Wolf Pack Weekly: Hartford looking for balance amid Rangers call ups

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Patrick Khodorenko (Photo: Kelly Shea / Hartford Wolf Pack)

Hartford’s first three games back featured many new faces over the week. While the Rangers elected to utilize their taxi squad, Hartford managed to find players from the ECHL to fill in the large voids on the roster.

In addition to the call ups to the main squad, Hartford faced injuries and players on Covid-19 protocol. As the roster is adjusted on a game by game basis, chemistry is again a work in progress. Unfortunately, the Wolf Pack were only able to win one of three games last week as they look for continuity.

The club recorded a 3-2 victory in their first game back from the holiday break on Wednesday, December 29th against Bridgeport. Hartford was shutout for the first time this season on New Year’s Eve as the club dropped a 4-0 decision against Providence. In the first game of 2022 on January 2nd, Hartford’s comeback fell short to Rochester with a 4-3 final.

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Wolf Pack Weekly: Standings Update

Entering the week prior to Wednesday’s games in the division, Hartford compiled a record of 14-8-2-2 for 32 points (.615). The Wolf Pack are ranked second in the Atlantic Division. In the Eastern Conference, Hartford is fourth. The club is ranked ninth in the American Hockey League.

Division-wise, the Springfield Thunderbirds are ahead by five points. Springfield is 17-8-2-1 for 37 points (.661). Keep in mind that Springfield has struggled as well with their depleted roster as the Thunderbirds are 4-5-0-1 in their last ten games. Identical to Hartford’s situation, both clubs started the season well and have some wiggle room to maintain their respective positions.

A team that has crept up the standings are the Hershey Bears. The Bears are now in third in the division with a record of 15-9-2-1 for 33 points (.611).

Another team that is performing well as of late is the Providence Bruins. The team is beginning to click having shutout Hartford and Springfield in recent weeks. The Bruins are 13-8-3-1 for 30 points (.600), which ranks the club fourth in the division entering the first full week of January.

The Charlotte Checkers are in fifth in the division with a record of 14-11-2 (.556) entering the week. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms, which were in the bottom of the standings in the division and Eastern Conference are now ranked sixth in the division. Entering the week, Lehigh Valley is 9-11-4-2 for 24 points (.462).

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins continue their struggles and are 9-12-1-2 for 21points (.438). That ranks the club in seventh. The Bridgeport Islanders are in last with a record of 10-16-3-3 for 26 points (.406).

Please keep in mind that teams in the division are playing 76 or 72 games this season as the standings are based on point percentage.

Wolf Pack Roster Changes

The AHL transactions page continues to be busy for each team in the league. Here’s the latest:

  • Signed to Professional Tryout contract
    • Aaron Luchuk (F) – Signed on December 29th and did not skate in a game yet.
    • Michael Lee (D) – Signed on December 29th and was released on January 3rd. Lee played in three games and recorded one assist.
    • Brandon Kasel (G) – Signed on December 29th and was released on December 31st. The goalie was a backup for Francois Brassard.
    • Michael Brodzinski (D) – Signed on December 29th and was released on January 3rd. Michael is Jonny’s brother and played in three games with Hartford.
    • Blake Thompson (D) – Signed on December 31st and was released after Hartford’s game on the same day.
  • From New York
    • Adam Huska returned on January 1st. His first action back was on January 3rd.
    • Matthew Robertson returned on January 4th.
  • Recalled to New York
    • Tarmo Reunanen recalled up on January 4th.

Currently Hartford has 14 forwards, eight defensemen, and three goalies.

Pack Injuries

  • Anthony Bitetto is out with a lower body injury per Howlings. The veteran has not skated since November 26th.
  • Braden Schneider has an upper body injury that is short-term per Howlings. The prospect could return to action this weekend.
  • Pierre-Cedric Labrie did not skate in the three games with Hartford post break.
  • Tanner Fritz is out of the lineup as well. He should be returning soon.
  • Jeff Taylor could return this weekend as well.
  • Tyler Wall remains a scratch as Hartford has three goalies up.

Leading the Pack

Lauri Pajuniemi
Lauri Pajuniemi (Photo: Kelly Shea / Hartford Wolf Pack)

While the Wolf Pack have their core players removed from the roster, Hartford has elected to give additional players a larger role and more ice time.

Anthony Greco

The veteran is the perfect candiate to lead Hartford’s top line. Greco is able to produce and generate numerous offensive chances. Greco is not afraid to shoot the puck and has showed that as the season progresses. Utilizing his speed also elects him to generate more chances and be able to play the puck, especially on the power play.

Lauri Pajuniemi

The talented prospect will have more opportunities on the ice. Pajuniemi recorded a nifty goal in last Sunday’s contest against Rochester. The forward continues to develop well and have a solid rookie season. Pajuniemi has points in the last six of 11 games. In the recent weeks, the prospect is firing more pucks on the net that are high scoring opportunities.

Ty Ronning

The 24 year old is a great depth forward for Hartford and he has the opportunity to showcase himself further on the roster. Ronning is four points away from tying his AHL season high (18) of last season. This is great to see considering Hartford is still in the first half of the season. While he does not record points on a nightly basis, Ronning provides the additional support offensively and has shown continuous strides on both ends of the ice. His work ethic is superb and he is a player that shows up on a daily basis.

Patrick Khodorenko

The rookie is another continues to develop his skill-set for his first full season in the AHL. While the prospect participated in last year’s season that was shortened, Khodorenko will get a taste of a full season loaded with ups and downs. The forward is two points away from tying his points from last season (10). Khodorenko is beginning to find his offensive swagger and has found himself on the scoresheet in the last four of six games. For a rookie, that is great to see as he is taking advantage of the opportunity with more ice time.

Latest Lines

Hartford’s first two forward lines remained intact from last week. The bottom six depends on injuries and Covid-19 protocol. The defensive pairings varied game by game as well. Here is how the lines shaped out last Friday.

Greco – Ronning – Richards
Khordorenko -Pajuniemi – DiGiacinto
Rueschoff – O’Leary – Whalen
Sanchez – Elmer – Skinner

Guittari – Thompson
Lee – M. Brodzinski
Berzolla – Fortunato

François Brassard
Brandon Kasel

Wolf Pack One Timers

  • Prior to Tarmo Reunanen’s call up, the defenseman had a three game active point streak (three assists). The prospect has points in the last six of nine games (eight assists).
  • Cristiano DiGiacinto recorded a two point performance last Wednesday against Bridgeport. The forward notched one goal and one assist.
  • Austin Rueschhoff has points in the last three of four games (one goal and three assists).
  • Hunter Skinner’s point streak ended on last Friday. Skinner recorded two goals and one assist in three straight games.
  • Mike O’Leary recorded two goals in last Sunday’s game against Rochester. It was his first two points of the season. Great to see that he got the monkey off his back for points.
  • Zach Berzolla has points in the last two of three games. He recorded his first goal last Wednesday in Bridgeport and recorded an assist last Sunday against Rochester.

Wolf Pack Upcoming Games

Friday, January 7th vs Rochester Americans (Buffalo) at 7:05pm, Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial

  • This is the end of the back to back games between the clubs. Hartford dropped the first meeting last Sunday by a final of 4-3.
  • Entering the weekend, Rochester is ranked second in the North Division with a record of 17-10 for 34 points (.630). The Americans are 6-4 in their last ten outings. Their last contest was on Wednesday against Syracuse (2-1 loss).
  • Veteran Michael Mersch leads the Americans in points (29). Through 27 games, the forward recorded 16 goals and 13 assists. He is ranked second in the AHL among points.
  • Listen – The Fan 95.7FM 950AM (Rochester’s Feed). Watch – AHLTV.

Saturday, January 8th vs Utica Comets (New Jersey) at 7pm, Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium

  • This is the first of two meetings in the season series. Both clubs did not meet last season. Utica visits Hartford on March 28th. The Comets are now affiliated with the Devils after being the Canucks affilate for eight seasons.
  • Entering the weekend, Utica is ranked first in the North Division and the Eastern Conference with a record of 18-2-3 for 39 points (.848). The Comets lost two straight (0-1-1), including their previous outing on Wednesday against Toronto (6-4 loss). The Comets are 5–2-3 in their last ten games.
  • Experienced forward Chase De Leo leads the Comets in points (20). Through 15 games, the center registered six goals and 14 assists. Defenseman prospect Reilly Walsh is second in points with 19.
  • Listen – KROCK94.9 (Utica’s Feed). Watch – AHLTV.

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Ricky Milliner is a Hartford Wolf Pack season ticket holder. While growing up, he discovered hockey by attending a... More about Ricky Milliner

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