With the New York Rangers battling the New York Islanders in Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, the two rivals’ top farm clubs faced off at the XL Center in Hartford. Unlike their parent club, the Hartford Wolf Pack couldn’t muster a much-needed win on home ice, falling 1-0 to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Matt Zaba was outstanding in goal, stopping 31 Bridgeport shots and keeping the score much closer than it could have been.
It was only the second time this season the Wolf Pack has been shut out, with the previous doughnut coming against the Hamilton Bulldogs on October 17th. It was also Hartford’s fourth loss in their last five games, leaving them in third place in th Atlantic Division with the Lowell Devils only a point behind with two games in hand.
Sean Avery was up to his old tricks, getting under the visitors’ skin and trying to knock Bridgeport goaltender Nathan Lawson off his game. Late in the second period he drew the ire of the Sound Tigers when he “accidentally” knocked Lawson’s helmet off as he “fell” on to the Bridgeport goaltender. On the ensuing face off the former Ranger threw a gloved punch to the face of a Sound Tiger forward — timing the jab perfectly with a moment the referee was looking the other way — and later in the shift spent a good 20 seconds in the Bridgeport end yapping at Lawson long after the teams had vacated the zone and the visitors were on the attack at the other end of the ice. He made a couple of real nice plays, most notably a strong move out from behind the net for a cross-crease feed to Artem Anisimov, who was unable to get a shot away with just over six minutes remaining in the third. But he also fumbled the puck more often than not and was on the ice for the Wolf Pack’s lone goal against.
Bridgeport jumped on the Pack early, dominating play in a first period in which they outshot the Pack by an 18-8 margin. The Sound Tigers earned the only tally of the game at 17:42, when Kurtis McLean put home the rebound of his own deflection of defenseman Joe Callahan’s shot from the left point. Zaba was able to make the initial save on McLean’s deflection, but the rebound dropped in front of him, where McLean was all alone, waiting to put it between backstop’s pads.
The Wolf Pack were better in the second period, but generated little offense, managing only five shots on goal to the Sound Tiger’s seven. Avery’s antics kicked off in the closing minutes of the period, with the Pack on their second and final power play of the night.
The Sound Tigers put one more puck past Zaba, with 7:20 to go in the third period, but the goal was waved off for goaltender interference. Michael Haley broke in alone on Zaba, and after taking an initial sot, backed into the Hartford netminder, knocking him down as he dug for his own rebound and swept it in on the glove side. Referee Ian Croft immediately disallowed the goal, but refused whistle a penalty on the Bridgeport center.
Croft wasn’t as understanding less than three minutes later when he whistled Brodie Dupont for his second minor of the game, a silly hooking call that paled in comparison to what Croft had let go through most of the game. The penalty left the Wolf Pack only 1:49 of even strength time with which to try to tie the game. They came close with 50.9 seconds remaining when Anisimov deflected Corey Potter’s point shot on goal. Lawson made the tough save, then followed it with an even tougher save on P.A. Parenteau’s rebound attempt. But that would be as close as the home team would get.
Highlights are available from AHL Live.
- The Wolf Pack played without defenseman Vladimir Denisov and forward Brandon Sugden, both of whom were suspended by the league on Monday for their actions during during last Friday’s game against the Lake Erie Monsters. Denisov was suspended for four games for hit that was determined to be to the the head of Monsters’ Marty Sertich (he received a charging minor during the game). Sugden received a two game ban for his retaliation after taking a high hit from Matt Hendricks. After getting up from the hit, Sugden threw punches at both Hendricks and Mark McCutcheon, both of whom were already tied up with other Wolf Pack players at the time.
- The Pack’s top scoring duo of Parenteau and Anisimov have now been held off the score sheet in two consecutive games. In both games they have spent significant time without hard-working plugger Dupont, who was replaced by Avery at points during Saturday’s game with Manitoba and for the final two periods of last night’s match.
- With the win the Sound Tigers extended their current points streak to 4-0-0-1. It was their first win in four games at the XL Center this season.
1. McLean (14) (Callahan, Walter) 17:42
1. Matt Zaba
2. Nathan Lawson
3. Kurtis McLean
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