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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Wolf Pack push division race to final day

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After losing to division rival Manchester at home on Wednesday, 5-1, the Wolf Pack entered this, the final weekend of the season, having to win all three of their remaining games and needing Manchester to lose all of their remaining games in order to win the division.

The loss on Wednesday was made even more glaring considering it fell on the same night that the Flat Earth Society, also known as the Hartford Whaler Booster Club, held their annual rally right outside the Civic Center. The HWBC's party, held every April 13th to commemorate the day of the last-ever Whaler game played in Hartford in 1997, was this year elevated to a "Bring The NHL Back To Hartford" demonstration, kept afloat by Howard Baldwin's faint promise to buy an NHL franchise and move it to Hartford... contingent upon Baldwin finding someone willing to sell their team to him for half its actual worth, of course, and requiring a vote of approval from the NHL allowing Baldwin back into a league that isn't playing right now and doesn't really want him back anyway. The rally drew a fair amount of media coverage, but the rest of the world did what they normally do when confronted by a dozen or so seedy-looking Whaler fans huddled together on the sidewalk: crossed the street and kept right on walking without looking back.

On Friday, Hartford beat the Albany River Rats, while Lowell defeated the Monarchs up in Manchester. Saturday, Manchester lost in Bridgeport, while Hartford went to Springfield and, on the strength of Alexandre Giroux's 31st and 32nd goals of the season, beat up on the Falcons. Three Wolf Pack players-- Gillies, Grenier, and MacIntyre-- were given game misconducts and ejected from the game for fighting.

All of this lead up to today, Sunday, the last day of the regular season. Manchester would be in Worcester, facing an Ice Cats team that had been eliminated from playoff contention two days earlier and already had a foot out the door on their way to moving to Peoria for next season. The Wolf Pack were at home to face Springfield (again), a team that had been eliminated from the playoffs practically since November and weren't planning to move anywhere, unfortunately. A Monarchs loss and a Wolf Pack victory would give the division and conference titles to the Wolf Pack.

Alas, Hartford fell short on their bid, if they even gave it much urgency. Manchester won their game, 2-1, while Hartford (resting several key players) lost, 3-1.

Despite cashing their chips in early, the Wolf Pack set a team record for wins in a season with 50, and move on to the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs, with Game One against the Lowell Lock Monsters in Hartford next Thursday.

Hartford's goalie tandem of Jason LaBarbera and
Steve Valiquette shared the "Hap" Holmes Award
for allowing the fewest number of goals in the AHL
this season.


Blogger Brushback said...

Unfortunately, Hartford was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs (as was Manchester).


5/3/05, 12:46 PM


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