by David F. Pendrys
HARTFORD, CT-Mistake after mistake after mistake prevented the Hartford Wolf Pack from prevailing in Game 3 of the AHL Eastern Finals versus the formidable Manchester Monarchs. Mackenzie Skapski returned to the net for the first time in months, but was often left without the defensive help he needed in a game often in Manchester’s favor. Manchester goalie Jean-Francois Berube held off the Pack from scoring much with the help of his defense and plenty of Hartford miscues. With the win the Monarchs go up 3-0 in the series and can close it out Wednesday.
In the first at 5:11 Nick Shore struck first for the Monarchs shooting past Skapski assisted by Andrew Bodnarchuk. The Wolf Pack would respond on the Power Play at 13:47 when Chad Nehring showed the first signs of life getting fed by from across the net and hitting it in. Assists went to Mat Bodie and Conor Allen.
At 19:26 though, Manchester put up severe pressure on the Wolf Pack net. Two Hartford defensemen ended up on their knees to Skapski’s left, as the goaltender tried to see through the chaos, but the puck ended up with Brian O’Neill and he got past the keeper. An assist went to Jordan Weal as well to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. The lone goal of the second was scored by Adrian Kempe at 5:05 assisted by Shore and Zach O’Brien to make it 3-1.
Once the third period was underway, at 7:38 Sean Backman led a 2 on 1 into the Wolf Pack zone, decided not to pass and slapped it right past Skapski with an assist going to Andrew Crescenzi. Danny Kristo responded for Hartford during a power play. He skated into position and wristed it at Berube. The puck popped out of the goaltender’s pads at 12:16. Assists were awarded to Bodie and Carl Klingberg in the set up. However, at 14:00 O’Brien stole the puck from a Hartford skater right by the goal mouth and hit it past Skapski.
After a late penalty on the Monarchs, Hartford emptied the net. With a 6 on 4 advantage, the Pack made a desperate attempt to get back in the game, the closest they came was Joey Crabb’s goal at 19:59 after he deflected expertly a shot by Michael Kostka. The goal served more for pride than practicality as it was 5-3 with 1 second left.
It was strange to see the Wolf Pack looking the way they did in this game. To this untrained eye there were a lot of miscues, missed passes, or passes to the wrong jersey, sometimes in front of the net. Also when Hartford got into the Monarchs zone it often seemed like there were too many passes. This was either due to Manchester putting up a stalwart defense or decision making, but the upshot was so many chances evaporated. It seemed like a different team playing compared to the one who had gotten to this point which is strange because the quality of players on the ice is not to be doubted. Statwise the Monarchs took 34 shots and Skapski saved 29 of them. The Wolf Pack took 20, but Berube only saved 17.
Editor’s Note: Went to the game as a Wolf Pack fan. I strive to be fair to both teams in reports.