Suddenly, Everyone's a Smoker
Craig Weller: two goals for the captain (Chris Rutsch photo)
Last night's Wolf Pack game finally saw Hartford break out of a miserable 1-6 tailspin, beating the division-leading Portland Pirates, 4-3. Ryan Callahan and Craig Weller provided the offense with 2 goals each, and newly-demoted defenseman Darius Kasparaitis changed the tone of the team's play with some big, momentum-shifting hits.
The win was the first in four home games for the Wolf Pack, who came into the game at the bottom of the league in winning percentage (.143) and goals scored (11, half as much as practically any other team), as well as having gone only 4-for-58 on the power play. However, the Pack scored two times on the power play last night, and added a short-handed goal, by Weller.
Darius Kasparaitis and Dane Byers team up to level
Kent Huskins (Chris Rutsch photo)
Kasparaitis, of course, showed everyone what it was like to play with the big boys, sending Portland players flying everywhere and knocking Tim Brent out of the game with a well-placed hip check in the second period. Kasparaitis also had a short-handed breakaway late in the game, though his wrister was easily stopped by the Pirates' Michael Leighton.
Kasparaitis' play made me think back to when Tomas Kloucek was sent back to Hartford after he first made the Rangers, and how Kloucek would absolutely kill the AHL players. He was so far above the skill level of the players he was going up against that it was almost ridiculous.
Said captain Craig Weller about Kasparaitis, in the Hartford Courant: "It was nice to have a guy like Kasparaitis come down, get some big hits and make the other guys worry about where they were on the ice. That was vintage Kasparaitis. You hate to see a guy (Brent) get hurt, but it caught him not paying attention. I've done it and got hammered, but it was a good hit and kind of changed momentum."
Despite the whining of the typically mouthy Portland know-it-alls, the hit was clean, and no one on the Portland team even bothered with Kasparaitis afterwards, even though Gillies and Purinton (the two goons-at-hand) were both on the ice the very next shift.
Who da man? Callahan! (Chris Rutsch photo)
Meanwhile, rookie Ryan Callahan has been looking like the Pack's best player through the early going so far, being the only Pack player to score in Hartford's two losses to Norfolk the previous weekend, and contributing at both ends of the ice as well as scoring two goals in last night's win.
Stanislav Chistov scored a goal for the Pirates, in his first game since he and defenseman Ian Moran were sent down by the parent Ducks.
I'd like to compliment the Journal News for sending someone to cover Kasparaitis' Wolf Pack debut who'd obviously never been to a Wednesday-night minor league game before. I know the Wolf Pack aren't exactly leading the AHL in attendance, but before writing crap like this, do you think the otherwise-decent Sam Weinman even bothered to look up what the AHL's average attendance was for last night? (It was 2,818.)
Sam, I'll make a deal with you: You stay away from writing dumb stuff about the Wolf Pack, and I'll stay away from writing anything about golf.