Alex Bourret made an impact from his first shift in his first game back from hand, groin and concussion injuries scoring 2 goals and assisting on another and registering a First Star performance leading the Wolf Pack (14-7-0-1) to a 4-2 victory over the Worcester Sharks (8-8-1-1) on the road in front of a generously announced crowd of 3,598 at the DCU Center Friday night.
The Wolf Pack came out motivated with purpose and direction right from the start. The opening line as predicted by Bruce Berlet here in Howlings was Nigel Dawes, Greg Moore & Alex Bourret and before the game even started Bourret was mixing it up with Dennis Packard. The Pack went on the attack as just :34 seconds into the contest Dawes ripped one off the right post. After the Pack killed a minor hooking penalty to Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau the game settled into a game of positioning with the Pack dictating play. At 9:56 Worcester defenseman Dan Sprang took a hooking penalty and :26 seconds later Coey Potter hit the post. Just before the power play ended, the Pack demonstrated why their power play has been steadily improving to the 12th out of 30 ranking it now holds when Potter moved the puck from the right point over to Dawes on the left point. Dawes made a cross ice diagonal pass to a wide open Bourret who buried his 3rd of the year past Worcester Goalie Thomas Greiss (6-5-0 3.13 GAA .904%), who had no chance on the play.
The period ended with Worcester picking up their intensity, but being outshot 13-5 for the period.
The second started saw the Pack maintaining their aggressive approach and sense of urgency as less than 2 minutes into the period, Artem Anisimov made a nice steal that set up a 3 on 1 in the offensive zone but a Parenteau shot landed right in Greiss' glove.
Andrew Hutchinson took a cross check penalty that sent the Sharks and their 6th ranked Power Play unit out to face the Pack's 24th rated penalty kill. Nate Raduns found Ashton Rome who waited patiently for Lukas Kasper to make his cut across the slot. Dane Byers was late getting back and Rome looked more like ROMO when he hit Kasper right on the tape and Kasper redirected it past a helpless Miika Wiikman (4-0-0 2.78 GAA .897%) tying the score.
The Wolf Pack conitnued to put pressure on the Shark defense and kept them pinned in their own end for minutes at a time however they were unable to convert on a couple of great opportunities by Dawes and Moore.
A few penalties and succesful kills by both squads including a brief :22 second Wolf Pack 5 on 3 that they were able to fire a couple of shots on goal but not able finish. However two shots clearly looked like they went in the net and bounced out. The first by Moore from just inside the right circle and the other on the rebound by Parenteau however neither went into the books as both were waved off and play continued.
The Pack pressure produced a lot of turnovers and at 13:25 one found the stick of Thomas Pock alone in the high slot. Pock reacted quickly and fired a shot low into a traffic filled crease and it found twine off the stick side giving the Pack a 2-1 lead and a 22-16 lead in shots heading into the third period.
Worcester head coach must have had a few pointed words for his club as the Sharks team that hit the ice to start the third was not the same and jumped all over the Pack early in the period. At 4:03 Wiikman made what was clearly the play of hte game as a big rebound found the stick of Worcester center, Josh Prudden came in on Wiikman who recovered to make a huge sprawling save to stop a certain goal on Prudden's backhanded shot. The great save seemed to awaken the Pack and they came back at Worcester with an aggressive assault leading to a frustrated Craig Valette taking a foolish cross checking penalty on Potter in the offensive zone. The resulting power play came up short despite excellent chances by both Bourett and
korpikoski who missed wide open nets.
What would eventually prove to be the game winner came at 12:06 as Moore found Dawes with a pass off the back boards and Dawes saw Bourett crashingthe net through the slot and hit him right in the perfect spot to for the one timer that he buried glove side for a 3-1 lead.
It would stay that way for another 6 minutes when a great drive by Worcester leading scorer Mike Iggulden down the right wing beat both Thomas Pyatt, who also returned from a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss 10 games, and Hutchinson allowed him to swing in on Wiikman uncontested and he beat Wiikman with a pretty move going low to the glove side at 18:01 giving the home team a glimmer of hope that would soon be extinguished.
:13 seconds later Sprang sprung the death knell on his team by effectively removing any chance of having an extra attacker when he took an ill advised tripping penalty sending the Pack on the Power Play with an empty net that a nice intercept by Hutchinson led to a feed to Byers who, with 23.5 seconds left buried an empty netter sealing the 4-2 victory. The Pack outshot Worcester for the game 33-26
The Three Stars of the game were Bourett, Thomas Pock, who had a goal and an assist and Lukas Kasper with a goal for Worcester.
Scratched in this one were the injured players for Hartford along with Ryan Murphy, Ryan Constant and Mark Lee.
Dawes - Moore - Bourett with Taylor and Baranka
Dupont - Anisimov - Parenteau with Waddell and Hutchinson
Byers - Korpikoski - Jessiman with Potter and Pock
Pyatt and Oulette (excellent on the PK tonight)