The Wolf Pack returned to Hartford Friday night and discovered what had been missing over their past three road games where they were a disappointing 0-2-0-1, a sixty minute total team effort. The Pack (2-3-0-1) also found another missing element to their game, timely scoring and went on to earn a hard fought 2-1 victory over the visiting Philadelphia Phantoms (1-5-0-0) in front of 2,647 at the XL Center.
Goaltender Miika Wiikman was tremendous for the young Pack team. He clearly was the game's First Star making outstanding stops on some very hard shots all game long especially in the third period as the Pack tried to defend their one-goal lead. The Swedish netminder stopped 30 of 31 shots and was the team's best player in eight shorthanded situations, especially during one double minor in the second period. The only blot on what would have been a perfect night for Wiikman, came on a third period power play goal. With the Pack leading 1-0 and looking to kill off their sixth shorthanded situation of the night, former Wolf Pack left wing Boyd Kane got a piece of a Steve Downie shot from the top of the left circle. The puck ricocheted off the stick of defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti before Wiikman could do a thing about it.
“It was a big-time game for us where we obviously needed a win, and Miika had a real strong game,” Wolf Pack coach Ken Gernander told reporters. “He was our best (penalty) killer, and that never hurts, especially when you have to kill eight (power plays).”
Wiikman's game time best friend, the crossbar played a part early as the Baby Flyers confused it for the Liberty Bell hitting it a couple of times. Instead of getting tight on the close-but-no-cigar shots from their Pennsylvania guests, instead it actually settled down the goalkeeper. Wiikman told reporters, "Maybe I was too nervous to start,” He said about the start to the game, adding, “I got lucky with the two crossbars, and it felt good to still have a shutout. Then I got shots more frequently, and that kept me into the game a little easier and I got more relaxed and had a good feeling in the third. And I think the guys played a lot better defense than in the last few games.”
Sanguinetti immediately put the misstep behind him. Scouted as an offensive defenseman when the Rangers drafted him in the first round (#21 overall) in 2006, Sanguinetti, who was scoreless in his first 29 AHL games, ended that drought with a rocket of a shot just 1:46 later. The defensemen, playing in his first full season after after joining the Pack after his junior hockey season had ended last year, was trailing on a rush up ice. Just as he crossed over the blue line he received a perfect pass from Brodie Dupont and put a perfectly placed one-timer past the glove of veteran goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin (22 saves).
“I saw Dupont coming off the wall and kind of just walked in and took a shot,” The New Jersey native told reporters in the locker room. “It was kind of funny because on the bench (assistant coach) J.J. (Daigneault) said Aubin has a good glove. After I scored, I said, ‘Yeah, he’s got a great glove, but …’ It’s just exciting to have the first (goal) over with. After they tied it up, we wanted to make sure we got the goal right back.”
P.A. Parenteau netted the team's first goal early in the game and seems to be finding his scoring touch. After being held off the scorers' sheet for the first four games, the right wing now has a two-game goal scoring streak. Parenteau scored on the power play at exactly 5:00 into the game. The Pack, who had been struggling mightily on the power play ranking 28th at just 2-for-28 (7.1%), benefited from a terrific centering pass by Tommy Pyatt. Parenteau was all alone in the slot and put his shot just by the glove hand of Aubin which seemed to be a Pack strategy all night long as they challenging the veteran on what had been his reputation for having a great glove.
* Philadelphia is coached by the man who led the Pack to their only Calder Cup championship in 2000, John Paddock. Incidentally, the Captain of that team? Pack Head Coach Ken Gernander.
* For the Pack to make any real noise long term, they are going to have to improve their special teams play.
While playing shorthanded the Pack have now surrendered six goals out off of 37 trips to the sin bin for an 83.8% success rate.
On the power play they are now 3 for 31 or 9.6% which would rank them 26th
* Meanwhile in Charlotte, the Checkers played their first of three games in three nights against the Mississippi Sea Wolves. They lost the first game 5-2. Joe Barnes potted one for the home team after having just been sent down yesterday by the Wolf Pack.
Soryal - Moore - Owens
Dupont - Anisimov - Weise
BYERS - Pyatt - PARENTEAU
Sugden - Ouellette - DiDiomete
Denisov - Fahey
Sanguinetti - POTTER
Murray - Graham
Alternate Captains in all CAPS
Hugh Jessiman (Healthy)
Michael Sauer (Knee Injury)
1. HFD - 62 Miika Wiikman
2. HFD - 21 Bobby Sanguinetti
3. PHI - 28 Boyd Kane
ON ICE OFFICIALS
Chris Cozzan (68), Referee
Jim Briggs (83), Linesman
Kevin Redding (16), Linesman
Saturday night at home against the Manchester Monarchs at 7:00
***Special thanks to Mark Canello for the nice comments and terrific pictures from last night's game.***