The Wolf Pack fell behind the AHL’s top team, the Manchester Monarchs, 3-0 in the first period Sunday at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, and nearly recovered, but ended up on the short end of a 3-2 score.
A pair of T.J. Hensick goals closed the final to a one-goal margin, after Colin Fraser, Andrew Campbell and Jordan Weal scored for the Monarchs in the first.
“It just seems the first period is our Achilles heel right now,” Hensick said. “We’ve had strong thirds lately, but we’ve got to find a way to have better starts. We give up three goals early and it’s a tough battle to climb back, especially against the best team in the league. They’re the best team in the league for a reason, and if you spot them three goals early, they’re going to shut it down defensively pretty solid.”
The loss broke a two-game Wolf Pack win streak, and cost the Pack (25-28-0-6, 56 pts.) a chance to move into a tie with idle Bridgeport in the Northeast Division standings. The win improved the Monarchs’ league-best record to 39-16-2-6 for 86 points.
Manchester outshot the Wolf Pack 11-4 in the first period, and jumped on top on a power play at 9:14, with Tommy Hughes in the penalty box for tripping. Linden Vey carried the puck down the right side in the Wolf Pack zone and dropped it off to Fraser, whose snapshot beat Hartford goaltender David LeNeveu (22 saves) over the catching glove.
Campbell, a veteran defenseman and Manchester’s captain, scored his third goal in 62 games on the year at 12:54 to make it a 2-0 Monarch lead. Wolf Pack defenseman Conor Allen skated in front of LeNeveu just as Campbell fired the puck from the top of the right circle, and the shot got by LeNeveu and into the top shelf.
A four-on-four goal upped the Manchester lead to 3-0 at 16:53. A shot from the blue line by Andrew Bodnarchuk went wide, but Zach O’Brien jumped on the carom behind the net and fed it in front to Weal, who shot it past LeNeveu from point-blank range.
That would be it for the Monarch offense, though, and the Wolf Pack got on the scoreboard with only 22.6 seconds remaining in the period. Allen stopped an attempted Monarch breakout just inside the Manchester blue line, and found Hensick all alone in front of Manchester goaltender J.F. Berube (18 saves). Hensick had time to put a fake on Berube, and Hensick slipped his eighth goal of the year through the pads.
The second period was nearly dead even, with neither team scoring, despite both enjoying two-man advantages, the Monarchs a five-on-three of 1:19 and the Wolf Pack one of 49 seconds. Shots on goal were eight apiece in the middle frame.
It was nearly a scoreless standoff in the third as well, but the Wolf Pack were finally able to cut the lead to one with 58.2 seconds remaining. With LeNeveu on the bench for an extra attacker, Ryan Bourque worked the puck out of a scrum to J.T. Miller in the slot, and Miller passed to the right-wing side to Hensick, who whipped the puck behind a sliding Berube.
The Wolf Pack were able to pull LeNeveu successfully again, but Berube and the Monarchs held on, dropping the Wolf Pack to 14 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Wolf Pack’s next action is a home game at the XL Center this Friday, March 14, a 7:00 PM contest against the Adirondack Phantoms. All Wolf Pack Friday-night home games feature $1 hot dogs and $2 beers through the start of the second period, presented by Marc’s Appliance Warehouse, located at 75 Prospect Ave., Hartford, CT.
Tickets for all Wolf Pack 2013-14 home games are on sale now at the Public Power Ticket Office at the XL Center, on-line at www.hartfordwolfpack.com and by phone at (877) 522-8499. Wolf Pack tickets start as low as $12 for youth 12 years old or younger. To speak with a representative about season or group tickets, call (855) 762-6451.
Hartford Wolf Pack 2 at Manchester Monarchs 3
Sunday, March 9, 2014 - Verizon Wireless Arena
Hartford 1 0 1 - 2
Manchester 3 0 0 - 3
1st Period-1, Manchester, Fraser 3 (Vey, McNabb), 9:14 (PP). 2, Manchester, Campbell 3 (Shore, O'Brien), 12:54. 3, Manchester, Weal 16 (O'Brien, Bodnarchuk), 16:53. 4, Hartford, Hensick 8 (Allen, Kristo), 19:37. Penalties-Fast Hfd (hooking), 2:12; Hughes Hfd (tripping), 7:40; McIlrath Hfd (fighting), 11:16; Sabourin Mch (fighting), 11:16; Beach Hfd (delay of game), 15:44; McNabb Mch (checking to the head), 16:29; Shore Mch (hooking), 19:44.
2nd Period- No Scoring. Penalties-Miller Hfd (slashing), 8:53; Powe Hfd (cross-checking), 9:34; Livingston Mch (slashing), 12:24; Campbell Mch (hooking), 13:35.
3rd Period-5, Hartford, Hensick 9 (Miller, Bourque), 19:01. Penalties-LoVerde Mch (holding), 3:02; Johnson Hfd (roughing), 8:21; Sabourin Mch (goaltender interference), 8:21; Sabourin Mch (tripping), 11:46.
Shots on Goal-Hartford 4-8-7-19. Manchester 11-8-6-25.
Power Play Opportunities-Hartford 0 / 6; Manchester 1 / 5.
Goalies-Hartford, LeNeveu 4-8-0 (25 shots-22 saves). Manchester, Berube 22-14-2 (19 shots-17 saves).
Referees-Jon McIsaac (45), Jarrod Ragusin (54).
Linesmen-Ed Boyle (81), Joe Ross (92).