All Your Base Are Belong To Us
Brad Isbister moving in on Tim Jackman and Yutaka
Fukufuji (Chris Rutsch photo)
The Hartford Wolf Pack took an early two-goal lead yesterday against the Manchester Monarchs, but then hit a brick wall named Fukufuji and crumbled quickly. The end result: a 5-2 rout by the Monarchs, once again kicking the Pack below the .500 mark.
The Wolf Pack held a 2-0 advantage after the first period, despite putting up only 4 shots on goal. Nigel Dawes scored first for the Wolf Pack, midway through the first, and then Marvin Degon made the score 2-0 when he fired a laser of a wrister over Fukufuji's shoulder with 9 seconds left in the period. Degon's goal was set up by a nice play by Ryan Callahan, who dug the puck out of the left-hand corner and centered it over to where Degon was waiting by the right face-off circle.
But Tokyo-born Yutaka Fukufuji, in his first AHL start this year and playing in only his fourth game above the ECHL level, shut the door on the Wolf Pack after that. Fukufuji made 19 saves in the last two periods and almost all of them were quality stops. The Wolf Pack had a number of chances where it looked like they had Fukufuji out of position or leaving the back side of the net open, only to have Fukufuji quickly slide over and slam the gate.
(We pause for a brief Fukufuji-inspired interlude...)
None of the 5 goals that Valiquette gave up could be pinned on him directly, with the first two to tie it up in the second period coming on deflections. Manchester's third goal at 16 minutes of the second period was a rifle shot by Tim Jackman past Valiquette's shoulder, and the Monarchs had the lead for good.
The Wolf Pack had a chance to tie the game early in the third period, when a high-sticking major on Ryan Callahan against Jeff Giuliano gave the Wolf Pack a 5-minute power play, including a half-minute of 5-on-3. Hartford threw at least 4 or 5 shots on Fukufuji while they had the man advantage, but couldn't score, only to see the Monarchs score on their next trip down the ice. Defensemen Marvin Degon and Dave Liffiton played hot-potato with the puck while trying to clear it out of their own end, and Noah Clarke picked up the fumble directly in front of the crease and scored to make it 4-2. The Monarchs scored one more time before the game was over, on a low hard shot that appeared like Valiquette didn't even see.
Fukufuji turning another one aside (Chris Rutsch photo)
The Wolf Pack won all three fights in this game, plus there was another multi-player scrum at the end that didn't involve any major penalties. First, Dave Liffiton pounded Tim Jackman sixteen minutes into the first period, and then, seconds later (right after the next face-off), Brandon Dubinsky punched out Ryan Murphy in a fight that wasn't even close.
Dubinsky later took an intentional elbow, or the butt-end of a stick, to the face at the very end of the second period that wasn't called. In the multi-player scrum that happened towards the end of the game, Dane Byers had already squared off with Konstantin Pushkarev when Brendan Buckley jumped onto Byers' back and started to throw punches as the third man in, but Buckley drew nothing extra for that, either. On the other hand, Manchester's John Zeiler took a stick or a puck to the face behind the Wolf Pack net early in the first period, and came out of the locker room later wearing a full face mask. I didn't see what happened to Zeiler, but nothing was called, anyway.
My mom bought these sneakers for me (Chris Rutsch photo)
A few Radio Disney-type bands played before and during the game, also, including the Jonas Brothers (above), who are three actual brothers-- you know, like Hanson, only with twice the letters-- pretending to be a pop-punk band. It doesn't do any good knocking these guys down, although I think it's telling that two of their biggest songs are a couple of Busted covers that were added to their "Christian rock" CD after the fact (Busted is a fake British "guitar pop" boy band, in case you didn't know).
Jed Ortmeyer was back in the lineup, having been returned to Hartford by the Rangers for more conditioning, while Hugh Jessiman (1 goal in 25 games) was sent down to Charlotte.