For the second consecutive week the Hartford Wolf Pack concluded an otherwise successful three-in-three weekend with an clunker, falling 4-1 to the Worcester Sharks in an undisciplined game in Worcester. The loss, coupled with Providence’s 6-2 victory over the sinking Devils, left the Wolf Pack in second place in the Atlantic Division, two points back of the baby Bruins, and eight points in front of third place Manchester.
Despite the absence of any scoring in the first period, Hartford’s demise actually began at 11:24 of the frame, when Jared Nightingale, who was re-inserted in the lineup as a seventh defenseman in the absence of Mark Bell, who was “banged up” in Saturday night’s win in Hartford, was assessed an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct and a ten minute misconduct after objecting to a roughing call by referee Nygel Pelletier. It was the first of a few such calls that went against only the Pack in post-whistle scrums, and set a tone that the boys would become increasingly frustrated with as the game went on.
The Wolf Pack killed off the double minor to Nightingale and finished an otherwise uneventful first period with seven shots to Worcester’s eight.
Hartford got its first — and last — goal of the night at 2:07 of the second period on a power play of their own. Defenseman Michael Sauer’s shot from the right point was stopped, but the rebound bounced around in front before ending up behind Shark goaltender Thomas Greiss, where Patrick Rissmiller was waiting to sweep it over the goal line to give Hartford the 1-0 lead.
Worcester got the first of three second period goals at 6:14 when Sauer blocked Mike Moore’s shot from the right point with his skate, only to have the puck deflect right onto the stick of Riley Armstrong, who backhanded it into the open side of the goal before Miika Wiikman, making is fourth straight start for the Pack, had a chance to get across from the right post.
A similar scenario played out on the Shark’s second tally. A shot was blocked in front but the puck bounced directly to Worcester captain Ryan Vesce, who passed it to a wide-open Tom Cavanagh at the right post for the easy put-home into the empty side of the net for the power play goal at 8:30 of the period.
While Wiikman didn’t have a chance on either of the first two goals, the third was one he probably wishes he could have back. Lukas Kaspar flicked a shot towards the net from a bad angle along the left side boards, beating the second-year netminder on the short side to give Worcester the 3-1 lead, once again on the power play, at 14:42.
With Pelletier’s help, Nightingale put the Pack in a tough spot once again when he earned the only roughing penalty during the pushing and shoving that followed a delayed holding call on defenseman Corey Potter. The penalty set Worcester up for a full two minute 5-on-3, starting at 15:57. Wiikman rebounded to lead the way as Hartford’s best penalty killer, and with a little help from the goal post they managed to escape the period only two goals down after being outshot 10-7.
The home team added a fourth goal at 9:52 of the final period to put the game away. Moments after Artem Anisimov powered a shot from the high slot through Greiss, only to have it cleared from behind the 23-year old netminder by one of his defenseman, the Sharks countered. Deep in the Pack zone, Steven Zalewski set up T.J. Fox, who was wide open in the slot, and the Oswego, NY native beat Wiikman on the stick side.
All that was left after that was the Pack’s parade to the penalty box. Vladimir Denisov cancelled out a Hartford power play with a roughing penalty earned after the whistle at 11:51, and P.A. Parenteau made it a 4-on-3 for the Sharks when he took a roughing call and a ten minute misconduct at the next whistle. Devin DiDiomete also took a post-whistle roughing call and added a ten minute misconduct at 19:35, while Nightingale earned his second ten misconduct of the game at the same time. In the end, Hartford finished with 58 penalty minutes compared to the 12 earned by the home side. The Sharks finished 2-for-8 on the power play, while the Pack cashed in just once on their six power play opportunities.
Worcester finished the period with an 11-8 shot advantage, for a 29-22 lead in the game. Wiikman stopped 24 of those 29 shots, and made a number of stellar stops along the way, but continued to look shaky at times, especially on Kaspar’s sharp-angle shot in the second.
The Wolf Pack are back in action on Wednesday when they host the struggling Devils.
2. Rissmiller (9) (Parenteau, Moore) 2:07 (PP)
2. Armstrong (23) (Moore, Westgarth) 6:14
2. Cavanagh (15) (Fornataro, Vesce) 8:30 (PP)
2. Kaspar (15) (Traverse, Cavanagh) 14:42 (PP)
3. Fox (6) (Armstrong, Zalewski) 9:52
Rissmiller – Anisimov – Parenteau
Dupont – Moore – Weise
Pyatt – Ouellette – Owens
Sugden – DiDiomete
Potter – Sanguintti
Urquhart – Sauer
Denisov – Fahey
Wiilman / Daigneault
1. Riley Armstrong
2. Thomas Greiss
3. Tom Cavanagh
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