Wolf Pack Weekly: Hartford continues to improve as vets lead the way

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By Ricky Milliner
Rangers prospect watch Braden Schneider
Braden Schneider (Photo: Kelly Shea/Hartford Wolf Pack)

The Hartford Wolf Pack completed their second three in three weekend of the season, collecting four of six points (2-1).

For the month of October the Pack’s record was 5-2-1. That ranks the club fourth in the Atlantic Division with a .688 point percentage (standings are based on points percentage this season). After a slow start in the first weekend of the season, the Wolf Pack kept improving in all areas.

Within the last two weeks of play, the club has performed well, finding ways to win and maintain steady defense. The club looks to keep on rolling with divisional play in the month of November which features five home and away games. In those 10 games, Hartford faces Bridgeport (three), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (one), Springfield (three), Providence (two), and Hershey (one). This upcoming weekend will feature another three in three weekend for the group.

Wolf Pack Weekly: Key Players

Anthony Greco, 28, has found his offensive game recently. The forward has points in the last five of six outings (three goals, five assists). In that span, Greco has notched three two point games in the last three of four outings. The veteran is part of the key group that has to drive offense. Greco has delivered and is noticeable on a nightly basis. The forward is not afraid to put shots on net as well, as he peppers goalies consistently. Whether it’s goals or assists, Greco is getting it done. He’s tied for the team in points with 8 along with Jonny Brodzinski.

Captain Jonny Brodzinski Leads the Way: The captain found his offensive game on opening night and continues to sparkle. Brodzinski has found himself on the scoresheet, practically on a nightly basis (was held without a point in one game). The experienced leader is another dependable forward on the Hartford roster. While generating offense, the forward is mentoring the prospects as well through various situations. He is great to have in the locker room regardless of the outcome, ensuring the team learns from their mistakes and move on to the next opponent.

Tim Gettinger Provides Depth Offense: Gettinger is on a four game point streak (one goal, four assists). The prospect has points in the last five of six games as well. Gettinger also provided the game winning goal in Hartford’s two shootouts this season. His specialty in shootouts has helped give Hartford wins in the early season. Gettinger is on his way to have another solid season with the club.

Lauri Pajuniemi Adjusts: Despite the prospect registering two points in eight games, Pajuniemi continues to adjust on North American ice. His work ethnic along with the team is high which is compliment. He gets into puck battles, he generate chances, and he also tries to use his developing skill set to gain further confidence on the ice. The prospect will be rewarded as the season progresses. He continues to get top six minutes, and he should be able to contribute when he finds his game here. There’s plenty of potential for the rookie. Once he finds it, the other teams will have to lookout.

Morgan Barron Returns: The talented Rangers prospect has continued his solid play in the American Hockey League. Prior to his call up in October, Barron had points in three straight games. He played in three games last weekend, earning a point in two out of those contests. While his totals are low because he missed multiple games, Barron is a great addition for more firepower on the roster. I expect him to continue to dominate the AHL for the remainder of the season. He has proved he can play at this level and I can see him up multiple times throughout the season with New York, depending on the injury situations. To date, Barron has three goals and one assist in five games.

Keith Kinkaid Shines: The Wolf Pack continue to have strong performances by the netminder Keith Kinkaid. The veteran has recorded a record of 4-0-1 with a 1.73 goals against average and a .943 save percentage. In addition, Kinkaid was clutch in the two shootouts for Hartford. He faced six shooters against Providence, stopping six of six. Last Friday he faced four shooters against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and was able to pitch a shutout, four of four.

Adam Huska Earns First Win: Despite playing in three games and having a win in only one of them, Huska has performed well. Unfortunately, the prospect fell short in both loses (against Springfield and Charlotte). In the games Hartford lost, they were unable to generate offense to tie each contest. Despite a strong effort in the two losses, Hartford was able to bounce back the following games. Huska is 1-2 with a 2.02 goals against average and a .932 save percentage.

Hartford’s coach, Kris Knoblauch has a rotation in place for his two goalies. Kinkaid has the role of starter while Huska is the backup. Neither goalie has played in back to back games.

Pack Mentality on Defense

Hartford Wolf Pack
Huska and Jones (Photo: Kelly Shea/Hartford Wolf Pack)

One of Hartford’s strength is a dynamic and stellar core on the blue line. They continued to improve as the season progresses.

Tarmo Reunanen is beginning to find his game after he was unavailable at the start of the season. The promising prospect has points in the last two games (three assists). While he has good offensive ability, he can hold it down in Hartford’s own end, giving opponents difficult in various situations. If the Rangers need another prospect up, he would be next in line.

Zac Jones is adjusting to the AHL ranks and had a solid weekend. The prospect recorded two assists in the last three games. He’s able to shoot well and help out on the power play when needed. He also shown flashes of good defense when the pressure is on Hartford. He keeps it simple and can adapt to situations.

Braden Schneider and Matthew Robertson have struggles, but that that is expected. Both rookies are a defensive pairing this season. They shown potential, but there are mistakes which they’ll learn from. They may not make noise offensively, instead, they can be capable of shutting down the opposition. They work hard each shift and aren’t afraid to sacrifice their bodies if need be.

Veteran Anthony Bitetto had a mixed bag for his performance. For instance, he played well against Lehigh Valley two weeks ago, then he had a few hiccups this past weekend. He was a scratch this past Sunday to have an all young defensive core. The veteran is able to mentor the prospects on the blue line. He has to stay consistent though. Otherwise, he could sit for other players as Hartford has eight defenseman.

Pack One Timers

  • Hartford’s enforcer, Pierre-Cedric Labrie has points in two straight games (one goal, one assist).
  • Tanner Fritz had a two point performance on Sunday against his former team, Bridgeport (one goal, one assist).
  • Jeff Skinner recorded his first goal of the season Sunday in Bridgeport.
  • Hartford’s eighth defense, Jeff Taylor has been a healthy scratch except for opening night.
  • Last Sunday’s game was the first game of the season where Hartford scored first. The other games featured the opponents scoring first, which Hartford has to comeback from a goal or more.
  • Cristiano DiGiacinto registered his first professional goal on Sunday in Bridgeport.

Upcoming Games

Hartford will be home two of the three games this weekend.

Friday, November 5th vs Bridgeport Islanders (New York) at 7pm, XL Center

  • This will be the third of 10 meetings of the season series. Hartford is 2-0 thus far in the series. This also finishes a home at home series as the previous game was last Sunday in Bridgeport (5-1 win).
  • The Islanders are ranked 6th in the Atlantic Division with a record of 3-3-0-2 for eight points (.500).
  • Arnaud Durandeau and Otto Koviula are tied for the team lead in points (six). However, both only have one goal. Forward Anatolii Golyshev leads Bridgeport in goals with four.
  • Listen – Mixr. Watch – AHLTV.

Saturday, November 6th vs Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh) at 7pm, XL Center

  • This will be the third of six meetings in the season series. Hartford is 1-0-1 thus far. After dropping the first meeting in overtime, 2-1 on October 22nd, Hartford secured a win in the previous meeting on October 29th in the shootout (2-1 win).
  • The Penguins are ranked 2nd in the Atlantic Division with a record of 5-1-0-1 for 11 points (.786). Wilkes-Barre/Scranton enters the weekend on a 4-0-0-1 streak.
  • Penguins prospect Valtteri Puustinen continues to have a strong season in the AHL. The forward leads the team in points (eight).
  • Listen – Mixr. Watch – AHLTV.

Sunday, November 7th vs Bridgeport Islanders (New York) at 3pm, Webster Bank Arena

  • The fourth of 10 meetings in the season series. After Sunday’s outing, the next meeting will be in Hartford on November 17th.
  • Listen – Mixr (Bridgeport’s feed). Watch – AHLTV.