Hanging Like a Hex
Pack oust Monarchs in Game Seven
Chris Rutsch/HWP photo
The Hartford Wolf Pack furthered the Curse of the Monarchs by capturing the seventh game of their first-round playoff series against Manchester on Saturday night, 2-1, at the Hartford Civic Center. Manchester has yet to win a playoff series in their five-year history, so far making the playoffs in every year of their existance but then getting eliminated in the first round each time. The Wolf Pack now advance to the second round, where they will face the Portland Pirates in the Divisional Finals beginning in Hartford on Tuesday.
The Wolf Pack played a solid game throughout, controlling the puck in deep when they had to while creating plenty of scoring chances. Chris Holt started in net for Hartford and played what was probably the game of his life. Holt made quite a number of difficult saves and handled the puck smartly all night, covering up when he had to and keeping some tricky second chances by the Monarchs from getting through. Holt also benefitted from some spotless puck-clearing by the Hartford defensemen, although there was one point during the game when Holt couldn't see a loose puck as it sat behind him in the crease, inches from the goal line. No Manchester players were able to get through and take a stab at the puck, though, and Holt eventually slid the puck out of harm's way with a backwards swipe of his heel.
Martin Sonnenberg (Courant photo)
The Wolf Pack gained the early momentum when Martin Sonnenberg scored 3:42 into the first period, on a shot from the right-hand side of the net that Sonnenberg banked off goalie Adam Hauser. Sonnenberg was practically the saviour of the entire series for the Wolf Pack, scoring the crucial overtime game-winner in Game Two that kept the Pack from going up to Manchester down 2 games to none. Sonnenberg also set up Hartford's second goal of this game, on a nifty diagonal centering feed that Alexandre Giroux buried six minutes into the third period to put the Pack up, 2-1. From there, Holt and the Wolf Pack hung on to claim the win and the series, helped yet again by Martin Sonnenberg, who won some key defensive zone face-offs in the hectic final minutes of the game.
An amusing thing that happened during the game came in those tense final few minutes, during timeouts that were taken by each team. Chris Holt would turn towards the net to get a drink from his water bottle and then nod and wink to the fans behind the goal, acknowledging the applause as if to say, "No way we're not gonna win this thing." The second time he did this, the fans gave him a well-deserved standing ovation.
Giroux's third-period goal (Chris Rutsch photo)
After some nearly unbearable officiating messes earlier in the series, this game was relatively well-officiated, with only six penalties called all game, and none in the third period.
Hartford's parent club, the New York Rangers, were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday afternoon, which at the very least could mean the return of Jarkko Immonen and Thomas Pöck to the Wolf Pack in time for the series against Portland.