Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Kicked Back to Cowtown

Wolf Pack and Monarchs in a late-third period scrum (Chris Rutsch photo)

Speaking for myself at least, there aren't too many things that are more fun than beating up on a hated rival, both on the scoreboard and in the fight department, especially when it's in front of a bus-load of annoying, cowbell-ringing fans for the visiting team, who travelled hours away from home only to watch their team get their asses beat.

That was the story of the Hartford Wolf Pack - Manchester Monarchs game yesterday, and although it was the second period that was the high point of the game (during which there were three fights and the Wolf Pack took a 5-1 lead) and the Pack had to hang on by their fingernails to win, 5-4, I'll still take games like this one any day of the week.

Dane Byers scored a hat trick all in the second period, after a deadlocked first period (1-1). Byers first goal came when Manchester's Brendan Buckley slid feet-first into the crease, trying to block a shot by Brandon Dubinsky. Buckley flopped on top of the puck, which prevented Monarchs goalie Barry Brust from reaching it and covering up, and Byers jumped in to jam the puck home from underneath Buckley.

Brandon Dubinsky checking himself out on the scoreboard replay
after Dane Byers' first goal (Chris Rutsch photo)

Byers added two more goals before the period ended, one of them on an unassited shorthanded breakaway, sandwiched around a goal by Nigel Dawes. Dawes had the hat trick in Hartford's game against the Sound Tigers in Bridgeport the night before, and now both he and Byers have scored 4 goals in their last two games.

Jason LaBarbera replaced Brust in net for the Monarchs to start the third period, and the Monarchs immediately began their comeback, scoring just 49 seconds into the third. Less than eight minutes later, the gap had already been closed to 5-4, but the Monarchs would get no closer. Al Montoya made a spectacular stop on a scary breakaway by Peter Harrold late in the third, and that was the last gasp for the Monarchs.

Lessard vs. Westgarth (Chris Rutsch photo)

The Monarchs have been a goon squad since the very beginning, and the Wolf Pack aren't all that much different. Francis Lessard and Paul Crosty were the first ones to drop the gloves in this game, 6 minutes into the first period, but the real fireworks happened when Lessard squared off against 6-5' Kevin Westgarth to start off the second period. Both players threw a ton of punches, with Westgarth getting the better of Lessard, though most of Westgarth's blows bounced off Lessard's helmet. Westgarth did buckle Lessard's legs mid-way through the fight, though it also looked like Westgarth tried to kick Lessard in the early going.

Alex Bourret gets cross-checked in the face by Paul Crosty...

..and Dale Purinton makes sure Crosty gets what's due to him
(Chris Rutsch photos)

Crosty the Clown (1 point, 105 PIMs in 26 games this season) was later kicked out of the game in the second period, after a nasty high stick on Alex Bourret that had Bourret down on the ice for a while. Crosty's three majors in this game will also earn him an automatic one-game suspension by the league.

Of course, seeing as this was a game against the Monarchs and their crybaby fans, the Lessard-for-MVP crew was out in full effect...

Lessard vs. Crosty

Liffiton vs. Jackman (Chris Rutsch photos)

The almighty put together a video of some of the fights from this game; the Lessard - Crosty fight is first (no big deal), and then the Lessard - Westgarth fight starts :41 in. After that is the fight where Dave Liffiton dismantled Tim Jackman.

Click here to start video (Windows Media Player)

Oleg Tverdovsky picked up an assist on the Monarchs' first goal, and now has ten points in eleven AHL games this year. It's being reported that the Kings will buy out the contract of Tverdovsky, whom they acquired in the Jack Johnson trade, and that Tverdovsky will play for Salavat Yulayev in the Russian Super League next season.

The Wolf Pack now trail the Monarchs in the Atlantic Division by two points, 93 to 91. The two teams will face off against each other again today in Manchester.