Hartford Wolf Pack off to best start since 2004-05 season
The Hartford Wolf Pack have set a tone through two weeks of the 2023-24 season after completing another weekend sweep. A shutout over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton by a score of 5-0, followed by a strong 5-1 win over Lehigh Valley brings this team to 4-0-0-0. An impressive start as they enter their first three-in-three weekend.
One of the early storylines emerging is the dynamic and talented group of forwards for the Rangers AHL affiliate. This past weekend continued the trend as contributions for production was a mix of prospects and veterans.
Another storyline is the retooled defense, as they have had success in frustrating opponents. Add in the strong goaltending of Louis Domingue and Dylan Garand, who have both picked up nicely where left off from last season and the Pack are playing spectacular hockey.
Hartford has established themselves as one of the top dogs in the Atlantic Division after two weeks. In fact, Hartford is one of two undefeated teams in the AHL. This is also the Wolf Pack’s best start since the 2004-05 season. All aspects of the game are clicking and finding a weak point on the roster is difficult. Hats off to Chris Drury and Ryan Martin for building an excellent roster off last season’s success.
This is an exciting time in Hartford, so let’s dive in!
Hartford Wolf Pack Weekend Recap
Goals, Goals, Goals
The Wolf Pack hosted their first two games in fashion, securing 10 goals to welcome back fans to the XL Center. Offensive production was evenly split between the prospects and veterans.
“Depth is very important in the American League,” coach Kris Knoblauch said. “Sometimes you’re playing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so you need that depth (in the AHL). I’m very happy with the guys.”
Of the prospects that had a strong game, 21 year-old rookie Brett Berard registered back-to-back goals over the weekend. In addition, he secured one assist to earn his first three points of the season.
Berard displayed a great skill set, especially with his shots on net. In four games to date, Berard is demonstrating he can produce quality chances by utilizing his speed well. In the neutral and defensive zones, he keeps the play simple and is positionally sound to ensure he can help the team transition.
Another rookie, 19 year-old Adam Sykora, secured his first two assists of the season against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The forward is comfortable with the pace of play at the AHL level and is utilizing his speed well. His offensive skill set is also noticeable, especially against Lehigh Valley where Sykora nearly converted on a beautiful goal that had the forward displaying talented stick work and moves.
Bobby Trivigno recorded his first goal of the season on Saturday. Despite being held off the scoresheet the first three games, the prospect is playing a strong well-rounded game. While generating offensive opportunities, Trivigno is playing feisty against opponents, where he is not afraid to get into scrums and stir the pot. He plays with an edge despite his size.
Shifting to the veterans, Hartford’s captain Jonny Brodzinski is leading the way for offensive production. The 30 year-old has points in four straight games, securing four goals and two assists to lead the Pack with six points. Brodzinski is known to have a strong game offensively. and he continues to generate impressive numbers. In addition to his production, his leadership also helps with the young forwards and prospects on the roster. The environment is great for the Rangers players of tomorrow, as they are developing in a winning environment, while being mentored with quality veterans.
Experienced defenseman Mac Hollowell became the team’s power play specialist with the departures of Zac Jones (Rangers) and Ty Emberson (Waivers, Sharks). The 25 year-old had a strong preseason, followed by a noticeable presence in the first four games of the regular-season. Hollowell has an assist in each game and is a strong force on the power play, which has played well.
Acquired by the Rangers in free agency, 32 year-old Alex Belzile is contributing to the offensive firepower early on. Belzile has points in three straight games (two goals, two assists) and displayed the ability to be effective around the net and get in the dirty areas when needed.
Brennan Othmann Shows Fight
Despite being held off the scoresheet last weekend, the talented Rangers prospect continued to make an impact on the ice. While assisting in producing chances, Othmann displayed a physical, gritty game in the last two matches. He also earned his first fight in the AHL, dropping the gloves with Wilkes-Barre’s captain, Taylor Fedun.
In Saturday’s game, Othmann continued his physical presence and was all over the puck, showing nifty quick passes and using his body. If the forward is unable to get on the scoresheet, he finds a way to make his presence known. Similar to Trivigno, he is a pest for opponents.
Wolf Pack are stacked
The Wolf Pack have strong stats early on in the season from a team perspective. In the Atlantic Division, the club has the biggest difference between goals for and goals against. Hartford has scored 16, which is ranked 5th in the league. Goals given up is four, which is the second lowest in the league. In the differential category, there is a gap of 12 goals which is impressive.
Divisionally, Hartford is displaying dominance early on, especially being the only undefeated team in the Atlantic and Eastern.
Viewing the special teams, Hartford’s power play is ranked 14th in the league, operating at 18.2%. The penalty kill is ranked 9th in the league, operating at 90%. The group has given up only two goals while down a man.
Karl Henriksson left the game early against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and did not play the following night. The injury status on the prospect is unknown as the organization gives little information. There is no timetable for return.
As a result, the first transaction of the season happened on Tuesday. Forward Drew Worrard was called up from Cincinnati ECHL. Worrad had a strong training camp and left a great impressive to the Wolf Pack staff.
Wolf Pack Hit Milestone
On Saturday against the Phantoms, Hartford won their 1,000th regular season game in the AHL. The Wolf Pack join a list with only eight other clubs (active and former) that were able to earn this achievement.
The Wolf Pack will be playing their 2,000th game on February 9th against Bridgeport.
- The front office had a rewarding weekend for the first two home games of the season. Hartford’s first game of the season drew 7,038 fans at the XL Center. The last time Hartford drew 7,000 plus fans to opening night was in the 2019-20 season.
- Hartford’s second game was well attended with a crowd of 5,292. Opening weekend brought a total of 12,330 fans. The front office is looking to grow crowds after being successful last season.
- In unrelated news off the ice, XL Center’s $100 million renovation plan is inching closer to reality. Earlier in October, the city of Hartford voted to extend the arena’s lease agreement with the Capital Regional Development Authority (CRDA). The next steps include finalizing the Oak View Group (OVG) – CRDA partnership on the upgrades and finalize costs of the upgrades.
- Defenseman Connor Mackey was a +5 in Friday’s game. He is the 6th player in franchise history to go +5 in a single game.
- Veteran Riley Nash secured his first points of the season Friday (one goal, one assist) and has points in two straight. He recorded one assist on Saturday.
- Nikolas Brouillard recorded a two point game (one goal, one assist) on Saturday.
- Ben Harpur is on a two game point streak (two assists).
- Turner Elson’s lone game was the first game of the season. I anticipate the forward getting playing time in the upcoming three-in-three weekend.
Hartford Wolf Pack Schedule
Friday, October 27th vs Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis) at 7pm, XL Center
- This is the second of 10 meetings in the season series. Hartford is 1-0 against the Thunderbirds. The first meeting was held on 10/14 as Hartford secured a 3-1 victory. The third meeting will be held on November 15th.
- Entering the week, Springfield is 1-4 for 2 points. That ranks the group 8th (last) in the Atlantic Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference. Springfield won their second game of the season, then dropped the last three outings.
- Forward Adam Gaudette lead the Thunderbirds in points with 7. Gaudette has five goals and two assists. Nathan Walker is second for points with 5 (2 goals, 3 assists).
- Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.
After Friday’s home game, the Wolf Pack will begin a four game road-trip.
Saturday, October 28th vs Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh) at 6:05pm, Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza
- This is the second of six meetings in the season series. Hartford shutout the Penguins in the first meeting by a score of 5-0. The third meeting will be on January 7th.
- Entering the week, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is 2-2 for 4 points. That ranks the group 6th in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.
- Experienced forward Vinnie Hinostroza and Rem Pitlick co-lead for points on the Penguins with 3 points each. Both players recorded 1 goal and two assists.
- Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.
Sunday, October 29th vs Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia) at 5:05pm, PPL Center
- This is the second of six meetings in the season series. Hartford defeated the Phantoms by a score of 5-1. The third meeting will be held on November 3rd.
- Entering the week, Lehigh Valley is 3-2 for 6 points. That ranks the group 3rd in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
- Prospect Tanner Laczynski leads the Phantoms in points with 6, recording 1 goal and 6 assists. Olle Lycksell is second for points with 5 goals. Lycksell recorded a goal against Hartford in the previous meeting.
- Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.