Quick Three-Pack In Third Brings Tie
October 11, 2003
By BRUCE BERLET, Courant Staff Writer
Everyone knew the youthful Wolf Pack would have a major learning curve. On opening night it took about two periods to solve the Bridgeport Sound Tigers' new trapping style.
The Wolf Pack scored three times in the opening 9:39 of the third, only to see former Yale standout Jeff Hamilton bank in a shot off goalie Jason LaBarbera with 6:55 left to give the Tigers a 3-3 tie before 6,906 at the Civic Center Friday night.
"It's going to take time, and I thought we had a lot of nervous individuals and hesitation in the first two periods," Wolf Pack coach Ryan McGill said. "But we kept talking patience on the bench, and in the third period we didn't look for what was better, we just looked ahead and got the puck in and got to work.
"The guys could have easily packed it in and said it was too hard, but they developed some patience with themselves, and once one line got going a little, everyone kind of followed."
Defenseman Fedor Tjutin, who struggled early in his first pro game in North America, scored on a screen shot at 1:29 of the third. Tjutin then came in off the point to poke in a rebound after a strong right wing rush by rookie Jed Ortmeyer at 8:48.
"That was good hockey sense that you can't teach," McGill said. "But he's going to get better. He's going to play against the top lines, so he's going to have to learn the speed and the pace better."
The two goals helped Tjutin atone for getting caught flat-footed twice, including on Rob Collins' short-handed goal in the second period. It came 1:53 after Justin Mapletoft's power-play goal as Bridgeport took a 2-0 lead.
"I played the same [in the third period] but got more lucky," Tjutin said.
Fifty-one seconds after Tjutin tied it, Dominic Moore scored his first pro goal, taking fellow rookie Juris Stals' pass off the boards and backhanding a shot past Dieter Kochan (27 saves).
The Tigers got even with 6:55 left when Hamilton picked Tomi Pettinen's shot off the boards and fired a shot that hit a Wolf Pack skate and trickled in off LaBarbera (31 saves).
"I really don't know what happened," LaBarbera said. "The puck was just kind of bouncing around and went off something. It was cheesy."
Chad Wiseman, who assisted on Tjutin's two goals, had a chance to win it 2:25 into overtime, but he lost control of the puck as he maneuvered alone in front of Kochan. LaBarbera stopped Martin Chabada's rebound while on his back in the crease with 25 seconds left.
"That was a great save, and that's what we need," McGill said.
Tigers rookie coach Greg Cronin thought his team's execution was "flawless" in the first two periods, then sagged after Tjutin's first goal.
"We weren't mechanical, we had a good transition game, we were spontaneous," Cronin said. "They scored that goal in the first minute or so, and I could see the doubt creep in. We stopped doing what fed the transition game, chipping it in, chipping it out, talking in the defensive zone."
Much of that could be attributed to the higher-energy Wolf Pack.
"We had some smart dump-ins and were able to get some pressure on them, which is huge," said Garth Murray, who assisted on Moore's goal. "If you give good defense time, they'll make a smart play, but if you have someone breathing down their neck a lot of guys are going to make bad plays if you go at them hard. With our youth and our speed it's going to be huge to get on the defense with the smart dump-ins."
Pregame ceremonies included player introductions and a video tribute to Wolf Pack center Roman Lyashenko, who reportedly committed suicide in July while on vacation in Turkey. Four others who died this summer were remembered: former Rangers coaches Herb Brooks and Roger Neilson, Atlanta Thrashers center Dan Snyder and Syracuse Crunch wing Trevor Ettinger. ... Jason MacDonald and Cory Larose are the Wolf Pack's new assistant captains. Ken Gernander remains the only captain in team history.
The parent club notwithstanding, the baby Rangers did more or less OK. Defensive struggles aside, looks like we have a gem in Tjutin. One thing that I'm scared of is that he'd turn out to be like Malakhov--immensely talented, hugely inconsistent. Or, in the best case scenario, he'd turn into Poti--all offense, zero defense. Good to see our forward prospects getting on the board: Stals 2 assists, Moore with a goal, and Murray with an assist. There's still a cause for some optimism.
I especially like McGill's comments about Tjutin: "That was good hockey sense that you can't teach," McGill said. "But he's going to get better. He's going to play against the top lines, so he's going to have to learn the speed and the pace better." I like that "play against the top lines."