Buster Gets It
Brad Isbister's shootout-winning goal (Chris Rutsch photo)
When Brad Isbister joined the Wolf Pack four weeks ago, I grumbled that he'd remain a bum until the day he either scores a goal or beats up somebody. Well, he still hasn't beaten up anybody yet (not that I'm holding my breath on that one), but he netted his first game-winning goal in a Pack uniform last night, as Hartford downed the Portland Pirates in a shootout after a scoreless tie, 1-0.
Isbister said in the Courant later that, "A 0-0 game isn't what the fans want to see", but this was actually one of the better games to watch all year. Far from being a boring slog-fest, it was an up-and-down game all night, with 56 shots on goal during regulation and only a handful of bad calls from the usually whistle-happy Jamie Koharski. Koharski couldn't stay away from whistling his pet "goaltender interference" call twice-- a call that he seems to make in almost every game he refs against Hartford-- but there were still only 6 power play chances per side.
Valiquette stood on his head to make saves the whole night, obviously, and though there were a couple of times that he was caught out of position, he was able to recover nicely and make spectacular-looking diving stops. Out-of-character for this year's plain-vanilla team, Valiquette also hammed it up to the fans after the game, first by waving and applauding to the fans in the seats directly behind the net after the "raised sticks" salute, then skating around the rink while waving to the crowd and high-fiving the mascot when he took the first star of the game. It's as if he's P.J. Stock now, or something.
The Wolf Pack's current 7-1-1 streak still leaves them 3 points behind Worcester for last place in the division, but only 8 points behind first-place Portland in what is literally the tightest division in the AHL.