Hartford Wolf Pack Weekly: Rangers help bolster roster for Calder Playoff push
A lot has changed since last week’s edition of the Hartford Wolf Pack Weekly as the Rangers helped reshape Hartford’s roster for the 2023 Calder Cup Playoff push.
While not all new players debuted over the weekend, Hartford was rolling until Sunday’s contest against the Charlotte Checkers. The club is looking to get on another lengthy streak as Sunday’s 6-3 loss snapped their six-game point streak (5-0-0-1).
Looking ahead, 17 games remain on the docket with the Wolf Pack deadlocked with the Bridgeport Islanders in the standings for the final playoff spot. However, Bridgeport owns the tiebreaker as the Islanders affiliate has one additional win, plus they hold the season series advantage with five wins against three losses. Four games remain in the series, with three games at the XL Center and one away at Total Mortgage Arena. It will be crucial to the Pack’s playoff hopes to win these contests.
Thus far, Hartford is 11-11-0-5 in their home barn and 13-10-3-2 away from it. The impressive part is that the Wolf Pack completed their five game road-trip with a record of 4-0-0-1. This week’s slate of games will be on the road again before Hartford sees a home heavy schedule in mid to late March.
While a lot is at stake, Hartford’s bolstered roster addressed deficiencies that should help in the race, potentially moving further upward in the standings.
Hartford Wolf Pack Weekly
Additional Deadline Acquisitions
In the American Hockey League, the winners of the trade deadline were the Hartford Wolf Pack and the Rockford Ice Hogs. Both clubs had numerous moves to improve their respective rosters.
On Friday, additional moves were announced by the Rangers and Wolf Pack including Gustav Rydahl being dealt to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward Anton Blidh. The Rangers also acquired defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for future considerations.
Also announced later on Friday, Hartford traded defenseman Zach Giuttari to the Abbotsford Canucks for future considerations.
As the dust settles, Hartford bulked up on grit and additional skill. The Wolf Pack were lacking in games that required physicality and grinding out plays for offense. Blidh is a gritty veteran with experience. The move also adds further depth.
Kalynuk helps the grit department as the prospect brings further physicality and toughness to the lineup. This will give Hartford options depending on their opponent which is beneficial as well.
Add in the acquisitions earlier in the week of Will Lockwood, Adam Clendening, Cooper Zech, and the Rangers sending Jake Leschyshyn to Hartford, the group is now deeper and tougher to play against.
For the first time in numerous seasons, Hartford was given a significant boost to the roster. Recent trade deadlines often had Hartford quiet, or with a few moves. The Rangers are serious about Hartford making the playoffs, which they have not qualified for since 2014-15.
Regarding the AHL’s trade deadline, I do not expect Hartford to be busy on that front. If there are moves, it will be for further depth. The AHL’s deadline is on Friday, March 10th.
Annual AHL Playoff Primer
Updated daily, the AHL’s Playoff Primer is out. As we enter the week, Hartford’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot stands at 36. The primer also includes goal differential, strength of the remaining schedule, the number of home and away games, max points, and other statistics. See below to check it out.
Wolf Pack Standings Update
Hartford is 24-21-3-7 for 58 points. That ranks the group seventh in the Atlantic Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference. The Wolf Pack continue to have a solid second half off the season. Unfortunately, there’s been a few hiccups, such as this past weekend with a tough loss to Charlotte on Sunday and a shootout loss to Springfield on Friday.
The group was so close but still so far for having a great weekend. The good news is that they will not have long to dwell on their previous game, which Hartford had a 3-1 lead entering the third to lose 6-3 and gave up five unanswered goals. The Wolf Pack will be back in action on Wednesday, followed by visiting Rochester and Toronto for the weekend.
In sixth place are the Bridgeport Islanders. Through 55 games, Bridgeport is 25-22-7-1 for 58 points, tied for Hartford. Bridgeport owns the tiebreaker currently between the clubs. The Islanders remain inconsistent after struggling significantly last month.
Looking upward, fifth place belongs to the Springfield Thunderbirds as the club is 28-21-2-4 for 62 points. The Thunderbirds are cooling down after their lengthy winning streak came to an end. Springfield is now 5-4-1 in their last ten outings.
In fourth, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are finding ways to collect points despite inconsistencies. The Phantoms have 62 points as well, going 28-22-3-3. The club is 4-5-0-1 in the last ten outings.
Hartford is in striking distance of all three clubs ahead of them as long they can keep pace. Looking further upward, the Atlantic Division’s top three clubs have created a large cap from the rest of the division:
- Charlotte has 69 points for third.
- Providence has 74 points for second.
- Hershey has 75 points for first.
Behind Hartford is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for last (eighth) in the division. The Penguins are 23-23-4-5 for 55 points. The club has struggled significantly as of late and lost key players from recalls and injury. However, the Penguins are three points behind Hartford and are not out of the picture despite going 3-4-2-1 in the last ten games.
Wolf Pack Establish New Franchise Records
Last Saturday, the Wolf Pack defeated the Bridgeport Islanders by a score of 9-0. This is now the team’s largest win in franchise history. Furthermore, Hartford allowed the lowest number of shots in franchise history. Impressive showing by the club in a critical game against Bridgeport.
Dylan Garand recorded his third shutout of the season and improves to 11-10-3. The rookie has a 2.91 goals against average and a .894 save percentage.
Check out the nine goals below. It was a fun night for the entire roster.
Wolf Pack Notes
- Louis Domingue recorded his second shutout of the season on Friday. Despite the shootout loss, the veteran goaltender played well. His performance in recent games continues to be solid. In Sunday’s game, the veteran had a solid performance until his hiccup in the third.
- Domingue is 13-11-7-2 with a 2.62 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.
- Adam Clendening recorded his first point (assist) with Hartford in his debut, followed by securing his second point in the following game with another assist.
- Anton Blidh recorded a goal in his debut with Hartford on Sunday.
- Will Cuylle had a three point night on Saturday. The prospect recorded one goal and two assists.
- Tanner Fritz recorded a point (one goal, one assist) in back to back games.
- Turner Elson and Ryan Carpenter recorded two assists on Saturday.
- Jonny Brodzinski continues to produce. The Veteran had a four point game on Saturday (two goals, two assists) and had a goal in Sunday’s contest.
- Lauri Pajuniemi recorded three assists on Saturday and one goal Sunday. Though 51 games, the prospect has 15 goals and 11 assists for 26 points. He tied his points total from last season and now has two more goals than last season (he is at 15).
- Tim Gettinger had a four point outing on Saturday with one goal and three assists. He recorded one assist on Sunday.
- Jake Leschyshyn recorded one goal and one assist Saturday.
- Bobby Trivigno recorded an assist in back to back games.
- Jonny Brodzinski was recalled by the New York Rangers
Off the Ice: Front Office’s Hard Work Paying Off
The franchise broke a season high for attendance on Sunday. The announced crowd of 7,808 beat the previous record of 7,032 (on 1/20). In fact, Hartford is anticipated to have one of the best years for attendance within the last five seasons. Depending on the crowd size for the nine remaining games, Hartford could be flirting with a season average of 4,500+.
Here’s a look at attendance for games since New Year’s Eve:
- 12/31: 5,368
- 1/14: 6,189
- 1/20: 7,032
- 1/21: 4,960
- 1/25: 1,947*
- 1/28: 6,780
- 2/1: 1,980*
- 2/3: 4,903
- 2/4: 6,823
- 2/10: 6,769
- 2/17: 5,723
- 2/18: 6,260
- 3/5: 7,808
NOTE: * denotes weekday game.
You have to give credit to Hartford’s front office. They have built themselves an opportunity for a stronger fan base and experience for people in the area. In addition to the positive momentum on the ice, the off ice optics have the same feeling.
If we dive into numbers prior to December 31st, the weekend crowd sizes were smaller, to the tune of around 4,000. However, that is still successful as the team struggled during the first half.
Wolf Pack Upcoming Games
Wednesday, March 8th vs Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis) at 7:05pm, Mass Mutual Center
- This is the eighth of 12 meetings in the season series. Hartford is 2-3-0-2 against the Thunderbirds. The next three meetings will be in Hartford on March 17th, 24th, and 25th. The final meeting will be in Springfield on April 15th.
- Entering the week, Springfield is 28-21-2-4 for 62 points. That ranks the group fifth in the Atlantic Division and Seventh in the Eastern Conference. The Thunderbirds are 5-4-1 in the last ten outings. However in the last five, they are 3-2.
- Experienced forward Matthew Highmore leads the Thunderbirds in points with 49. Through 52 games, Highmore has 14 goals and 35 assists. He is ranked 18th in the AHL for points. Veteran Martin Frk is second for points with 48. Frk has 21 goals and 27 assists. The forward is ranked 19th in the league for points.
- Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.
Friday, March 10th vs Rochester Americans (Buffalo) at 7:05pm, Blue Cross Arena
- This is the second and final meeting in the season series. Hartford defeated the Americans by a score of 4-1 at the XL Center on January 21st.
- Entering the week, Rochester is 26-22-4-1 for 57 points. That ranks the group fourth in the North Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference. Rochester is on a three game skid (0-2-1). The group is 4-4-2 in the last ten outings.
- Sabres prospect Brandon Biro leads the Americans in points with 40. Through 43 games, Biro has 13 goals and 27 assists. Forward Lukas Rousek is second for points with 39. Through 53 games, the forward has 11 goals and 28 assists.
- Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.
Saturday, March 11th vs Toronto Marlies (Maple Leafs) at 5pm, Coca-Cola Coliseum
- This is the first of two meetings against the Marlies. Last season, Hartford went 1-1 against Toronto. The second and final meeting will be on April 5th at the XL Center.
- Entering the week, Toronto is 37-16-2-1 for 77 points. That ranks the group first in the North Division and Eastern Conference. The Marlies are on a two game skid and are 6-4 in the last ten outings.
- Veteran Logan Shaw leads the Marlies in points with 57. Through 53 games, the forward collected 17 goals and 40 assists. Shaw is 6th in the league for points. Leafs prospect Alex Steeves is second for points with 44. Through 53 games, Steeves has 17 goals and 27 assists.
- Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.