Partly because I thought it would be fun thing to try, and partly because I have better things to do once the game is over tonight than write about it, I’m going to try my hand at live blogging this evening’s match-up between the Hartford Wolf Pack and Bridgeport Sound Tigers. I make no promises that my attempt won’t go so horribly awry that I give up and delete it halfway through the first period, but if you’ve got nothing better to do this evening, feel free to stop by and check in on my — and the Wolf Pack’s — progress. Game time is 7:00 PM. I’ll be back shortly before that to set things up.
The Wolf Pack host the Sound Tigers for the fifth and final time tonight to bring the 10-game season series between the Connecticut rivals to an end. Bridgeport already has a 5-4 advantage with five regulation wins, guaranteeing the New York Islanders farm club the victory in the season series and possession of the GEICO Connecticut Cup, a trophy meant to drum up excitement for a series which pits teams which are only an hour apart, but play in completely different divisions.
Bridgeport has won five straight and are currently tops the East Division with 90 points, three ahead of the second place Hershey Bears and just three behind league-leading Manitoba. They’ve lost in regulation just once in their last 17 tries. Up front they’re lead by Trevor Smith, who tops the team with 27 goals and 50 points in 63 games, and Ben Walter, with 40 points in 52 games. Recent addition Jon Sim, sent down by the Islanders after clearing waivers the day before the NHL trade deadline, has scored in each of the five games he’s played for Bridgeport, picking up six goals and seven points in that span.
Hartford remains tied with the Providence Bruins for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, with a more modest 78 points. They’re led up front by P.A. Parenteau (27-44-71) and Artem Anisimov (28-39-67), but Patrick Rissmiller (8-32-40) and Greg Moore (21-13-34) have been hot of late, with Rissmiller putting up five points in his last three games and Moore tallying three times in the last three games. The two teams last met last Sunday, with tonight’s starter Miika Wiikman letting through five goals on 22 shorts and taking the 6-3 loss.
Pyatt – Rissmiller – Parenteau
Bell – Moore – Weise
Dupont – Anisimov – Owens
DiDiomete – Ouellette – Sugden
Potter – Sanguinetti
Denisov – Fahey
Urquhart – Sauer
Wiikman / Daigneault
20:00 – The Wolf Pack starts with Tommy Pyatt, Patrick Rissmiller, and P.A. Parenteau up front, with Corey Potter and Bobby Sanguinetti on defense. As previously mentioned, Miika Wiikman is in goal, making his third consecutive start. The injured Matt Zaba was just given his award for being named the Reebok X-Pulse/AHL Goaltender of the Month for February in a pre-game presentation.
18:56 - 1-0. The Pack get on the board first. Greg Moore deflects Brian Fahey’s slap shot from the right point past Bridgeport goaltender Kris Mayotte just 1:04 into the game. Fahey and Mark Bell earn the assists.
14:39 - Dale Weise gets a point-blank chance from the slot, but it’s blocked by Bridgeport defenseman Jamie Fraser. All four lines have seen the ice for the Wolf Pack.
13:52 – The Wolf Pack go to the power play for the first time in the game as Jon Sim gets sent to the box for hooking.
11:43 – Wiikman comes out to play a dump in as the Wolf Pack power play ends and gives it away, but makes an incredible diving save to keep the Sound Tigers off the board.
10:10 – Parenteau is dumped by Fraser in the right corner and the Pack get their second power play of the night.
8:10 – Nothing comes of the power play, as the Pack had trouble getting set up in the Bridgeport zone — they even iced the puck at one point about midway through.
5:42 – Good shift for Moore’s line, with Potter firing off a bomb of a slapshot that was partially blocked in front before trickling wide of the net. Bridgeport get a break when a clear that was destined for the stands hits the scoreboard in center ice and drops to the ice. Anisimov’s line keeps the pressure on with good scoring chances for both Anisimov and Jordan Owens.
4:02 – The Pack have allowed only 3 Bridgeport shots on Wiikman thus far.
2:26 – 2-0. Mike Ouellette wins an offensive zone faceoff back to Michael Sauer at the right point, and Sauer fires a booming slap shot past Mayotte through a screen. Seconds after the face-off, Devin DiDiomete takes an elbowing penalty to give the Sound Tigers their first power play of the game.
1:34 – 2-1. Ben Walter comes out of the right corner with the puck and swipes it toward the net. Wiikman makes the initial save, but his leg comes off the post, allowing Walter to nudge the puck home and cut the Pack’s lead in half with a power play goal.
0:46:6 – 2-2. And just like that, it’s a tie game. Rissmiller turns the puck over to Junior Lessard in the neutral zone and Lessard fires a bomb from just inside the Wolf Pack zone. Wiikman gets a piece, but the shot powers through him. Make that two somewhat questionable goals for Wiikman in less than a minute.
End of First: Talk about demoralizing. An otherwise great period against a great team ends with two quick goals against 37 seconds apart in the final two minutes of play. Hartford outshot the Sound Tigers 10-8 in the period, but 5 of those Bridgeport shots came in the final four minutes. A quick start in the second will be important. And a big save or two by Wiikman would go a long way in restoring confidence.
17:38 – Second period underway. Pack up two shots to none after Mayotte stops Brodie Dupont’s wraparound attempt.
16:47 – Parenteau gets high sticked, but doesn’t get the call. As has happened far too many times this season, he retaliated, taking a slashing penalty and sending Bridgeport to their second power play of the game. Parenteau’s now up to 126 PMs on the season. That ranks him second on the team ahead of fighters like Brandon Sugden and Justin Soryal.
15:26 – Pack with a good chance shorthanded, but Owens and Ouellette make one too many passes and nothing comes of it.
14:11 – Pack kill the penalty off and Bridgeport’s Pascal Morency takes a lazy hooking penalty, sending the Pack to their third power play of the game.
13:22 – Sanguinetti coughs up the puck at the offensive blueline, but makes a great defensive play to knock Jeremy Coliton off the puck on the breakaway without taking taking a penalty.
12:20 – Bell struggles off the ice after something happened away from the play. Not sure what, but he looked to be in pain as he made his way on to the bench.
11:08 – Anisimov with a nice wraparound, but Mayotte stops both his shot and Owens’ (?) rebound.
9:11 – Bridgeport’s Chris Lee ends up with the puck right in front of Wiikman, but Sauer knocks him away and Wiikman covers up.
6:48 – Anisimov steals the puck in the neutral zone and carries in it in 2-on-1 with Dupont, but tries one too many moves and never gets the shot off. Sugden follows up and comes within inches of getting his first goal with the Wolf Pack.
4:50 – 3-2. Sauer gets his second of the game with another bombing slap shot from the point through a screen. It’s Sauer’s first two-goal game as a pro, with assists to Vladimir Denisov and Rissmiller.
2:25 – Anisimov wins the puck in the right corner and draws a crowd as he carries it behind the net and up the left boards before feeding Denisov at the left point for a slap shot. Mayotte makes the big save to keep the Wolf Pack’s lead at one.
0:02 – Bell’s back on the ice, so must not be too much worse for wear from whatever happened earlier.
End of Second: Once again the Sound Tigers pour on the pressure in the final two minutes of the period, but this time Wiikman comes up with a pair of big saves to maintain the Pack lead. Overall, another good period for Hartford, despite getting outshot 9-5 by the visitors.
16:55 – 3-3. With Bell in the box Smith finds Lessard cutting in on net and hits him with a cross-slot pass. The Sound Tigers get their second power play goal in three tries.
14:30 – Anisimov gets three chances in a row on the power play, but puts one wide, one off the post, and Mayotte stops the third.
9:01 – 4-3. Weise got his eighth of the season at 8:12 of the period. I’d love to tell you how it happened, but technical difficulties got in my way. The good news is that everything looks to be back up and running now. Sorry.
6:41 – Anisimov with two more quality scoring chances. I think that’s five on the night, though he’s only been credited with two shots on goal so far. He and Owens, one of the Pack’s true unsung heroes, are working well together.
4:17 – Make that six good scoring chances. Pyatt steals the puck in the high slot, Mayotte makes the save, and then stops Anisimov’s rebound attempt from right in front.
3:14 – Wiikman holds the post as there’s a scramble at the left side of the net. The Sound Tigers had the Pack penned in their zone for well over a minute.
2:05 – Watton gets back in time to thwart a partial break by Anisimov.
1:39 – Mayotte robs Pyatt (or was it Parenteau?) on a wrist shot from the hashmarks. Pack are refusing to sit back, applying good pressure in the Bridgeport zone.
0:57 – 5-3. And that pressure pays off when Potter gets his 8th of the season to give the Pack a two goal lead with a heavy shot from the left point that may have hit a Bridgeport defenseman in front.
0:39 – 6-3. Dupont follows up just 18 seconds later with his 13th of the season off a feed from Owens. More technical difficulties caused me to miss that one too, but hey, who cares, the Pack win!
End of Game: The Wolf Pack come through with a huge finish to reverse last Sunday’s score and hand the Sound Tigers just their second regulation loss in their last 18 games. Sauer finished with two goals and an assist for his first three point night as a pro and ended the night a +3 to knock his team-high season total up to +20, good for 11th in the league. Should the Rangers lose a defenseman to injury down the stretch, I’d be shocked if he doesn’t get the call, given how well he’s been playing lately. Dupont and Moore each finished with a goal and an assist and Wiikman rebounded from two suspect goals against in the first period to finish with 26 stops and earn his second win in a row. All-in-all, a very satisfying win.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic Division Worcester topped Manchester 4-2, Portland embarrassed the Devils 6-1, and Providence topped last place Springfield 2-1 in a shootout to remain tied for the top spot with the Wolf Pack at 80 points. Manchester remains in third with 72 points with the Pirates only one point behind in fourth. Worcester remains in fifth, but are just two points behind the Pirates with 69 points. The Pack will try to make it three in a row when they face the Sharks in Worcester tomorrow afternoon.
1. Moore (22) (Fahey) 1:04
1. Sauer (4) (Urquhart, Ouellette) 17:34
1. Walter (16) (Smith, Lee) 18:26 (PP)
1. Walter (17) (Lessard) 19:13
2. Sauer (5) (Denisov, Rissmiller) 15:10
3. Lessard (10) (Smith) 3:05 (PP)
3. Weise (8) (Moore, Sauer) 8:12
3. Potter (8) (Dupont, Parenteau) 19:03
3. Dupont (13) (Owens) 19:21
1. Michael Sauer
2. Ben Walter
3. Dale Weise
So, technical difficulties aside, was this little live blogging experiment a worthwhile? I won’t be able to do it all that often — weeknights are out of the question since I’m usually eating dinner during the first period — but if folks think it’s worth a shot, I’d be happy to give it another go sometime. If not, that’s fine too, since it did take away from my ability to focus on and enjoy the game a bit. You can leave your comments below, or email them to the address at the bottom of the page.
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