Throughout the 2004 American Hockey League Calder Cup Playoffs, Hartford Wolf Pack Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations Bob Crawford will be checking in with his thoughts and analysis during the AHL's 'second season.'
The Wolf Pack got only their third win in nine tries vs. the Worcester IceCats Friday night, when they captured Game One of their Atlantic Division Final series by a score of 3-1. The IceCats were coming off of a five-day layoff while the Wolf Pack had played Wednesday, and it appeared that the Pack were able to take advantage of that situation, similar to the way Portland had victimized a rusty Hartford team in Game One of the Division Semifinal round.
The IceCats seemed out of synch compared to the precise team that had gone 5-1-1-1 in the eight-game regular-season series between the two clubs. Their power play was particularly troublesome for Worcester, going 0-for-8 in Game One, after that unit had touched up the Pack for nine goals in the regular year. The IceCats certainly missed Jame Pollock on that power play, after he was injured in the first period and didn't return. Pollock is a smooth-skating defenseman with a bomb of a shot, and is one of those guys who seems to kill the Wolf Pack every time they see him.
Also on the injury front, IceCats goaltender Curtis Sanford was shaken up on what turned out to be the winning goal, a shorthanded effort by Jozef Balej on which he was spilled by Worcester D-man Aaron MacKenzie. After knocking Balej down, MacKenzie slid into Sanford, causing Sanford to injure himself and the puck to find its way into the IceCat net. I wondered if the IceCats' goose might be cooked at that point, with backup Jake Moreland having all of 127 minutes of AHL action under his belt, but Moreland was flawless in relief, stopping all nine shots sent his way. Being as how injury information in hockey at playoff time is like nuclear launch codes during the Cold War, it's unlikely that the state of Sanford's health will become public knowledge, but I'll be interested to see how Worcester responds as a team if he's lost for any significant length of time.
Jed Ortmeyer, the pride of Omaha, Nebraska, lit the lamp twice for the Pack in Game One, marking his second multiple-point game in the playoffs. I can't recall another pro hockey player from the Cornhusker State (although it should be noted that Jed has a brother, Jake, who also skates in the pro ranks, having played this year with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL), and one pictures Jed and Jake scorned by their pigskin-loving neighbor kids as they headed off to hockey practice. Clearly, though, Jed managed to push himself to be an excellent all-around player, and he seems to bring a large measure of that corn-fed, hard-driving gridiron intensity to his on-ice game. It was immediately obvious to me, from the first game that Jed played in a Wolf Pack uniform, that he prefers a no-frills, high-energy, up-and-down-the-wing, NHL-style approach. I didn't necessarily expect him to get called up and not come back before he'd spent the final five months of the season in the Big Show, but it's not hard to see that there is a lot to like about him from the point of view of an NHL coach (not that I'd pretend to have that point of view, but it sounds more authoritative than that of an AHL broadcaster).
Game One was a huge one to win for the Wolf Pack in this series because with the next two in Worcester, where the Pack never seem to fare well, they could have easily been looking at a quick 3-0 series deficit. Now, with Games Four through Six scheduled for Hartford, the Wolf Pack could really put themselves in a good position with just a split of the two road contests.
Whereas the Wolf Pack players never seem to enjoy the Centrum Centre all that much, it's a great place to go for us media types. Nobody enjoys a free meal more than a radio guy, and not only is the press-room spread in Worcester reasonably-priced (i.e., complimentary), it's without question the best in the league. So we in the fourth estate (or is that the third estate...and does that include broadcasters or is that just writers...I can never remember) will belly up to the trough for two straight games and feel like we're living the life of Reilly (Riley? I need to break out the cliché dictionary). Time to put the brakes on this one before I take up more of your valuable reading time. Happy May Day!
- Bob CrawfordRELATED LINKS:Crawford's Pack Report: On to the Second Round! (4/29/04) >>Crawford's Pack Report: 'Road Warriors' Return Home (4/26/04) >>Crawford's Pack Report: Nothing Like Playoff OT (4/24/04) >>Crawford's Pack Report: Home Split, Off to Portland (4/21/04) >>