Crawford's Corner: Pack Begin Second Half Tonight in NorfolkJan 17, 2015
Hard to believe that the season is half over already, but that's the reality, as tonight's second of back-to-back games for the Wolf Pack in Norfolk is game #39 of the 76-game campaign.
After last night's 3-2 overtime triumph over the Admirals at Scope, the Wolf Pack's first-half record finished at 21-12-3-2 for 47 points, a high-water mark for the season of nine games above .500. The Pack have at least a point in four straight games (3-0-1-0), one short of their season best, and have lost only three in regulation in their last 16 outings (10-3-1-2).
Of course, that recent slate could have looked a lot different, if it had not been for the Wolf Pack's bountiful success in overtime. Friday's game was the team's fourth straight trip to OT, tying a franchise record that was set March 10-18, 2001, and the Pack have won three of those four, giving them seven overtime victories on the season. Only the Oklahoma City Barons, with ten, have more OT victories than do the Wolf Pack, and overall the Pack have been excellent in close games all year. In the 31 of their games that have been decided by a margin of two goals or less, the Wolf Pack are 20-6-3-2, and their record in one-goal games is a terrific 13-2-3-2.
The Pack led for most of last night's game, before seeing the Admirals tie it with their goaltender (old friend Jason LaBarbera) pulled for an extra attacker and only 1:20 left in the third. It was a quick rebound for Ken Gernander's club, though, and the Pack also shrugged off giving up a great chance to the Admirals' Max Friberg just moments before Ryan Haggerty scored the winner.
"That's kind of been a characteristic of this team," Gernander told me this morning, "is that we're pretty familiar with overtime, and we don't let near misses really rattle us. We're able to bounce back quickly and get right back to work."
And they will need another big effort tonight, facing the difficult task of trying to beat the same team on back-to-back nights. The Pack have almost always played two-game sets when they have traveled down here to Hampton Roads, and only once, in 2007-08, have they managed to sweep a pair from the Admirals.
"It's always kind of hard to come in and win two," Gernander said. "We got off on the right foot yesterday, but we certainly don't want to let our guard down. They had some pretty good opportunities to cash in and maybe win that game, as did we, so I think we have to come with that same spirit and fight. I think we had pretty good jump in our legs yesterday, and we need to again bring our best game."
The desperation level will no doubt increase for the Admirals, who despite having standings points in six of their last seven games (3-1-2-1) are last in the Eastern Conference, and nine points out of a playoff spot. On the other side of that equation, there is no room for complacency for the Wolf Pack, either. The Pack currently sit in fifth in the conference and are only four points out of fourth, but they are also only six points out of ninth. Should be an entertaining second half.