Wolf Pack Weekly: Hartford looks to build off win after 4 game skid

The Hartford Wolf Pack completed their five game road-trip this past weekend. They snapped a four-game skid last Saturday against the Belleville Senators in a 5-2 win.

The group collected two of six points last week which was the only victory on this two week road-trip. Recent struggles have plagued Hartford, from offense to defense. After a great start to the season, the group has been inconsistent recently.

Looking ahead, Hartford will be home for the next four games and the next six of seven before going on a seven game road-trip.

Wolf Pack Standings Update

Entering the week, Hartford is 28-20-5-2 for 63 points (.573). That ranks them fourth in the Atlantic Division. Clubs in the first two spots will receive a bye week in the playoffs and will begin playing in the division semifinals (best of five).

Seeds three and four will have home ice advantage in the first round (best of three). Currently the Wolf Pack will have home ice advantage against the Hershey Bears. Seeds five and six will be road teams and the format will be three versus six and four versus five.

In order for Hartford to claw back up to third, they must get on a hot streak and win against key divisional opponents. The Charlotte Checkers are currently in third with a record of 34-22-4 for 72 points (.600). The Checkers have won their last eight of ten outings and are giving the Providence Bruins, whom are second, a run for their bye as Providence is 28-17-3-6 for 65 points (.602). The Wolf Pack will have significant work ahead of them if they want to compete for the second or third spot.

Hartford holding on to fourth or securing the third spot may be the best position for the club. They’ll have a week off currently prior to the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs. If they secure the bye, that would be a much longer layoff and could add a level of rust to their game they may not be able to shake off in time.

Pack Watch

zac jones rangers
May 1, 2021; Uniondale, New York, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Zac Jones (6) during warmups before a game against the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Zac Jones Continues Solid Performance

Since returning from New York, the talented Rangers prospect continues to play top line minutes in Hartford to further sharpen his strong skill set. Jones has shown he is able to perform well in high pressured situations, especially in his own end. He has the speed and a strong hockey IQ to read plays and be able to give opponents trouble.

On the offensive end, Jones is beginning to generate more shots on net and has been noticeable on Hartford’s five game road-trip. As a result, Jones has collected points in three of the last five games (three goals, two assists for five points).

Anthony Greco Continues Offensive Dominance

Through 49 games, the veteran collected 14 goals and 31 assists for 45 points. The forward is creeping upward in the American Hockey League scoring. Greco is two points away from being in the top 20 in the league for points. The 20th spot is currently held by Cooper Marody of Bakersfield with 47 points. Considering Greco missing time in Hartford while he was called up to New York, this is impressive as the forward continues to find the way on the scoresheet on a near nightly basis.

Ty Ronning Continues to Roll

The streaky forward has found his mojo in recent weeks. Ronning has points in the last 10 of 15 outings and continues to be a solid depth piece for Hartford. The forward continues to increase his season high production (currently at 32 points) while providing a heart and soul effort when he plays. Ronning continues to take strong strides in his game, especially last year which dividends were paid.

NHL Trade Deadline Impact to Wolf Pack

The Rangers had a busy deadline that impacted the organization. As New York bolstered their roster for the Stanly Cup Playoffs, Hartford received changes that will benefit them as well for their playoff run.

Despite losing Morgan Barron, Hartford is still strong with forwards. Barron was a great player in Hartford and the coaching staff enjoyed having the prospect.

Barron was a solid forward offensively and had a good two-way game. The former Rangers prospect skated in 25 games this season with Hartford, securing nine goals and six assists for 15 points. As an organization, you have to be willing to make sacrifices that benefits the big club while not impacting the AHL roster entirely. Chris Drury made sure to keep the Pack in mind at the deadline.

Newly acquired forward Nick Merkley joins Hartford and will fill in the void of losing Barron. The 24 year-old forward skated in 43 games with the San Jose Barracuda, recording 11 goals and 25 assists for 36 points.

Merkley is a solid addition to help boost the offense, which has struggled and dipped in recent weeks. Consistency has to be key as they approach the playoffs. Merkley’s contract will be up this summer as well and he has to prove to the Rangers brass that he should receive a new deal. I look forward to Merkley’s contribution to Hartford this season and he will have potential to positively impact the roster.

While receiving Nick Merkley, the Rangers traded away defenseman Anthony Bitetto. The veteran skated in 39 games this season with Hartford, recording four goals and 11 assists for 15 points. Hartford’s blue line is crowded as the Wolf Pack currently have nine defenseman on the roster.

The Rangers also signed defenseman Brandon Scanlin Sunday to a two-year entry-level deal. He was assigned to Hartford on Monday and is a promising prospect.

The move help boosts the offense while modifying the blue line. From the AHL level, Drury did not sell the farm which is great. Consistency is key in the organization from the NHL to the ECHL.

Wolf Pack One Timers

  • Tanner Fritz has points in two straight games and in the last five of seven.
    • The veteran recorded four goals and three assists for seven points in seven games.
  • Tim Gettinger has points in the last two of three outings (one goal, one assist).
  • Lauri Pajuniemi was out of the lineup for the last three games.

AHL on the Beat:

Check out this article by Patrick Williams on Hartford’s General Manager Ryan Martin here.

Playoff Primer Update

Entering Wednesday’s game, Hartford’s magic number to clinch the playoffs stands at 25 points. To clinch the division remains a daunting challenge as Hartford needs 39 points.

You can view the primer here.

AHL Roster Deadline

The next deadline on deck is the AHL’s. In seasons past, Hartford has been quiet with minimal moves. However, Hartford has further opportunities to bolster the roster. Will Ryan Marin snag another player for Hartford? Stay tuned.

Wolf Pack Upcoming Schedule

Hartford has three games on tap this week against divisional opponents. The Wolf Pack have 17 games remaining on the docket. Of that, eight are home while nine are away.

Wednesday, March 23rd vs Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis) at 7pm, XL Center

  • This is the 11th of 12 meetings in the season series. Hartford is 5-4-1 against Springfield thus far. The Wolf Pack will face Springfield twice to conclude the season series.
  • Entering the week, Springfield is 32-19-5-2 for 71 points (.612). That ranks the group first in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference. The Thunderbirds are 5-5 in their last ten outings and lost two straight in regulation. Springfield lost their last three of five as well.
  • Veteran Matthew Peca leads the Thunderbirds in points (49). In 52 games, Peca recorded 19 goals and 30 assists. The veteran is ranked 18th in the AHL for points. Forward Sam Anas is second in points on the roster with 47. Anas recorded 15 goals and 32 assists in 57 games.
  • Listen – Mixr. Watch – AHLTV.

Friday, March 25th vs Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis) at 7pm, XL Center

  • This is the final meeting between the clubs.
  • Hartford is 18-7-2-1 at home thus far. Springfield is 12-10-3-2 on the road.
  • Listen – Mixr. Watch – AHLTV.

Saturday, March 26th vs Hershey Bears (Washington) at 7pm, XL Center

  • This is the final meeting in the season series. Hartford is 4-1 against the Bears this season. The lone lost to Hershey was on February 2nd by a score of 3-2 in the shootout.
  • Entering the week, Hershey is 29-23-5-3 for 66 points (.550). That ranks the group fifth in the Atlantic Division and tenth in the Eastern Conference. The Bears lost three straight (0-2-1). Hershey is 3-5-2 in their last ten outings.
  • Forward Mike Vecchione leads the Bears on the active roster in points (36). Vecchione recorded 12 goals and 24 assists for 36 points in 43 games. Hershey is without their top two of three goal scorers. Joe Snively and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby are currently with Washington. Forward Garrett Pilon is second on the active roster for points (33) as he recorded 15 goals and 18 assists in 44 games.
  • Listen – Mixr. Watch – AHLTV.