Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wellwood-Couturier-Ford 12/22

The line of Eric Wellwood, Sean Couturier and Matthew Ford had a fantastic Saturday for the Adirondack Phantoms, who survived a late scare to beat the host Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3-2.

Each of them scored a goal -- Ford got his first -- and Couturier added two assists to post his eighth multi-point game of the year. He's back up to a point-per-game pace now with 26 through 26 games.

"I think we're finding some good chemistry with each other," Couturier said. "We're finding each other well out there. Things are going our way and hopefully things keep going well."

Couturier scored on a bizarre play to get Adirondack's wheels turning early in the first period. At the tail end of a Bridgeport power play, he stole the puck from a defender at the blue line and sped down the right wing. Brandon DeFazio slid to knock it away from him, but Couturier tracked it down in the corner. Then, in one quick motion, he spun and fired it toward the slot. He said he was looking for Brayden Schenn, but instead it wound up deflecting in off Bridgeport' Aaron Ness for a 1-0 lead.

"It's not an unusual play," Phantoms coach Terry Murray said. "You're going to see those kinds of decisions made all of the time. You're just hoping something good happens, whether the puck goes in the net or somebody's driving through and there's something loose in front of the crease. It's always the right decision to make a play to go to the net and this time it happened to find a way in."

In the second period, Ford redirected Couturier's shot from the point through goalie Anders Nilsson's legs. He had a pretty emphatic celebration, but he was happy to finally get one after going without in his first 16 games. Murray hoped this is what he needed to finally get back into his old form.

"I thought that was a really good shift for us," Ford said. "Wellwood was buzzing around and Coots just a simple shot on net. ... Coots can move the puck really well, create a lot of opportunities."

That's what happened on the third goal. The center got a pass from Jeff Dimmen and took it behind the net, centering it to Wellwood who had basically an empty net to shoot at and buried it.  He had one goal in his first 21 games, but has now scored two in his past three. He could be heating up too.

But then again, the same can be said of the entire Phantoms team. They've now won three in a row, which matches a season high. They're also getting bounces to go their way: tonight they scored three goals on 18 shots, while Bridgeport had two on just 36. Credit to Scott Munroe, who played well against his former team. All told, it's a pretty good way for a team to enter the holiday break.

"The guys came focused," Murray said. "It's very easy at this time of the year to have concentration that might be other places -- what are you going to be doing in two days and travel I have tomorrow and all that. We couldn't allow even four percent off on our focus. We had to be right on to play the right way and everybody did a great job with it."

However, is the timing of the break a bad thing? They'll basically forget about hockey for the next few days while they spend time with their families, then reconvene and take on Providence Friday.

“We saw last week or two weeks ago that we were last in our conference,” Couturier said. “We knew if we wanted to make the playoffs that we had to make a push from now on. We’ve been playing some pretty desperate hockey lately and we’ve put a couple wins on the board. That’ll put us right back in the race.”

Regarding Ben Holmstrom's knee injury, which will keep him out four-to-six months, Murray said he'll reconsider naming a new captain because of the length of the recovery time. "I think we need one," he said. He'll talk it over with the coaching staff. I'll ask again after the holiday break.

Check out tomorrow's paper for the game report and a holiday feature on some of the Phantoms, including Munroe. This will be his first Christmas as a father.

Finally, a non-hockey bit of news. You'll recall how the Sound Tigers wore the names of the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims on the back of their jerseys tonight? Well, they also displayed the names of the fallen teachers and faculty on the scoreboard the entire night next to a green ribbon. I saw Murray and  assistant coaches Riley Cote and Kjell Samuelsson also wore the ribbons.

One of the routes you can take from Glens Falls to Bridgeport goes straight through Newtown. It's the way I went and I got a little choked up just being there. Some of the Phantoms staffers also made the trip down and went the same way.

They left this stuffed Dax at the Town Hall with the following note:  "The Adirondack Phantoms send their condolences to the victims, their families and the Newtown community."

Until next time,


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