Dale Weise returned to the line-up on Saturday and made his presence known, breaking a 3-3 tie midway through the third period, and captain Greg Moore added an empty net marker to give the Hartford Wolf Pack a 5-3 victory over the Springfield Falcons in their final game of the regular season. Patrick Rissmiller added a goal and an assist, defenseman David Urquhart scored his first goal in 28 games, and Artem Anisimov added his team-leading 37th of the season to finalize the Wolf Pack’s season record at 46-27-3-4. Matt Zaba stopped 22 of 25 shots to earn his 25th win of the season.
The match had all the makings of a let down game for the home team, and when they let Springfield come back from 3-1 with a pair of second period power play goals, it looked like the Pack had mentally moved on to bigger and better thoughts of the playoffs. But Hartford opened a shooting gallery on Springfield goalie Dany Saourin in the tenth minute of the third period with a string of three consecutive 30-foot slap shots — two from Rissmiller and one by Brian Fahey — before the third rebound came directly to Weise at the top of the circles. Weise made sure the fourth time was a charm, scoring his 11th of the season at 10:50 of the frame on a slap shot that beat Sabourin on the stick side to give the Wolf Pack a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
Rissmiller had put the Pack ahead early when he scored on the Wolf Pack’s first shot of the game 39 seconds in. The veteran center took a feed from Mark Bell in the neutral zone and carried in for a slap shot from the top of the circles that beat Sabourin stick side high. It was Rissmiller’s 14th goal of the campaign and gave him 19 points in his final 17 games of the season.
Anisimov put his team ahead by two at 6:05 when he finished a pretty give-and-go with Weise with a sharp-angle shot from the goal line to the right of the net. It was his 9th goal and 14th point the final 10 games of the season, sending him into the post season on a better than point-per-game average.
Devin DiDiomete put the Pack down a man 1:05 later when he earned an extra roughing call following a fight with Dinos Stamoulis, and has happened far too many times in the past few games, the Pack wasted little time allowing their opponent to respond to a goal with a power play goal of their own. It was the first of three man advantage goals they’d give up in the match. Ryan Stone earned this one, his 17th marker of the campaign, when he tipped Jordan Eberle’s slap-pass from the right circle past Zaba at 6:23 to make it 2-1.
The Wolf Pack capped off the first period scoring with a beautiful three way passing play with 2:20 remaining in the session to regain the two goal lead. Fan Favorite award winner Jordan Owens — who played the season on an AHL contract and will undoubtedly earn himself an NHL deal somewhere this summer — carried into the Springfield zone on a 2-on-1 with Mike Ouellette, faking the pass to his long-time linemate before dropping it back to a trailing Urquhart, who snapped a shot over Sabourin’s shoulder to send the Pack into the locker room with the 3-1 lead.
If there’s one concern for coach Ken Gernander heading into the playoffs, it’s his teams inability to stay out of the penalty box, regardless of how many times the coaching staff has called for discipline as part of its keys to the game. With the penalty kill leaking goals like a sieve it’ll be even more important once the playoffs start. On Saturday the Pack PK unit gave it gave up three, including two in the second period that allowed the visitors to climb back into the game. The first went to Springfield leading scorer Ryan Potulny at 10:31 with Urquhart in the box for slashing. Potulny took a pass from behind the net and beat Zaba from in close for his 38th of the season, moving him into third over all in the league, one place ahead of Anisimov.
Eberle tied the score 16:06 with Crowder in the box for slashing. The Oilers 2008 first round pick, playing on an Amateur Try-Out contract after concluding his junior season with the Regina Pats, got a step on Nightingale and beat Zaba with a wrist shot from the hashmarks on the partial breakaway. Nightingale argued the play was offsides, but earned only a two minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for his efforts. It was the third goal in nine games for 19-year old Eberle.
That set things up for Weise’s third period tie-breaker midway through the third and Moore’s eventual empty net insurance marker at 19:33.
Elsewhere in the division Worcester shutout Providence 3-0 but couldn’t catch Portland, who topped Manchester 5-4 to hold on to third place. That sets up a Hartford – Worcester first round match up, which will get underway in Hartford on Thursday. [Round 1 Schedule]
- The Wolf Pack handed out its team awards following the game. Owens won the Bob Girouard Character Award and earned the title of Fan Favorite; Michael Sauer picked up the well-deserved Unsung Hero Award; Corey Potter was named Defenseman of the Year; and P.A. Parenteau was named the team MVP.
- Parenteau was on hand to pick up his post-game MVP award as well as a crystal award recognizing his selection as an AHL First Team All Star during a pre-game ceremony, but once again did not play due to what has now been revealed to be a concussion. Tommy Pyatt also remained out of the line-up. Both are possible for the start of the playoffs, and Dane Byers could make a return as early as the first round as well.
- DiDiomete got the best of Stamoulis in their first period fight after Carle Place, NY native Stamoulis threw himself off balance with his first (missed) punch and DiDiomete scored with a succession of rights as Stamoulis got back up on to his feet. Another hard right connected to put the 25-year old back to his knees and end the bout.
- Fahey got in a rare fight when he took exception to a cross-check to the back along the boards by Guilllaume Lefebvre and challenged the Falcon left wing. It wasn’t much of a fight as neither player connected with any punches, with the two taking turns throwing the other to the ice.
- Rookie defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti finished the game +2 and was +11 in his final 28 games, finishing the season a -8 after falling as low as -19 in mid-February.
- Springfield protested Moore’s empty netter, claiming Owens’ missed attempt from the Pack side of the red line seconds earlier should have been whistled down for icing. But referee Nygel Pelletier ruled that Owens shot had deflected off the arm of a Springfield player, negating the icing call.
- Springfield defenseman Bryan Young left the game in the first period after taking a Sauer dump-in in the mouth. He did not return.
- The Wolf Pack finished 0 for 5 on the power play and failed to score in the final three games of the season, going 0 for 10 in that time.
1. Rissmiller (14) (Bell) 0:39
1. Anisimov (37) (Weise) 5:05
1. Stone (17) (Eberle, Wild) 6:23 (PP)
1. Urquhart (6) (Owens, DiDiomete) 17:40
2. Potulny (38) (Stone, Wild) 10:31 (PP)
2. Eberle (3) (Potulny, Stamoulis) 16:06 (PP)
3. Weise (11) (Fahey, Rissmiller) 10:50
3. Moore (23) 19:33 (EN)
Bell – Rissmiller – Crowder/Moore
Dupont – Anisimov – Weise
DiDiomete – Ouellette – Owens
McBride – Moore – Sugden
Potter – Sanguinetti
Urquhart – Sauer
Nightingale – Fahey
Zaba / Wiikman
1. Dale Weise
2. Patrick Rissmiller
3. Jordan Eberle
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