Patrick Rissmiller scored a goal and added two assists to lead the Hartford Wolf Pack to a 3-1 victory over the Portland Pirates in Portland on Friday night. The win, coupled with Providence’s shootout loss to Albany, gave the Wolf Pack sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division with 84 points.
Portland got on the board first, courtesy of diminutive rookie Nathan Gerbe, who scored with a long wrister from the left point that beat Miika Wiikman, in his sixth straight start, through a screen. Hartford outshot the Pirates 13-12 in the period, despite being whistled for four consecutive penalties in the frame by referee Ian Croft. Gerbe’s 25th of the season came on the second of those penalties, while tough guy Brandon Sugden was in the box for tripping.
Rissmiller knotted the score with an unassisted four-on-four tally with 58 seconds remaining in the period. The veteran forward chipped the puck away from Portland defenseman Mike Kostka at the Pack blue line and carried it down the left wing boards before slapping it past Portland starter Jonas Enroth for his 10th of the season.
The Wolf Pack dominated the third place Pirates in the second session, outshooting their northern neighbors by a 16-4 margin en route to building a two goal lead. P.A. Parenteau tied Artem Anisimov for the team lead in goals with his 28th of the season at 5:12 of the frame when he finished a pretty tick-tack-toe play that started at the right point with Rissmiller. The Belmont, MA native fed Mark Bell as he streaked down the slot, drawing two Portland defenders to him before dishing it to Paranteau in front for the tap in.
Upset with a hip check by Bobby Sanguinetti that sent him flying moments earlier, Portland’s 5-foot-6 Gerbe met a clean check by Bell with an elbow, then added a cross check for good measure, giving the Pack their second power play of the period at 13:28. Fourty-nine seconds later, defenseman Brian Fahey let loose a cannon from the left point that beat Enroth through a screen to give the Pack a two-goal lead.
It was the seventh of eight meetings between these two teams, and a potential playoff match-up, so bad blood was to be expected and resulted in three fights. Sugden fought Jimmy Bonneau in a close bout off the draw at 11:02 of the second period and Jordan Owens jumped Steve Ward in retaliation for a hit at 16:24. A 2:54 of the third, angry with a hit to the head Geoff Waugh, Brodie Dupont went after the bigger forward, scoring a rare win.
Portland improved their second period performance in the third, outshooting the Wolf Pack 7-6, but Hartford finished the game with a decisive 35-23 shot advantage. Despite the questionable flip shot from the point for Portland’s first goal, Wiikman continued to look strong, making a number of tough stops, finishing with 22 saves to improve his record on the season to 20-18-0-3. He’s expected to get the start again Saturday night, as the Wolf Pack travel to Springfield to face the Falcons, who are wallowing in last place in the division with 53 points, but always give the Pack a good fight. On Sunday, the Wolf Pack will travel to Providence for a game that will likely decide who ends the weekend in first place in the division.
- Captain Greg Moore was out for the Pack with what is suspected to be a concussion received in an awkward hit during Wednesday’s game against Lowell. He was replaced by free-agent signee Paul Crowder, who was signed by the Rangers on Thursday and joined the Pack on an ATO. The 24-year old Crowder didn’t look out of place in his debut, getting limited ice time with fourth line wingers Devin DiDiomete and Sugden. The former University of Alaska-Anchorage player even saw some time on the penalty kill.
1. Gerbe (25) (Schutz, Kennedy) 12:06 (PP)
1. Rissmiller (10) 19:02
2. Parenteau (28) (Rissmiller, Bell) 5:12
2. Fahey (3) (Rissmiller, Parenteau) 14:17 (PP)
Bell – Rissmiller – Parenteau
Pyatt – Ouellette – Owens
Dupont – Anisimov – Weise
DiDiomete – Crowder – Sugden
Potter – Sanguinetti
Urquhart – Sauer
Denisov – Fahey
Wiikman / Daigneault
1. Patrick Rissmiller
2. Mark Bell
3. Nathan Gerbe
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