Byers sends a message after asking for trade
Sunday November 14th 2010, 11:37 am

In 2004 the New York Rangers selected Nipawan, Saskatchewan native Dane Byers with the 48th overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft.  Two years later, Byers joined the organization and made his debut for the club’s AHL farm team, the Hartford Wolf Pack.  He’d spend the next four seasons with the Wolf Pack, putting up 72 goals and 162 points in 255 games en route to earning the team’s captaincy in December 2009 for his leadership and on-ice effort.

Less than a year later, having received only a six game cup of coffee in the NHL over his four year pro career, Byers saw the writing on the wall and asked to be traded.  On Thursday his wish was granted when the Rangers swapped the 24-year old heart-and-soul winger for 24-year old former Phoenix Coyotes seventh round draft pick Chad Kolarik, who was acquired by the Columbus Blue Jackets in a trade deadline deal last spring.

Byers’ request was issued shortly after sophomore winger Evgeny Grachev was re-recalled by the Rangers on October 28th.  Those who’ve watched the Wolf Pack play this season could see that Grachev, a highly-touted 2008 third round pick, was neither ready for the NHL, nor deserving of the reward based on his play in the AHL.  Yet the supposedly-skilled winger spent six games with the Rangers — primarily in a fourth line role best suited for Byers crash-and-bang style of play — the same amount of NHL action Byers has seen in four years in the organization.

The Rangers couldn’t have sent Byers a clearer message that he had no future in New York.

“I didn’t want to be a great AHL hockey player or a great Hartford Wolf Pack player,” Byers told Bruce Berlet after his new team, the Springfield Falcons, topped his old team in a shootout Saturday night.  “My goal is to play in the NHL, and sometimes you have to take a risk and move on. I just wanted an opportunity before I get too old.

It was a quirk of the schedule that Byers’ first game for his new club came in the arena he’d spent his entire professional career calling home.  And it looked like his replacement, Kolarik, would earn the night’s accolades when he scored to tie the game at two just under eight minutes into the third period and teammate Jeremy Williams scored his second of the game five minutes later to put the Wolf Pack ahead for the first time in the game.  But with 4:25 remaining in regulation, Byers’ one-timer off a cross-ice feed from Maksim Mayorov was tipped past goaltender Cam Talbot by Mike Blunden to send the two clubs to extra time.

An entertaining but scoreless overtime period led to a shootout, where Byers solidified his statement.  Shooting to clinch the win after teammate Tomas Kubalik had scored to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead and four Wolf Pack shooters — including Kolarik — had been thwarted by Springfield stopper and ex-Wolf Pack Chad LeNeveu, Byers beat Talbot high on the glove side to send the home crowd home disappointed.

Many of those who have rooted for Byers for four years couldn’t help but smile.

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Live Blog: Hartford Wolf Pack @ Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Saturday November 06th 2010, 7:07 pm

Circumstances (mostly work and Rangers games) have conspired to prevent me from watching and/or blogging entire Hartford Wolf Pack games, but I’m back in the saddle tonight hoping to bring a little bit of luck to the Pack, who are now winless in a franchise record eight straight games.

Tonight’s opponent is the nearby Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who enter the game with a 4-6-0-0 record, a point behind the 3-7-2-1 Wolf Pack in the Atlantic Division standings, but only by virtue of playing three fewer games.  The teams have met once previously this season, with a 2-1 decision going the Wolf Pack’s way on October 16th.

Cam Talbot, back from a groin injury suffered in his first start on October 17th — a 3-0 shutout — will be in net for the Wolf Pack.  Fellow rookie Kevin Poulin will be in goal for the Sound Tigers.

Puck drops at 7:05pm

Wolf Pack Scratches
Weise (wrist)
Niemi (healthy)
Wong (healthy)
Tessier (healthy)

Lines

Dupont – Kennedy – Zuccarello
Byers – Newbury – Williams
DiDiomete – Garlock – Donati
Soryal – McKelvie

Redden – Nightingale
Valentenko – Baldwin
McDonagh – Kundratek
Williams

Talbot / Johnson

First Period

1:25 – The usually slow-starting Pack showing a little more jump to start this contest, with Tim Kennedy and Brodie Dupont getting an early 2-on-1 chance. Poulin makes the save.

6:18 – Pack have spent the majority of the first six minutes of the game in the Bridgeport zone, earning a 5-2 advantage in shots.

10:00 – Sound Tigers finding their legs: hem the Kennedy line in their own zone for an entire shift, leading to a good scoring chance for Justin DiBenedeto, which is stopped by Talbot.

11:35Jean Bourbeau catches Pavel Valentenko with his lead down along the right boards and steamrolls him.  Valentenko stays down.  Captain Dane Byers goes after Bourbeau and destroys him in a fight, but takes an extra two for roughing.  Valentenko makes it to the Pack bench under his own steam.

11:49 – That didn’t take long.  In a goal-mouth scramble Jon Sim gives the Sound Tigers a 1-0 lead on the power play, finding the puck behind Talbot’s pads and sweeping it home.  Assists to Rob Hisey and Rhett Rakhshani.

12:08 – The Pack with a chance to get it right back;  Travis Hamonic goes off for high-sticking.

14:08 – Bridgeport kill it off.

15:00 – Valentenko back on the ice, no worse for wear after getting levelled by Bourbeau.

16:10 – The first line of Dupont – Kennedy – Matts Zuccarello easily has the Pack’s best offensive chances so far.  But they can be a bit of an adventure in their own zone.

18:04 – Actually, the entire team is a bit of an adventure in their own zone right now. Sloppy defensive play leading to way too many quality scoring chances for the Sound Tigers.  Talbot forced to make 3-4 high-quality saves.  Bridgeport now out-shooting Hartford 12-8.

End of First – Pack fortunate to escape the period only down by one after spending the final six minutes of the period in their own zone.  Bridgeport finished the period with a 13-8 shot advantage.

Second Period

0:45Jared Nightingale fails to clear the zone and turns the puck over to Hisey along the right side boards.  Sim gets his second goal of the game on a deflection of Hisey’s point shot, making it 2-0 Sound Tigers.  Assists go to Hisey and Hamonic.

4:10 – And the wheels are falling off for the Wolf Pack (again).  Tony Romano wraps the puck around the left post and it sqeezes between Talbot’s pad and the post.  3-0 Bridgeport.  Unassisted goal for Romano, his first point of the season. (Update: Assist added to tough-guy Jeremy Yablonski after the fact.)

5:30 – The Byers – Kris NewburyJeremy Williams line with a strong shift.  Get multiple whacks at the puck but Poulin shuts the door.

10:46 – Sloppy, sloppy Pack passing at the Bridgeport blueline leading to multiple counter-attacks for the Sound Tigers.

12:35 – Dupont – Kennedy – Zuccarello get a good chance 3-on-2 with Zuccarello firing the first shot and Dupont getting the rebound.  Poulin stops them both.

12:50Justin Soryal takes on Bourbeau and scores the easy decision in a spirited bout.  Bourbeau’s best blow comes with Soryal on the ice.  Bourbeau goes to the locker room for repairs, Soryal goes to the box.

12:55 – It’s fight night at the Arena at Harbor Yard!  Nightingale — perhaps unwisely — takes on heavyweight Yablonski and gets his ass kicked.

14:29 – Poulin robs Jeremy Williams point blank.

17:45 – Pack crash the crease and the Sound Tigers take exception. After one too many shoves by DiBenedeto, Kennedy drops the gloves and the two try to throw punches over the linesman.  Bizarrely Poulin either goes after Kennedy as well or was trying to pull him off DiBenedeto.  Pack end up with a power play.

19:40 – When your second power play unit is comprised of Brodie Dupont, Devin DiDiomete and Tyler Donati, you know you’re in trouble.  This team is absolutely devoid of scoring depth.

End of Second: Soryal’s fight definitely lit a fire under the Wolf Pack, but Poulin had the answer for everything they threw his way.  Wolf Pack finished the period with a 7-5 advantage in shots, but Bridgeport had the better quality chances thanks primarily to Wolf Pack mistakes and turnovers.

Third Period

2:00 - The Milford Photo “Shot of the Game” was the punch Bourbeau threw when Soryal was down on the ice.  Way to celebrate a guy being a tool, Bridgeport.

6:10 – After three strong shifts in a row, the Pack finally get on the board. DiDiomete gets his second of the season by banging home a rebound with assists going to Wade Redden and Ryan Garlock.  3-1 Bridgeport.

12:32 – More sloppy break-outs lead to multiple shots — with deflections — for the Sound Tigers.  Talbot makes the stop on one and the second sails by just wide of the post.

13:03 – Williams flies down the left side boards and nearly surprises Poulin with a sharp-angle shot, but Poulin holds the post.

15:37 – Byers’ rebound attempt stopped by Poulin after back-to-back good shifts for the Wolf Pack.

14:02 – Ex-Pack Dylan Reese falls down, allowing Zuccarello to steal the puck just inside the Bridgeport blueline, but his shot goes high and wide.

17:19Jeremy Colliton pushes Ryan McDonagh into the end boards awkwardly.  McDonagh stays down and Colliton goes off for interference.  McDonagh up and trying to skate off, favoring right leg.

18: 49 – Redden skates in the back door all alone with the puck, has Poulin down and out but never even gets a shot off.

19:36Jesse Joenseu breaks out two-on-one with Romano and puts it in the empty net.  4-1 Bridgeport, assist to Romano.

19:50 – Donati with a hard, high shot, but Poulin flashes out the glove to make the save.

End of game: And that’s all she wrote.  The 4-1 loss extends the Wolf Pack’s franchise-worst winless streak to nine games.  And with Providence defeating Portland in overtime, Hartford now find themselves at the bottom of the Atlantic Division, just four points better than the league-worst Adirondack Phantoms.

To their credit Hartford battled for an 8-6 advantage in shots in the period, finishing with a 27-26 lead over 60 minutes.  But couldn’t get get the puck past Poulin.

While lack of scoring is the obvious problem, the root of the Wolf Pack’s scoring woes may actually lie with the defense, which is incapable of triggering a successful break out and susceptible to being pressured into giveaways at either blueline.  For their part, the forwards aren’t nearly aggressive enough on the forecheck and are rarely able to generate offense that way.  And when they do get chances, everyone’s gripping their sticks so tightly the shots either get shanked or sail wide.  In goal, Talbot, who was perfect in his first start, looked more pedestrian in his second.  He wasn’t bad, but like his goaltending partner Chad Johnson, he was unable to come up with the spectacular, game-saving save at the right moment.

Scoring
1. BRI Sim, (4) (Rakhshani, Hisey), 11:49 (PP)
2. BRI Sim, (5) (Hisey, Hamonic), 0:45
2. BRI Romano, (1) (Yablonski), 4:10
3. HFD DiDiomete, (2) (Redden, Garlock), 6:10
3. BRI Joensuu, (3) (Romano, Colliton), 19:36 (EN)

Three Stars
1. Jon Sim
2. Kevin Poulin
3. Rob Hisey

Filed under: Hartford Wolf Pack


Live Blog: Hartford Wolf Pack @ Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Saturday October 16th 2010, 6:09 pm

The Wolf Pack visit their in-state rivals in nearby Bridgeport tonight off the back of a 3-2 shootout loss to the Albany Devils on Friday night.  Friday’s contest was one of firsts, as both salary cap victim Wade Redden and Euro free agent hopeful Matts Zuccarello each tallied the first AHL goals of their career.  Zuccarello added a goal in the shootout on a sweet backhand move, but his marker was matched by that of Devils prospect Mattias Tedenby.  The goalies ruled the day until the sixth round of the skills competition, when Stephen Gionta beat Hartford netminder Chad Johnson (29 saves) with a quick snapshot from in close.

And so the Pack enter tonight’s match-up with a 1-1-0-1 record, good for a tie for third in the Atlantic Division.  The Sound Tigers are off to a 1-2-0-0 start, which leaves them in the Atlantic Division basement with the Manchester Monarchs.  But hey, it’s only three games into the season, so we’re talking about a single point difference between the squads.

Game time is 7:00pm EST.  Back with more then…

Pre-Game

  • Looks like the injury epidemic isn’t confined to New York. Dale Weise will miss tonight’s game with an undisclosed injury which could keep him out “a couple of weeks.” Brandon Wong will take Weise’s place in the line-up tonight.
  • Your goaltending match-up for the evening: Bridgeport’s Mikko Koskinen (1-1-1-0, 2.90GAA, .903 SV%) faces Hartford’s Chad Johnson (1-1-0-1, 2.62GAA, .901 SV%).
  • Scratches: Weise (undisclosed); Jared Nightingale (foot infection); Devin DiDiomete (hip surgery); Lee Baldwin (healthy).

First Period

3:44 – Wolf Pack get the game’s first power play as Dustin Kohn goes off for roughing up Jeremy Williams near the benches.

5:54 – Pack power play off to a slow start.  Decent possession in the second half with the Evgeny GrachevTim KennedyZuccarello line on the ice, but they fail to get a shot on goal.  Jyri Niemi’s one-time blast from the right point, the best chance, goes high and wide as time runs down.

8:46 – Pushing and shoving at the benches.  Dane Byers, as he was limping off the ice after blocking a shot, gets tied up with Robin FigrenTomas Marcinko steps in, and Byers gets the short straw, drawing a double minor to Marcinko’s single minor for roughing.

9:06 – Kris Newbury gets whistled for boarding and drops the gloves with ex-Ranger draft pick Dylan Reese. More of a wrestling match than a fight.  End result: Pack go two men short for 1:40.  A year later, coach Gernander’s preaching about discipline still appears to be falling on deaf ears.

10:20 – Kennedy doing a fantastic job as the lone forward on the 5-on-3 kill.

11:06 – All penalties killed.

13:31 – Isles prospect Travis Hamonic bizarrely opts to drop the gloves with tough guy Justin Soryal.  Linesmen, perhaps realizing the massive mismatch, jump in almost immediately.

15:06 – Bridgeport get tagged for having too many men on the ice. Pack back on the power play.

16:46 – Ryan McDonagh’s the recipient of a brutal giveaway at the top of the circles, but his point-blank slapshot goes wide.

16:06 – Penalty over, teams back at full strength.

17:50 – Zuccarello get double teamed at the benches as he was going for a change. Pushing and shoving ensues, he pushes right back.  Things break up and play goes on.

19:32 – Bridgeport pouring on the pressure; get a number of chances.  Johnson having trouble holding on his rebounds. In the chaos, Chris McKelvie gets caught for a hook.

19:51 – Byers gets a step on David Ullstrom shorthanded and Ullstrom is forced to take an interference call.  Four-on-four for 1:41 to start the second period.

End of first – Lots of penalties, not a lot of scoring chances.  The Sound Tigers got the best chances, a pair of flurries around the net in the final two minutes of the period on back-to-back shifts, but Johnson held them at bay.  Shots for the period were 10-7 in Bridgeport’s favor.

Second Period

0:35 – Rhett Rakhshani and Redden bowl into Johnson and Rakshani gets the goaltender interference call.  Four-on-three hockey coming up.

1:28 – Jeremy Williams takes a feed from Redden at the top of the left circle and blasts a one-timer through Koskinen, short side.  1-0 Wolf Pack. Redden and Kennedy get the assists.  That’s Kennedy’s first point since his demotion.

5:00 – It’s like watching a totally different game from the first period.  Lots of scoring chances, with the majority going to the Wolf Pack, including two great chances for former Islander prospect Niemi.

9:49 – McKelvie’s giveaway turns into a point-blank scoring chance for the Sound Tigers, but after Johnson makes the save, Marcinko gets whistled for a slash, sending Hartford back on the power play.

10:14 – Grachev, from behind the net, sets up Kennedy in the slot, but Koskinen makes the stop.  Then Matt Martin decks Kennedy from behind after the whistle, but no call is made.

11:49 – Bridgeport gets a flurry of chances as the penalty expires.

15:43 – McDonagh’s a lot more involved offensively than he has in the first three games.  Looks to be settling in a bit.  Of course, no sooner than I start typing that, he gets beat down the right boards.

18:50 – Grachev looks a split-second slow in everything he does.  He’s holding on to the puck too long before shots and passes and paying for it with giveaways again and again.

19:28 – Newbury goes for tripping with 32 seconds remaining in the period.  Bridgeport will start the final period with 1:28 of power play time.

End of Second – Fewer penalties, a lot more quality scoring chances.  Might as well have been two different teams on the ice compared to the first period.  Faster pace, more hitting, more scoring chances.  Shots in the period flip-flop from the first, with the Pack getting 10 to Bridgeport’s 7.

Third Period

1:28 – Newbury out of the box.  Hartford improves to 4-for-4 on the PK tonight.

5:17 – Another good scoring chance for McDonagh, but Koskinen stops his wrist shot from the top of the left circle.

6:?? – Another giveaway by Grachev in his own zone, but the defense plays it well and prevents a scoring chance.

7:17 – McDonagh gets stripped of the puck high in the Pack zone by Anton Klementiev; Johnson makes the first save but Rakhshani puts the rebound over his shoulder. We’re tied at 1.

14:43 – The puck is in the Bridgeport net, but it got there from behind when the goal was pushed forward and it slid in underneath.  Teams trading chances, but still knotted at 1.

15:02 – Maybe I should criticize Grachev more often.  The big Russian carries it up the right side boards, through two Bridgeport players, and feeds Zuccarello in the high slot.  Zuccarello wrists a bullet past Koskinen’s glove for his second goal in as many games. 2-1 Wolf Pack. Grachev with the lone assist.

15:50 – First line buzzing in the Bridgeport zone, but Byers gets whistled for a trip.  Last night it was Dupont with a late penalty, tonight it’s Byers. Both vets who should know better.  Time out Sound Tigers.

16:32 – Johnson makes tough stops on a pair of Sound Tigers chances look easy.

17:50 – Penalty expires, Byers out of the box.

19:15 – Bridgeport net is empty.  Valentenko and McDonagh out together on D.

End of third – The Wolf Pack hold on earn their second win of the season by a 2-1 score.  There were a few scrambly moments towards the end, but Bridgeport had trouble getting the puck through to the net.  Johnson earns first star honors, though I’m not sure he really had enough work to earn it (not that 21 saves is anything to sneeze at).  The Pack had the edge in shots in the third period, 10-5, for a 27-22 advantage in the game.

Highlights from the game are available from the Sound Tigers web site.

Scoring
2. HFD Williams, (2) (Redden, Kennedy), 1:28 (PP)
3. BRI Rakhshani, (1) (Klementyev, Wotton), 7:17
3. HFD Zuccarello, (2) (Grachev), 15:02

Lines
Dane Byers – Kris Newbury – Jeremy Williams
Evgeny Grachev – Tim Kennedy – Matts Zuccarello
Brodie Dupont – Brandon Wong – Kelsey Tessier
Justin Soryal – Ryan Garlock – Chris McKelvie

Wade Redden – Jyri Niemi
Pavel Valentenko – Nigel Williams
Ryan McDonagh – Tomas Kundratek

Johnson / Talbot

Three Stars

1. Johnson
2. Rakhshani
3. Zuccarello

Filed under: Hartford Wolf Pack