Since taking over the starter’s role for the Hartford Wolf Pack on October 31st — the night he earned his first professional shutout — rookie goaltender Chad Johnson has carried the team on a 6-1 run that’s vaulted them from the Atlantic Division basement to within four points of the division’s top spot.
This weekend he upped the ante even further with back-to-back shutouts, stopping 26 shots in a 2-0 victory over division-leading Manchester on Friday and following that up with a 35-save performance at the DCU Center in Worcester on Saturday, where the Wolf Pack defeated the Worcester Sharks by the score of 4-0.
Ilkka Heikkinen, Brodie Dupont, Ryan Garlock and Bobby Sanguinetti each scored against the Sharks on Saturday. Dupont added an assist for his second multi-point game of the season and Corey Locke put up two assists to maintain his league-leading scoring pace at 24 points in 17 games. Dane Byers also picked up an assist, giving him points in each of the two games he’s played since being returned to the Pack by the parent New York Rangers on Friday.
The two clubs played a fast-paced, scoreless first period, with quality scoring chances and time of possession distributed fairly evenly despite a 14-8 Worcester advantage in shots.
A minor scrum at the end of the period set up a four-on-four start to the second session when Hartford’s Derek Couture and Worcester’s Andrew Desjardins were each assessed roughing minors at the 20:00 mark. Forty-nine seconds into the new period, Heikkinen capitalized on the extra space, taking a pass from Locke and firing a quick wrist shot over Sharks netminder Alex Stalock’s glove from the top of the circles.
The goal gave the Wolf Pack an early boost, and they carried the play through the first six minutes of the period. But penalties to Dale Weise and Jordan Owens at 6:52 and 11:03, respectively, upset the team’s rhythm and allowed the Sharks to turn the tables, forcing Johnson to come up big on multiple occasions to keep the hosts off the board.
A late cross-checking penalty to Schenectady native Nick Petrecki at 19:09 was washed out five seconds later when Weise was whistled for hooking. The sophomore’s protests were a little too vehement, landing him in the box for an extra two minutes and setting up a Worcester power play 1:09 into the final period. Hartford’s penalty kill unit came up big, not only killing the advantage but scoring two seconds after it expired. Owens snuck around forward Steve Zalewski, who was playing the point on the Worcester power play, and cut in on goal from the right wing side. Stalock stayed with the third year pro as he cut across the goal mouth, stopping his shot, but taking himself out of the play in the process. That left a gaping net for Dupont, who picked up Owens’ rebound and deposited in the open cage for his fourth goal of the season at 3:16.
Charlotte call-up Ryan Garlock broke the game open 2:11 later. The fourth year pro earned his first goal for the Wolf Pack when he tipped in Corey Potter’s slap shot from the right point while Andres Ambuhl set a screen.
The Pack controlled the play through most of the period, forcing the Sharks into penalty trouble late in the frame — including a 37 second five-on-three starting at 16:36. That set up defenseman Sanguinetti’s sixth goal of the season, scored two seconds after the two man advantage expired. The sophomore blueliner one-timed a laser from the left faceoff dot through a Byers’ screen to beat Stalock on the far side at 17:15, completing the scoring at 4-0.
The Wolf Pack take a break from divisional play this week and face three East Division teams, starting Wednesday when they host the Binghamton Senators at 7pm. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are in town the next night for a rare Thursday night match-up, also at 7pm. And the Wolf Pack finish the week with a trip to Syracuse for a 7:30 start against the Crunch on Saturday.
- Defenseman Michael Sauer missed his third game with an upper body injury. Fellow blueliner Brent Henley joined him on the sidelines for the second night with an undisclosed injury.
- Johnson is currently riding a 136:39 shutout streak. His three shutouts lead the league, while his eight wins tie him for second in the league. His .923 save percentage ranks him fourteenth among league netminders, and fourth among rookies.
- The Pack’s power play, which finished one-for-seven on the night, remains tops in the league at 26.5%. The Pack penalty kill has started a steady climb out of the cellar, moving up to 24th out of 29 teams, killing off 78% of the opportunites faced after stopping all seven against Worcester.
- The Pack played without leading goal scorer P.A. Parenteau, who was recalled by the Rangers on Friday and scored the shootout winner for the club earlier in the afternoon.
2. Heikkinen, (4) (Locke, Dupont), 0:49
3. Dupont, (4) (Owens), 3:16
3. Garlock, (1) (Potter, Byers), 5:27
3. Sanguinetti, (6) (Weise, Locke), 17:15 (PP)
Byers – Locke – Owens
Grachev – Dupont – Weise
Chappell – Garlock – Ambuhl
Couture – Crowder – Soryal
Heikkinen – Sanguinetti
Potter – Urquhart
Dandenault – Williams
Johnson / Zaba
1. Chad Johnson
2. Ilkka Heikkinen
3. Brodie Dupont
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