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.'
Wow, what a marathon!
The longest game in Wolf Pack history, and the longest of my broadcasting career, ended at 7:49 of the third overtime Wednesday night on a goal by Ken Gernander that finished the Worcester IceCats and sent the Pack to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Wolf Pack had never been to triple overtime before, and neither had I in 16 years of calling AHL action, but as it turns out it was well worth it, with Gernander scoring the latest of what seems like countless big goals for him.
Kenny G doesn't score as much any more as he has during some earlier years in his career, but it seems like every time he does get one, it's in a huge spot. It's kind of funny, both teams had some glorious chances in the overtimes that they weren't able to convert, and the one that did go in seemed like a fairly innocent play.
Gernander carried it from just about his own blue line all the way down the wing, and didn't look to have a great shooting angle. Worcester goalie Curtis Sanford, who was outstanding all night or it never would have gotten to overtime, couldn't catch Ken's shot though, and once it dropped out of Sanford's glove he was out of luck. What a great story line, for the guy who has been synonymous with the Wolf Pack throughout the franchise's history to score a gigantic goal like that.
It's amazing how tired and wrung-out you get just sitting up in the booth announcing a game like that. I can only imagine what the players must go through. You get into multiple overtimes and your eyes start to glaze over and you really have to concentrate to make sure you don't just zone out. Phil Osaer, who's been doing a top-shelf job of color commentary for me during his injury rehabilitation, said that it's unbelievably agonizing watching a playoff overtime like that from the press box, trying to hope the guys through, as opposed to actually being in it. He looked like a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders after the win had been secured, and I felt like I couldn't have spoken another word. Still, it beats working for a living!
The Pack certainly turned the tables on the IceCats from the regular season, in which Hartford went 2-5-1 against Worcester. The four-game sweep was the first sweep of a best-of-seven series ever by the Pack, but it certainly wasn't easy. The Wolf Pack had to win two OT games in the series and needed empty-net goals to ice the two others. I said on the air on Wednesday that it reminded me of a series that the Pack lost to Providence in the 1998-99 Calder Cup playoffs. That one was a sweep the other way, but each game was so close it could have almost been four straight wins for the Wolf Pack, if some of the key breaks had fallen on their side.
Now, after playing three games in three days over last weekend and three overtimes Wednesday, the Pack hurry up and wait for the East Division Finals between Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to finish up. I can't decide whether I think it would be better for the Wolf Pack for that series to get over quickly - so the Pack don't have to sit for very long - or for the Phantoms and Penguins to grind the daylights out of each other in a seven-game war. Either way, the Wolf Pack are going to be up against one of the AHL's great franchises, and the Pack certainly helped themselves by putting an end to the Worcester series and getting some extra time to rest up and prepare.
- Bob CrawfordWOLF PACK POST-GAME QUOTES:Courtesy of The Hartford Courant
Wolf Pack Head Coach Ryan McGill:
"You couldn't write a better script. Our captain, Ken Gernander, has played every position, and whenever he jumps over the boards, you know he's going to get the job done. He was actually double-shifted when he scored."
"The guys are in a position where they expect to win. That's their motto every night."
Gernander on the game-winner:
"I just picked the puck up in our zone and had some room to skate. We'd talked on the bench that Sanford looked like he had been shook up earlier [when hit in a scrum]. We said, 'Let's just get some pucks to the net and test him right now.' I drove wide on the defenseman and was just throwing it at the net and it trickled through his glove."RELATED LINKS:Crawford's Pack Report: Looking to Close Out the Series (5/3/04) >>Crawford's Pack Report: A Big Win to Open Round Two (5/1/04) >>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) >>