Johnson Helps Wolf Pack Win
Wolf Pack Win on Opening Night
Johnson Helps Shut the Door for Opening Night Win
By Gerry Cantlon
Hartford,CT-Chad Johnson’s 24 saves especially a key breakaway help propel the Hartford Wolf to a regular season and home opening 4-2 win over one of two newest teams in the AHL the Charlotte Checkers before 7,016 at the XL Center.
Johnson, a second year pro gave up the game’s first goal on a breakaway he was clearly not going to allow the Checkers back in the game to even the contest.
Rookie Stefan Chaput after blocking Nigel Williams shot broke in alone with 5:12 left and the Pack holding a 3-1 lead. “I didn’t know how mich time was left,but I knew it was a big moment. I was more patient on the first goal the guy stuttered a bit and I overcommitted too soon. I stayed with him and didn’t give him much too shoot at,”.
Teammate Dale Weise felt Johnson named the number two star was the games best performer, “ He made some mighty big saves out there when we needed them. He looked calm out there and had his swagger and that bodes well for our team.”
The Wolf Pack did better in the second period after the expected opening night jitters set aside and forced the Checkers into mistakes. One directly led to their second goal.
Ryan Garlock was able to take a turnover sent a sharp pass to rookie Kelsey Tessier whose wraparound attempot was stopped by Myrphy,but fellow rookie Chris McKelvie was standing on the doorstep and fired it home for his first pro goal at 5:49.
The Pack extended their lead again on the powerplay on a rare end-to-end rush not seen often in this era of pro hockey.
Wade Redden with a nice small touch of the puck behind the Pack net left for Jeremy Williams in his first game who then zoomed up the right side and once in the Checkers zone went inside out on defenseman Casey Borer and beat Murphy at 13:45.
“Turnovers and defensive zone mistakes cost us the game. We played well in the third period,but it was too little, too late,” remarked Charlotte head coach Jeff Daniels.
The Checkers opened up the scoring when former Wolf Pack defenseman Ethan Graham split the defensive pair of rookie Ryan McDonagh and veteran Jared Nightingale sending Jacob Micflikier in for a clean breakaway and went to the backhand and 1-0 lead at 5:19 of the first period.
The Pack struck back via the powerplay as last seasons team MVP Dale Weise picked up where he left off at 16:55 on the left converting a perfect cross ice pass from Kris Newbury firing it under the cross bar over Checkers prone goalie Mike
Murphy catching the water bottle in the process.
Charlotte did pick up the pace in the third a Jonathan Matsumoto who scored 30 goals in Adirondack last year buried one from 35 feet out with a partial screen on Johnson to narrow the lrad to 3-2 9:50 of third magnifying the Johnson save as this could have been a game tying goal.
The Wolf Pack iced things with Weise with an open net unselfishly passed to Newbury who shot it and linemate Dane Byers put it in for the 4-2 victory.
“I could have buried it,but I told Bysie (Byers) we would get him one since he was the only guy on our line without a pont,” remarked Weise.
Quick turnaround Wolf Pack play a 3:00pm game with Worcester today at the XL Center.
NOTES: The crowd of 7,031 was the second smallest home opening crowd in the teams 14 year history. The first game in history at home drew 8,386 against Springfield…Newbury-Weise-Byers combined for 5 points. Wade Redden had two assists and wore the A as an assistant…Unsung heroes, Russian defenseman Pavel Valentenko four blocks in the game and a critical defensive play in the first on Jerome Samson to prevent a breakaway. The other was fellow Russian Evgeny Grachev playing center who used his size more than he did a year ago and did very well on faceoffs…Checkers captain as Bryan Rodney who started his career out in Hartford and an anchor on their powerplay that was 1 for 7….Former Wolf Pack defenseman Bobby Saguinetti and two other players were reassigned to the Checkers by parent club Carolina Hurricanes and depending on their jet lag from Sweden may play in Springfield today or Monday said Daniels ....Last time a Charlotte Checkers team was in Connecticut was in 1971 whern they played the New Haven Blades in old Eastern Hockey League at the New Haven Arena.
Story added on 10th October 2010 at 17:13 GMT
Story submitted by: Gerry Cantlon.