Wolf Pack Watch: Facing Adversity, First Slump of Season

Wolf Pack Flickr
Wolf Pack Flickr

The Wolf Pack enter Thanksgiving weekend on a three-game losing streak. This is the first legitimate slump of the season for the group. Hartford faced three teams in the North Division and couldn’t find a way to get a point. Each of the team’s four regulation losses has come against North Division opponents, while the one Atlantic Divison loss came in a shootout.

Hartford continues their five-game road trip this weekend as they travel to Pennsylvania to face the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Hershey Bears. The question entering the weekend is how the Pack will compete against divisional foes.

In-Depth Analysis: Offensive, Defensive Slumps, Adversity

Hartford registered four goals while giving up 13. The Pack was shutout 4-0 last Friday against the Rochester Americans. The season was going great, then suddenly, struggles arise.

The first real stinker of the season was last Wednesday against Syracuse. The story from the game was Hartford’s inability to bury their chances from the first period, which haunted them in the second and third periods as Syracuse outplayed the group, and the Pack’s offense disappeared. After ten shots on goal in the first, the Pack had one shot on goal in the second, then six in the third. If the Pack was able to bury and maintain offensive pressure, then this would be a different story. Hartford was due for a rough game, and they were unable to climb back from a 3-0 deficit.

The next game had another lousy showing. The offense was missing in front of Igor Shesterkin. The defense had a rough night as well, having a hard time competing against the Rochester Americans. In the end, the Pack got spanked 4-0 and was beaten in all aspects of the game.

The offense once again had nobody to step up. Vinni Lettieri, Steven Fogarty, Danny O’Regan, and other veterans were quiet offensively. When that happens, the defense cannot do much except defend. The defense could not keep up with the talented Rochester roster. Igor Shesterkin could not bail out the team if no one was stepping up. Frustration had to arise.

Last Saturday was a rematch against the Syracuse Crunch. The Pack fought hard, but their mistakes once again cost them the two points. Syracuse scored on a penalty shot and twice on the power play. That is three goals against which may not have happened if the Pack played smarter. The first two periods were competitive until the third where the Pack gave in. The frustration from the group became apparent with the penalties taken in the contest. The offense had some life, but the overall game quality was not the greatest.

The Wolf Pack are facing adversity right now. How they handle it will become apparent this weekend. After a great start to the season, you would expect the team to go through slumps. This is a slump, and now is the time to see how the team reacts after being beaten in regulation three games.

Despite losing three, this could be beneficial long term for the group by facing adversity now instead of down the road. We do not want the Pack to look like Tampa Bay in the playoffs where the season was smooth, then have adversity in the playoffs and be unable to figure out what to do. That is my two cents for the week.

Wolf Pack Coaching Lose David Cunniff

In an unexpected, head-turning move, David Cunniff left the organization to become the head coach and general manager for the Worcester Railers (Islanders ECHL affiliate).

David Cunniff was hired in August by the Rangers organization for additional oversight of the prospects in Hartford. Cunniff had 17 seasons under his belt in the AHL. This was the perfect fit for Hartford. Then to suddenly have him leave raises questions.

Now, Hartford’s bench has Kris Knoblauch as the head coach and Gord Murphy as the associate head coach. The Pack had two coaches on the bench last season. We’ll have to see if the Rangers organization looks for Cunniff’s replacement now or at a later time. This is definitely a loss for the Pack.

Standings Update

Hartford is now tied for fourth in the league and first in the Atlantic Division entering the week. The Pack’s record is now 11-4-0-5 in 20 games played. The competition is not far behind in the division as Providence is two points behind Hartford, while Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Springfield are three points behind.

The leeway Hartford built early on helps. After losing three straight, the Pack is still top in the division. The cushion is now gone, and if Hartford wants to maintain as the top dogs, they must win this weekend.

By the end of the week, Hartford could fall to the middle of the pack if they drop two in regulation while other teams leapfrog the group.

One-Timers

  • Steven Fogarty has points in three of the last four games. He recorded two goals and two assists.
  • Tim Gettinger returns to Hartford after his brief stint with the Rangers. Before the call-up, Gettinger had been played better, registering three points his last four outings.
  • Matt Beleskey snapped his five-game drought with a goal on Saturday against Syracuse.
  • Lias Andersson has two goals in three games thus far with Hartford.

Roster Moves

  • Earlier in the week, the Rangers brought Lias Andersson and Tim Gettinger to Hartford.
  • Cristoval “Boo” Nieves earned a call up to New York as the prospect has worked on his faceoff skills and defensive aspect of the game.
  • Shawn McBride was called up to Hartford from Maine. He had four assists in 15 games.

Fontaine Done for the Season

As reported by Howlings, Gabriel Fontaine will miss the remainder of the season. The prospect is going to have shoulder surgery, which will be season-ending.

The forward’s entry-level deal expires this summer. What will happen next is unknown. Fontaine will be unable to prove himself this season, which is unfortunate.

Joey Keane Feature

Check out this great article on Joey Keane here.

AHL on the Beat: Wolf Pack Players Buying What Coaches are Selling

Check out Bob Crawford’s article on the Wolf Pack’s hot start of the season here.

Goals, Saves of the Week

Here is a look at Lias Andersson’s 2nd goal of the season on Saturday.

Check out this beauty of a save from Igor Shesterkin on Wednesday.

Here is Lias Andersson’s 1st goal of the year in Hartford.

Upcoming Games

Saturday, November 30th vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia) at 7:05 pm, PPL Center

  • This is the first 1st of six meetings against the Phantoms. Hartford went 3-2-0-1 last season against Lehigh Valley.
  • The Phantoms enter the week 5th in the Atlantic Division with a record of 8-6-1-4 for 21 points.
  • Forward Greg Carey leads the Phantoms in points with 14 (7G, 7A).
  • Listen – Lehigh Valley Phantoms Radio. Watch – AHLTV.
    • NOTE: Hartford does not broadcast away games unless noted otherwise.

Sunday, December 1st vs. Hershey Bears (Washington) at 5 pm, Giant Center

  • This is the second of six meetings against Hershey. Hartford won the first game 2-1 on 11/8.
  • The Bears enter the week 6th place in the Atlantic Division with a record of 8-8-2-2 for 20 points.
  • Forward Mike Sgarbossa leads the Bears in points with 16 (7G, 9A).
  • Listen – Fox Sports 1460 Harrisburg. Watch – AHLTV.
    • NOTE: Hartford does not broadcast away games unless noted otherwise.