Wolf Pack Watch: Chytil Impresses, Pack Lead Division
Entering the third week of the AHL season, Hartford has put themselves atop the highly competitive Atlantic Division. And while recent seasons have seen a performance dip when the calendar turns to November, I expect head coach Kris Knoblauch to make sure the team maintains its consistency on ice throughout the season.
There is real promise this season in Hartford. Despite suffering the first loss of the season on Sunday in the shootout, the Pack managed to collect three of the possible four points last weekend. Let’s get down to business on what lays ahead!
Let’s Talk: The First Loss
You have to give the Wolf Pack credit in Sunday’s contest against Rochester. Despite grabbing a 2-0 lead, Rochester fought back and brought the game to overtime and the shootout session. You may ask, why give the group credit for blowing a two-goal lead?
Rochester is one of the top teams coming into the season with a few key additions. The Wolf Pack, despite a young core, stepped up to the plate and fought Rochester in all aspects of the game. Despite the early struggles for Hartford, the Pack never gave up while Adam Huska was holding down the fort, especially in the first period when the flood gates could have opened for the Americans, generating stellar chances. The Pack had a hard time controlling Rochester, especially with their puck movement.
Next comes the second period. The continuous efforts rewarded forwards Filip Chytil and Cristoval “Boo” Nieves. The first goal by Chytil was set up perfectly by Danny O’Regan. A cross-crease pass that was effective when Rochester’s defense broke down on the play. The second goal by Nieves was on a partial breakaway after a great pass by Matt Beleskey. Despite the initial save, Nieves tapped the puck in on his own rebound.
Rochester struck early in the third to set the tone for the final frame. Despite the initial goal, the Pack continued to battle Rochester defensively and offensively. The offensive opportunities were persisting. The effort was there. However, as the group was getting worn out, Rochester was outplaying the Pack in some aspects of the contest. The Pack’s defense got sloppy, made mistakes, and not a lot of good defensive coverage. Rochester eventually scored at the end of the third with the net empty. The reaction by the Pack? Frustrated. They did not take the goal given up lightly. Off to overtime.
We defended it well, but we just could never get the clear we needed there.Kris Knoblauch – Howlings.net
The lone goal in the shootout came from Huska’s former UConn teammate Tage Thompson to give Hartford their first loss of the season.
Despite the outcome, improvements have to come despite an overall solid effort by the group. It will be interesting to see how the Pack respond to their first loss on Friday when they face Springfield.
There are going to be some growing pains. Everything will not be easy. The lesson tonight was that we have to keep pressing even though we have the lead. We have to play smart, and keep putting the pressure on.Kris Knoblauch – Howlings.net
Chytil Bangs Door For Call Up
Filip Chytil had a great weekend in Hartford. His performance, in my opinion, warrants him being the first call up when the Rangers need another forward. In the points column, the prospect collected three points (2G, A). In Saturday’s game against Springfield, the forward was flying. He led the team in shots with eight and had multiple opportunities offensively. He utilized his speed to his advantage and helped contribute defensively. In his shifts, he was ready to play. He has a mentality of winning and show the Rangers that he wants to be up. Sunday was more of the same – he was noticeable and produced a goal. I cannot imagine the prospect being with Hartford for long.
On Wednesday afternoon, Hartford reassigned forward Ryan Gropp to the Maine Mariners of the ECHL.
Gropp played one game in Hartford, which was last Sunday after being a healthy scratch for the previous three contests. The forward needs playing time, which he will get in Maine.
UPDATE: Gropp Suspended
According to Larry Brooks, the Wolf Pack has suspended Ryan Gropp for failure to report to the Maine Mariners of the ECHL.
- Adam Huska and Igor Shesterkin had another weekend split of being in net. I assume the upcoming weekend will bring the same. Both goalies have played impressively.
- Shesterkin: He played on Saturday against Springfield. The prospect was comfortable in net and made impressive saves. Shesterkin stopped 17 of 18 shots for the win.
- Huska: A strong outing on Sunday against Rochester. Despite the loss, the young prospect kept the team in the contest in moments where Rochester was pouring it on in Hartford’s defensive zone. He faced 35 of 37 shots in regulation. In the shootout, he stopped one of two shooters.
- Nick Ebert, who the Rangers acquired in the Vlad Namestnikov trade, debuted in Sunday’s game, replacing Joey Keane.
- Ryan Gropp took Gabriel Fontaine’s spot on Sunday.
- Congrats to Vitali Kravtsov on notching his first point on North American ice on Sunday. He recorded the secondary assist on Cristoval “Boo” Nieves’ goal.
- There was a report that the forward may return to the KHL. However, there is no confirmation on what will happen.
- The list of players who have not contributed this season is down to only a few. The following players have not yet recorded a point.
- Mason Geertsen, Ville Meskanen, and Nick Ebert.
The Pack will enter the weekend with a pair of games on the docket.
Friday, October 18th vs Springfield Thunderbirds (Florida) at 7:15 pm, XL Center
- The second of ten games in the season series. Hartford was victorious in the first meeting on October 12th, winning 3-1.
- The Thunderbirds defeated Providence last Sunday by the final of 5-2. This was Providence’s first loss of the season. Springfield went 1-2 last weekend.
- This is the final game in the five-game homestand. Hartford is 3-0-0-1 at the XL Center thus far.
- Springfield is 2-3 entering the weekend.
- Listen – Mixr. Watch – AHLTV.
Saturday, October 19th vs Binghamton Devils (New Jersey) at 7:05 pm, Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena
- This is Hartford’s second game against a North Division opponent. The Pack begins a four-game season series with Binghamton. Last season, the club went 2-1-1 against the Devils.
- The trip to Binghamton is the first road game of the season for the group. Including Saturday’s game, five of the next seven will be on the road.
- The Devils enter the weekend with a record of 1-2-1.
- The player to watch out for is Chris Conner. The veteran on Binghamton notched six points (3G, 3A) in four games.
- Listen – Devils broadcast. Watch – AHLTV.
- NOTE: Hartford does not broadcast away games unless noted otherwise.