Repeat the Ending
Ryan Callahan goes flying after OT winner (a Chris Rutsch production)
A hat trick by AHL All-Star Ryan Callahan, including the game-winner in overtime that had Callahan flying in mid-air towards the end boards as the puck was going into the net, helped the Hartford Wolf Pack sink the Houston Aeros yesterday, 4-3, and end the month of January with only two losses (12-1-1).
The Wolf Pack almost frittered away a 3-1 lead in this one, as the Aeros came back with two goals late in the third period (a period during which the Aeros outshot the Wolf Pack, 24-6) to tie the game at the end of regulation. The Wolf Pack didn't play up to their best game in either of their wins this weekend, against two halfway-decent opponents, although the fact that they were able to put both games in their pocket and head into the All-Star break on a 5-game win streak must count for something.
As has been his habit this season, Callahan got the Wolf Pack on the board first, midway through the first period. Callahan's second goal of the game came with 2 minutes left in the second period, giving Hartford a 3-1 lead at the time, and may even have been a better play than the overtime goal that followed it. The Wolf Pack were shorthanded at the time, after a too-many-men-on-the-ice minor, when Brad Isbister pick-pocketed the puck away from a Houston player near center ice and sent a pass ahead to Callahan, who wound up to fake a slap shot and then smoked a wrister past Aeros goalie Miroslav Kopriva.
Dane Byers: close but no cigar (Heather Rutsch photo)
Darius Kasparaitis and Houston's Matt Foy were going at each other the entire night, with Kasparaitis sneaking in an elbow or the butt end of a stick from time to time, to Foy's obvious annoyance. The one time Foy retaliated, he got called for an interference minor, and the two resorted to yapping at each other for the rest of the contest. When Foy scored the game-tying goal with 36 seconds left in regulation, he turned to taunt the Wolf Pack fans seated behind the net, raising his arms and howling as he belly-flopped against the glass. It might have been an expression of his frustration from dealing with Kasparaitis the whole game, but it seemed like a pretty bush-league act to pull on the road, in any case.
Dwight Helminen pulled off the best check of the night, blind-siding Joey Tetarenko at nearly full speed with the puck in the Wolf Pack end during the first period, sending Tetarenko sprawling on his back. Ryan Callahan continues to play a much more physical game, showing some extra chippiness in the corners and also a willingness to raise his hands in order to defend himself from the extra defensive attention he's been getting, as Callahan did the game before against the Sound Tigers when he checked three different Bridgeport players within the same sequence.
Martin Richter was scratched for both games over the weekend, allowing both Dale Purinton and Jake Taylor to get some ice time, which wasn't always a good thing. Purinton played at both forward and defense against Houston, muffing a prime scoring opportunity at one point when the goalie was down and Purinton, standing untouched only a few feet away in the slot, couldn't keep the puck on his stick long enough to lift it up into the net.
One odd side note saw the Aeros dressing Jared Waimon, an instructor at a local Connecticut goalie school, as an emergency back-up goalie, with Dieter Kochan out with an injury. The Aeros' goalie situation apparently hasn't been the best as of late, since they are 0-9 in games without regular goalie Josh Harding (currently called up to the Wild) in net.
"The Goal" (Chris Rutsch photo)
Ryan Callahan's story this year just keeps getting better and better, as he now has 29 goals on the season (14 on the power play), a good many of them coming in clutch situations. Of course, first there was The Deke, his last-minute breakaway goal that pulled out a win against the Phantoms in December. Then last week came the mini-Deke, Callahan's game-tying goal against Springfield where he scored just before knocking the net loose with a head-first dive. Now there's The Goal, yesterday's overtime winner, on a similar play as the goal against Springfield (both times taking a pass from Jarkko Immonen), only not knocking the net over this time.
Who da man!