Jed Is Ready
"Check, please... Hey, taxi!" (Chris Rutsch photo)
Over the past few days the Rangers have called up Thomas Pöck a week early from his 14-day conditioning stint, then brought up retread Brad Isbister from the Wolf Pack to New York, in the meantime leaving a rehabbing Jed Ortmeyer to fend for himself for a little while longer down in Hartford.
Ortmeyer made it worthwhile for Hartford, though, coming through with one of the more outstanding individual efforts of the entire season for the Wolf Pack in their 2-1 home victory over the Springfield Falcons earlier tonight.
Five minutes into the second period of a scoreless game, Ortmeyer leveled Eric Healey at the Springfield blue line, dumping Healey onto his back and forcing a turnover. Ortmeyer then followed his own dump-in into the corner, where he plastered Andy Delmore against the boards and then skated away with the puck, setting up Craig Weller in front for the first score of the game.
Inside two minutes left to play in the game and with the score tied 1-1, it looked like the Wolf Pack were again about to give away a crucial standings point to a division rival. It was then that Ortmeyer scored the game-winner, tipping in Marvin Degon's long slapshot from the far boards.
Moments later, with the Falcons pulling their goalie for an extra attacker, Ortmeyer almost scored an empty-netter on a near-breakaway, but the puck went wide.
Al Montoya (Chris Rutsch photo)
Al Montoya was brilliant the entire night, making clean, quick work of nearly every save, including a healthy number of difficult stops. The one that he missed (on a medium-range shot through traffic by Marek Kvapil early in the third period) might've been re-directed, since it went past Montoya as if he never saw it, and Montoya was playing just too good for that to be likely. The shot that went in was eerily similar to the 4th goal that Montoya gave up in the 6-4 loss to Lowell a couple of weeks ago: just inside the left-side post, with Montoya down in a butterfly and barely near the puck as it sailed past him.
During a particularly intense sequence, with about 8 minutes to go in the third period and the score still 1-1, Montoya made a couple of clutch saves but then found himself pinned down on the ice away from the net. Brandon Dubinsky made himself useful for once, sliding feet-first into the crease to knock away a potential Springfield goal.
Dubinsky's baseball-slide save (Chris Rutsch photo)
I'm not usually one for carping about who gets picked for the "three stars of the game", but I think Montoya clearly should've been given one of the stars for tonight's game, though he wasn't.
Francis Lessard had the only fight of the game, fighting to a draw with useless 6'-8" Mitch Fritz at center ice midway through the second period. Craig Weller vehemently protested a high-sticking call late in the second period and was given an extra 10-minute misconduct for "abuse of officials".
Falcons' leading scorer, Eric Healey (Heather Rutsch photo)
Most likely due to their unusually high third-place showing in the standings so far this year, the Falcons (of all the sorry-assed teams) seem to be generating a bandwagon for themselves now. This was only the second meeting between Springfield (which lies barely 30 minutes north of Harford) and the Wolf Pack this season, and I saw far more Falcons jerseys than usual at the Civic Center. I'm not knocking the Falcons for earning some extra fan support by winning a few games; I just think it's a bit shifty of those Falcons fans who are only showing for road games now that the team is doing better.