the goal. Koharski apparently didn’t like what Dupont had to say, and handed the second-year winger another two for unsportsmanlike conduct, and eventually a game misconduct when Dupont kept at it.
Giroux would cap off the scoring at 14:26 with his 19th of the season after Fahey turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Pinizzotto fed Hershey’s leading goal scorer as he skated into the high slot, deking forehand to backhand to put the puck through the legs of goaltender Matt Zaba, who’d come in in relief of Wiikman in the second period.
Hershey outshot the Pack 38-34 in the game. Wiikman was credited with the loss, stopping 19 of 23 shots against, while Zaba stopped 13 of 15 shots he faced. With the loss, Hartford fell the fourt place in the Atlantic Division with a record of 17-15-1-3. In the crowded Atlantic standings, they’re just one point ahead of 5th place Manchester, but only one behind 3rd place Worcester and six behind division-leading Providence. The Pack travel to Winnepeg on Tuesday to play back-to-back games against the Manitoba Moose on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Highlights (cough) from the game are available at AHL Live.
1. Aucoin (12) (Giroux, Helmer) 1:25
1. Mink (14) (Giroux, Sloan) 6:35
2. Pinizzotto (3) (Laing, Joudrey) 0:36
2. Wilson (15) (Bourque, Arsene) 6:20
2. Moore (11) (Anisimov, Rissmiller) 19:59 (PP)
3. Rissmiller (4) 1:44
3. Mink (15) (Giroux, Aucoin) 4:15 (PP)
3. Giroux (19) (Pinizzotto, Aucoin) 14:26
Pyatt – Ouellette – Owens
Dupont – Anisimov – Parenteau
Soryal – Rissmiller – Weise
DiDiomete – Moore – Sugden
Nightengale – Potter
Fahey – Sanguinetti
Urquhart – Sauer
Wiikman / Zaba
1. Alexandre Giroux
2. Graham Mink
3. Keith Aucoin
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