Third time was not the charm for the Hartford Wolf Pack (8-5-2-0) who played at home late Sunday afternoon. The losing streak presses on for the Pack, though their Sunday game was far more intense than the previous two losses verse the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (10-4-0-1) on Thursday and Friday were. Everyone in the crowd could tell that as the Wolf Pack stormed the ice Sunday to take on the Manchester Monarchs (10-4-0-0) that they were ready to play some serious hockey.
The Pack got off to a good start, despite the Monarchs controlling the initial minutes of the game. At 5:41 in the first period came one of the first whistles, a Wolf Pack power play, then another, resulting in a Wolf Pack 5 on 3 opportunity taken advantage of by wing Chris Bourque slamming home the first goal off an assist from defenseman Tomas Kaberle at 6:35 to take the lead. The boys were all smiles, but the celebration didn’t last long. The Monarchs battled back to tie the game up at one at 16:07 of the first period off a goal from left wing, Michael Mersch.
The Monarchs would dominate the shots on goal, as the Wolf Pack seemed to play a bit timid. The Monarchs, who clearly take a page from the playbook of their parent club the Los Angeles Kings, physically dominated them. Coach Ken Gernander seemed concerned about this saying post game that the team is playing “too much finesse, not physical enough (hockey).” That’s something every player dreads to hear, that they’re not focusing enough on the physical aspects of hockey but rather that they’re trying to just make themselves look pretty. Perhaps Gernander’s harsh words will be taken to heart by the Wolf Pack…
The tie wouldn’t last long as Manchester took the lead at 2:29 in the second period with a goal from center Nick Shore off an assist from defenseman Nick Ebert. A few minutes later, the physicality and overall lackadaisical tone of the game would change. Anger and aggression would take over, and the rest of the night would be filled with hits galore.
When things started to heat up in the second Monarch, Jordan Weal, was called for hooking at 4:05- resulting in a Hartford power play. The ‘Pack would take advantage, tying it up at 4:55 with a goal courtesy of left winger, Justin Vaive as the Monarchs would be whistled for a total of 5 penalties in the first 25 minutes of action. Hartford would later take the lead off a nice goal from center J.T. Miller at 10:28 of the second.
This game included one of the most exciting plays in hockey, a penalty shot called on the Monarchs, with 4.9 seconds remaining in the second for center Chris Mueller after he was thrown, literally into the goal on a potential breakaway. Unfortunately, for the Wolf Pack, Mueller couldn’t capitalize, as he was stone walled by Manchester goalie Patrik Bartosak.
The physical play would continue into the third with a lot of pushing and shoving. Ryan Haggerty was called in a delay of game penalty at 10:51. Again resulting in the game being tied up as Weal pushed the puck in at12: 10. – An atonement for his past sins of penalties. At the end of the third all tied, the Wolf Pack and Monarchs headed into sudden death overtime.
In a 4 on 4, seven-minute AHL overtime, Hartford failed to capitalize on their best opportunity, a Chris Bourque potential breakaway that he couldn’t seem to hammer home. Goalie Machekzie Skapski would keep Hartford alive longer than they deserved with some impressive saves but he would come up one save short, as Brian O’Neill would slip the game winner past him. Gernander would later comment that Skapski was the star of the game, the real MVP for hanging in there and putting his heart into the game. “We have to bounce back now” Gernander finished off saying, “We have to right the ship.”
The Wolf Pack will be playing home again on Wednesday, November 19th against the Syracuse Crunch (8-4-3-0). Going into a new week, the biggest question is will the Wolf Pack prevail or continue to fall short?
-Monarchs have now won 5 straight games
-Hartford has lost 4 of their last 5 games
-Scratches for Hartford R. Malone, B. Stamler, R. Potulny, N. Tarnasky
-Shots on goal Manchester 39 Hartford 27
3. Justin Vaive
2. Tomas Kaberle
1. Brian O’ Neill