The Hartford Wolf Pack traveled to nearby Bridgeport on Sunday to face the East Division’s second-ranked Bridgeport Sound Tigers. They returned home from their fourth game in five days with their first regulation loss in ten tries, a 6-3 thumping at the hands of the New York Islanders’ farm team. Miika Wiikman took the loss in his first start since February 14th, and P.A. Parenteau padded his totals with two assists, but had his night come to an early end when frustration boiled over and he earned himself ten minute misconduct as time wound down.
Hartford hadn’t lost a game in regulation time since the last time these two teams met, on February 18th in Hartford. Since then, the Wolf Pack has feasted on comparably weak Atlantic Division foes, facing only one non-divisional opponent (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) during a streak in which they earned points in 10 consecutive games.
It didn’t take long for the Sound Tigers to get on the board. Mark Bell was whistled for cross-checking at 1:17 and less than a minute later Jon Sim, who was waived by the parent Islanders and sent to Bridgeport four days ago, deflected a shot from the center blue line by Junior Lessard past Wiikman. It was the first of two power play goals the Pack penalty kill would surrender after stopping and impressive 46 of 51 in the previous nine games.
Hartford got one back on the power play at 13:06. With Artem Anisimov parked directly in front of Bridgeport goaltender Peter Mannino, Tommy Pyatt, who’s earned power play time at the point in recent games, scored his 15th of the season with a slap shot from the right side that Mannino never saw.
Second periods have been trouble for the Wolf Pack all season, and Sunday’s would be no different as the visitors were outplayed and outshot, 14-7. Bridgeport built its lead to two just past the midpoint of the period, again on the power play. Mannino started the play with a long pass to Sim at the Pack blueline, and Sim skated in and fed the puck to the middle from the half boards, to where Jeremy Colliton was breaking down the slot with Pack defender Bobby Sanguintti. Sanguintti got a stick on Sim’s pass to knock it out of the air, but Colliton whacked it past Wiikman for his first of two goals in the game at 10:33.
The Sound Tigers extended their lead to two at 14:51 with Sim’s second of the game and fourth in three games since being demoted. Jared Nightingale was too loose with the puck as he rounded his own net, and Sim was able to reach around and swat it off his stick and towards Wiikman’s cage. The puck deflected off Wiikman’s skate and off the left post. Wiikman jammed his skate against the post to prevent Sim from sliding it in, but 32-year old veteran was able to lift the puck over the prone netminder to give Bridgeport the 3-1 lead.
Two quick goals early in the third seemed to put the game away for the Sound Tigers. Colliton got his second of the game at 41 seconds when he took a feed in the slot from defenseman Chris Lee. Anisimov failed to lift Colliton’s stick as the pass came through and the Islanders’ 2003 second round pick one-timed the shot over Wiikman’s glove to make it 4-1.
Trevor Smith made it 5-1 2:50 later on a blown line change by the Wolf Pack. Parenteau and Brodie Dupont came off the bench to pressure defenseman Jon Gleed deep in the Bridgeport zone, but Gleed was able to get the puck past both of them to set up a 3-on-2 for the Sound Tigers. Captain Greg Moore sprinted off the bench, but was too late to even things up and prevent Smith from scoring his 27th of the season.
Hartford wasn’t ready to quit, and a pair of goals in 35 seconds kept the final half of the period interesting. Patrick Rissmiller made it 5-2 at 12:01 when he tipped a feed from Parenteau past Mannino on his backhand to complete a 2-on-1 rush.
Jordan Owens made it 5-3 at 12:37 with the Pack’s 13th shorthanded goal of the season. The scrappy forward knocked the puck away from Ben Walter at the right point and despite being tripped up, was able to recover and skate in with Mike Ouellette on a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush. Owens finished the play with a perfect pass to Ouellette in the left circle for the one-timer into the open side of the net.
That was as close as the Pack would get. Parenteau was clipped with a high stick at 16:09, giving Hartford four minutes of power play time with which to try to make up the two goal deficit, but he evened things up at 18:06 when he was whistled for a questionable cross-checking penalty.
For obvious reasons, both Parenteau and Anisimov have been getting considerable physical attention from opposing teams over the past couple weeks, and with the pair struggling to put up the numbers they had become accustomed to lately, both have started to show signs of frustration. On Saturday night that frustration manifested itself in a slashing penalty for Anisimov when he retaliated for a high hit near the Springfield bench. On Sunday Parenteau let his frustration out by smashing his stick against the penalty box glass multiple times and tossing the broken shaft over the glass on to the ice, earning a ten minute misconduct. If the Pack’s leading scorer has a fault, it’s his inability to keep his temper in check, and this episode was a perfect illustration of that.
With the teams playing four aside and Wiikman pulled for the extra skater, the Pack applied furious pressure in an attempt to recover the two goal lead, but when Rissmiller tried to force a shot through a blocked lane with 13 seconds left, Tyler Haskins ended those thoughts an empty netter.
The victory moved the Sound Tigers into a tie with the Hershey Bears for the top spot in both the East Division and the Eastern Conference with 86 points.
In the Atlantic, Providence ended their five game skid with a 2-1 victory over Rochester to move back into a tie for first place with the Pack with 76 points. Manchester kept their streak alive, winning their sixth consecutive game by beating Worcester 4-3 to move to within four points of first with 72 points. Portland was idle and remains in fourth at 69 points.
The Wolf Pack get the week off before returning to action in Worcester on Friday. They’ll host Bridgeport for the tenth and final meeting between the two teams on Saturday and then head back to Worcester for a rematch on Sunday.
1. Sim (3) (Lessard, Lee) 2:09 (PP)
1. Pyatt (15) (Parenteau) 13:06 (PP)
2. Colliton (7) (Sim, Mannino) 10:33 (PP)
2. Sim (4) 14:51
3. Colliton (8) (Lee, Smith) 0:41
3. Smith (27) (Colliton, Gleed) 3:31
3. Rissmiller (8) (Parenteau) 12:02
3. Ouellette (12) (Owens) 12:37 (SH)
3. Haskins (9) (MacDonald) 19:47 (EN)
Dupont – Anisimov – Parenteau
Bell – Rissmiller – Moore
Pyatt – Ouellette – Owens
DiDiomete – Sugden – Weise
Denisov – Sanguinetti
Urquhart – Sauer
Nightingale – Fahey
Zaba / Wiikman
1. Jon Sim
2. Jeremy Colliton
3. Chris Lee
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