Wolf Pack Watch: Hartford rolling atop the Eastern Conference
The Wolf Pack enter the week winning 4 straight to propel them into 1st in the Eastern Conference and build a cushion in the Atlantic Division. The club ranks 3rd in the American Hockey league after completing 36 of 76 games on the season slate. Around this time last year, I would be writing about the disappointment of the season but this is a huge turnaround.
You have to give credit to John Davidson, Chris Drury, and other members of Rangers management for revamping the Wolf Pack. In one off-season, the organization is performing well on the AHL level, developing prospects, and have a winning culture. This does not happen overnight, especially in developmental leagues.
Hartford enters the week with a record of 21-8-2-5 for 49 points, which ranks them one of the top dogs in the league. The soaring Hershey Bears are 2 points behind the Wolf Pack entering the week as both clubs are facing head to head on Wednesday night. The Providence Bruins slide into 3rd place as the Bruins lost 4 straight. The Bruins are 20-15-1-2 for 43 points. The Springfield Thunderbirds are holding down the final playoff spot in the division, with a record of 20-16-2 for 42 points. That ranks the Panthers affiliate 4th. The Charlotte Checkers are in 5th, 3 points behind Springfield. The Penguins are in 6th with 39 points as well. Then the standings taper off as Lehigh Valley and Bridgeport have 31 points apiece for 7th and 8th place.
The Home Ice Advantage
Hartford has the best home record in the league entering the week. The boys are home cooking well with a record of 15-1-0-2 through 18 home games. To only have one regulation loss on home ice to date is impressive. The group is comfortable playing at home, which also creates fear in opponents who visit the XL Center for a game.
The Wolf Pack are tough to play against when at home and it shows. Their only loss came from an opponent in the North Division on November 20th as the Syracuse Crunch defeated Hartford 3-1. The two shootout losses stemmed from the Rochester Americans and Belleville Senators, which both are also in the North Division.
The second best record for home ice is the Milwaukee Admirals as the Predator’s affiliate is 12-2-1-1 through 16 home games at the UM-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
Playing on the road is a different story for the Wolf Pack. Despite a strong record at the XL Center, Hartford is 6-7-2-3 through 18 games. The Wolf Pack will have another chance to improve away from home with a 4 game trip. Just to really denote the difference, when you compare goals against, the Wolf Pack have given up 29 goals at home while giving up 62 goals on the road. That’s a huge difference.
Taking Care of Business
Springfield, Providence, and Bridgeport account for 32 games on the docket this season. Combine the 3 rivals, Hartford is 13-1-0-1. Providence handed Hartford a shootout loss while Bridgeport gave Hartford their 1st divisional loss of the season in regulation. The Pack have shown dominance with each of the rivals, especially against the Providence Bruins. These points adds up quick and as a result, the Wolf Pack are rewarded in the standings.
Here’s a breakdown against each rival:
- Against Providence: 6-0-0-1
- Against Springfield: 3-0
- Against Bridgeport: 4-1
Igor Shesterkin continues to perform well with Hartford. Shesterkin is 15-4-3-3 with a 1.93 goals against average (Best in the AHL) and a .932 save percentage (2nd best in the AHL).
The Rangers future netminder continues to have outstanding games, giving Hartford opportunities to close out games and keep them in the game where they may have deficits. He has proven a lot and continues to perform well in the Rangers organization.
#HWP Stat: Igor Shesterkin is 4-0-0-1 against the Providence Bruins, posting a 1.20 GAA, a .963 SV %, and recorded 2 assists thus far in the season series! He has stopped 156 of 162 against Providence.
Adam Huska had a slide in his game and lost 3 of his last 4 starts. As a first year rookie, I expected Huska to have struggles early on but he’s been solid all year. The prospect is 6-4-4 with a 2.69 goals against average and a .905 save percentage. Huska earned his 6th win of the season on Saturday in Hartford by the score of 3-1.
Kris Knoblauch continues to rotate the goalies well in Hartford, essentially a split which Shesterkin plays a good amount of games while Huska plays enough where he is not rusty. The split is around 60/40 thus far.
AHL Announces All-Star Rosters
The American Hockey League released the 2020 All-Star rosters last Friday. Hartford has 3 people representing them in the festivities in Ontario, California.
Kris Knoblauch will be the head man on the bench for the Atlantic Division while Joey Keane and Igor Shesterkin will play under him.
The competition will be held on January 26th and 27th at Toyota Arena. You can read more about the roster for each divisor here.
- Phil Di Giuseppe continues to produce offense for Hartford. The veteran has points in the last 10 of 15 games. He records 6 goals and 6 assists for 12 points.
- Joey Keane is on his first offensive slump of the season. The prospect has not registered a point in the last 7 games.
- Cristoval “Boo” Nieves has points in the last 4 of 5 games. The prospect has registered 1 goal and 5 assists for 6 points.
- Vinni Lettieri has points in the last 3 of 4 games. The forward has 2 goals and 2 assists for 4 points.
- Matt Beleskey continues to contribute for Hartford offensively. The veteran has points in the last 4 of 6 games, registering 4 goals and 2 assists for 6 points.
- Tim Gettinger has 3 goals in the last 2 of 4 games.
- Nick Ebert’s assist streak ended on Saturday. The defenseman had a 3 game assist streak.
- The power play ranks 27th in the league, operating at 13.9%.
- The penalty kill ranks 8th in the league, operating at 83.9%.
On The Beat: All Star coach Knoblauch guiding the Pack to success
Check out the latest article by Greg Markiewicz here.
- Dillan Fox was released from his Professional Tryout on January 2nd.
- Ryan Dmowski rejoins Hartford from a call up on January 2nd. Dmowski spent time with the Maine Mariners.
Hartford will begin their 4 game road trip beginning this Saturday. After the home game this Friday, Hartford will not return home until January 24th.
Wednesday, January 8th vs Hershey Bears (Washington) at 7pm, Giant Center
- This is the 3rd of 6 meetings in the season series against Hershey. The Wolf Pack are 1-0-1 thus far in the series. Hartford won the first meeting on 11/8 (2-1 win) and dropped the previous meeting on 12/1 (4-3 overtime loss).
- The Bears are 21-10-2-3 for 47 points in the Atlantic Division. That ranks them 2nd in the division. The Bears enter the week winning 4 straight and won their last 9 of 10 games. The Bears are 2 points behind Hartford.
- Mike Sgarbossa leads the Bears in points (35). The forward has 11 goals, 24 assists in 34 games played. Sgarbossa ranks 6th (tied for 4th among Gerald Mayhew and Glenn Gawdin) in the league for points.
- Listen – Fox Sports 1460 Harrisburg. Watch – AHLTV.
- NOTE: Hartford does not broadcast away games unless noted otherwise.
Friday, January 10th vs Charlotte Checkers (Carolina) at 7:15pm, XL Center
- This is the 4th of 8 meetings in the season series against Charlotte. The Wolf Pack are 1-2 thus far in the series. The last 2 meetings were on December 17th and 18th in Charlotte as Hartford dropped both games (6-3 loss, 7-1 loss).
- The Checkers are 17-13-3 for 37 points in the Atlantic Division. That ranks them 6th in the division. Charlotte enters the week winning 4 straight and have won their last 8 of 10 games.
- Charlotte has a 3 way tie for the points leader on the team. The 2 forwards and 1 defenseman has 22 points.
- Forward Julien Gauthier has 16 goals, 16 assists in 28 games played.
- Forward Janne Kuokkanen has 8 goals, 14 assists in 33 games.
- Defenseman Jake Bean has 5 goals, 17 assists in 32 games played.
- Listen – Mixr. Watch – AHLTV.
Saturday, January 11th vs Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh) at 7:05pm, Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza
- This is the 1st of 6 meetings against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Hartford split the series last season, going 3-2-1. After Saturday’s game, the Wolf Pack will not face the Penguins until February 12th in Hartford.
- The Penguins are 17-14-3-2 for 39 points in the Atlantic Division. That ranks them 5th in the division. The Penguins enter the week on a 0-2-0-1 streak and have won their last 4 of 10 games.
- Forward Andrew Agozzino leads the Penguins in points (31). The forward recorded 14 goals, 17 assists in 35 games played. Agozzino ranks 15th in the league for points.
- Listen – WILK News Radio. Watch – AHLTV.
- NOTE: Hartford does not broadcast away games unless noted otherwise.