Sound Tigers Rally to win in a Shootout 4-3
Hartford Wolf Pack end franchise name with a stunning loss
Sound Tigers Rally Past Wolf Pack
By Gerry Cantlon
It ended with a whimper and not a bang.
The Hartford Wolf Pack just six and a half minutes from securing a shutout win in the last game for the franchise under the Wolf Pack banner collapsed in ignominious fashion losing 4-3 in a shootout to their in-state rival Bridgeport Sound Tigers 4-3 before 5,338 at the Arena at Harbor Yard.
The fall began on what seemed would be a routine play and turned what had been perfect road game into a stunning nightmare.
Veteran forward Jeremy Williams of Hartford circling in the offensive zone at the left wing circle instead of dumping it in tried to stickhandle and lost the puck to Sound Tigers rookie Rhett Rakhashani who quickly tapped a pass to defenseman Wes O’ Neill and the 6’5 giant raced up the ice with Russian Pavel Valentenko in tow and it seemed Valentenko had made a good defensive play to lift his stick at the last second however referee Chris Cozzan thought otherwise after raising his arm to signal a penalty he pointed to center ice and ruled a penalty shot.
“I thought (Valentenko) made a great play to come back and lift (O’Neill’s) stick,” Wolf Pack veteran defenseman Wade Redden said. “He didn’t hook him. He hustled back and lifted his stick.”
O’ Neil made good on the move on goalie Chad Johnson with 6:12 remaining making it 3-1.
The whole play left Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander livid.
“(O’Neill) was in the clear, but in my mind, it never should have got to that. We’ve got a 3-0 lead and control puck possession. All we had to do is turn and get the puck deep, and the play is dead. It’s something that has been addressed again and again.
“It’s a pretty simple play, and it can’t happen. They were given some emotion, some life, a goal, an opportunity. I’m quite frustrated, disappointed, upset or whatever that it happened. It was uncalled for. It’s game management, and for us not to put that puck deep is a selfish play. You’ve got to get the puck deep or get it to the defenseman so he can get it deep. Somebody has to make a big play, but they didn’t.”
Gernander did something he rarely does he made a point to name Williams as the culprit on the play.
The Sound Tigers on the next shift a mere 16 seconds later a wide open Rakashani found the back of the net after a complete defensive breakdown by Hartford for a 3-2 game.
Then O’Neil with just 1:05 left in regulation was wide open on the right wing side and winger Josh Bailey just fired a perfect cross ice pass and O’ Neil just buried it inside the right post to even the game at three and send their fans into delirium and the Wolf Pack into complete shock.
“It’s hard to explain, we were in total control of the game, let our foot off the gas a bit and gave them a penalty shot that changed the whole feel of the game and gave them some life. It’s fine to give up one (goal), but we have to be able to shore things up, be smart, be sound and be calm in those situations. We were still up two goals, but I think we had some panic and they scored another quick one and we were on our heels, remarked a now mustachioed Wade Redden who has seen a lot min 21 plaus NHL seasons, but even he found it hard to comprehend.
Redden knows tomorrow the first game for the team under its new name the Connecticut Whale has important implications in the rematch.
“We had to find a way and had some great opportunities, but we just have to make plays in those situations. We’ve got them again (Saturday night), and I know we can feel down and disappointed, which is natural. But we’ve got to rebound and come back hungry right off the start.”
The overtime saw the Pack outshot and then the shootout was anything to be excited by missing four of seven chances by missing the entirely. The Sound Tigers nailed the last one as winger Jeremy Colliton’s shot went of goalie Johnson’ stick and trickled over the goal line in agonizing fashion at 9:44pm EDT the Wolf pack one of the top teams in the AHL the last decade went out with a whimper.
“I was trying to be patient and thought I was down far enough, but it somehow found a hole, but losing a 3-0 lead with 61/2 minutes left is just unacceptable. It can’t happen. You just have to play simple hockey. It’s that kind of game where you don’t need any more goals. Just get the puck deep and play as strong defensively as you can. You have to give it to them that they didn’t quit.
“They kept playing and forechecking and finding that soft spot in the high slot, but everybody is just shocked, disappointed, angry, frustrated. It’s kind of hard to explain having a three-goal lead with less than seven minutes left and then losing in a shootout. It’s pro hockey and just unacceptable.” Said a clearly bewildered Johnson.
NOTES: Wolf Pack career record over 1,177 games is 571 (Wins)-346 (Losses)-49 (Overtime Losses)-30 (Shootout losses), a Calder Cup title in 2000 and 57-58 in 22 playoff series and making the playoffs 12 of 13 years as the Wolf Pack ….Hartford has defenseman Stu Bickel made his debut after being acquired from Anaheim for defenseman Nigel Williams. Forward Oren Eizenmann, the only Israeli born pro hockey player was signed to a PTO contract might play tomorrow night for Hartford……Sound Tigers had seven regulars out with injuries and another four on recall to the parent New York islanders.
Story added on 27th November 2010 at 21:45 GMT
Story submitted by: Gerry Cantlon.