Keith Kinkaid and the Hartford Wolf Pack are 2-1 in their three game opening weekend of the 2021-22 American Hockey League season. After securing two victories, the Wolf Pack look to build upon a strong start with a good weekend on the road. Hartford will have two games on tap in the Keystone State.
Despite losing Greg McKegg and Morgan Barron, the club found a way to win. There are a few interesting takeaways after a three game sample of the roster.
McKegg and Barron were recalled by the Rangers due to Strome on COIVD protocol and Kakko on IR.
WolF Pack Weekly: Solid Goaltending
Keith Kinkaid and Adam Huska both made appearances last week. The pair faced a combined total of 104 shots and were busy with the defense struggling to limit chances.
Adam Huska appeared in one game last weekend. He faced the Springfield Thunderbirds, stopping 40 of 42 shots on net for Hartford’s second game of the season. He was given a loss despite a terrific effort in the crease.
Kinkaid appeared on opening night against Bridgeport and in Sunday’s contest against Providence. He earned the four points for Hartford. He had plenty of superior saves to keep Hartford in the game. For instance, Kinkaid opened the first game at the XL Center facing 15 shots, followed by another 10. After two periods of play, the Wolf Pack had recorded a whopping eight shots on net (five in the first, three in the second).
The game on Sunday had similar traits. Providence out shot Hartford nearly double in the first two periods. Then Kinkaid had to go to the shootout to help secure another win for the club. He went a perfect six for six on those shots.
The veteran goalie walks away with my Wolf Pack star of the week. He was the difference maker in both games he played in.
Tyler Wall was a healthy scratch last weekend. I expect him to start the season with the Jacksonville Icemen in the ECHL as their season is approaching.
Pack Defense Shaky to Start Season
Kris Knoblauch and the coaching staff are attempting to find the right balance in the lineup for the blue line. Hartford has a solid mix of experience and promising prospects. However, the right formula has not been found.
In each of the three games last weekend, the defense had hiccups, especially early on. There were turnovers, sloppy sequences, miscommunication, and other variables. However, as each game progressed, the defense adjusted and was performing better as a unit.
Fans will have to be patient on finding the right combinations. The defense will be improving as the season progresses, and in later the season it should be one of the best in the league. Let the mistakes happen now so the prospects can learn and adapt.
Plenty of Penalties
A common theme last weekend was the high number of penalties taken. Let’s break down the penalty kills by game:
- October 15th vs Bridgeport – 5, Killed 5/5.
- October 16th vs Springfield – 7, Killed 5/7.
- October 17th vs Providence – 4, Killed 3/4 registered a short-handed goal.
Hartford has plenty of experience while short-handed. The group’s penalty kill rate is at 80%. While being aggressive on the play is good, the club has to ensure they do not take that many penalties. In fact, Hartford’s sole loss resulted from Springfield’s two power play goals (2-1 loss).
Offensive Pressure a Work in Progress
On the offensive aspect of the game, Hartford struggled producing shots on goal. In each game, the Wolf Pack started slow in the shots department, to eventually generating higher chances, especially in late Saturday’s and Sunday’s contest. Despite being out shot in each game, the club found a way to build on offense.
The Wolf Pack were able to score three goals in regulation without Morgan Barron and Gregg McKegg. Prior to Barron’s recall, the forward had goals on Friday and Saturday. The offense began to get confidence, especially in Sunday’s game when the club registered two goals in the second.
The short-handed goal by Jonny Brodzinski on the two on one was a beautiful snipe. Hartford had little offensive pressure last weekend and had to adjust. The offense had to shoot more, and they were able to produce with nice shots on goal.
This upcoming weekend will be another opportunity for the offense to push forward and generate chances and pressure. They have built confidence from Sunday’s contest.
- Jonny Brodzinski leads the club in scoring with four points (1G, 3A). He has points in three straight games including a two point game on Sunday.
- Lauri Pajuniemi recorded his first regular season goal with Hartford on Friday. He leads the team in shots with 10.
- Anthony Bitetto had a well rounded sequence from offense to defense. The veteran registered the first fight of the season on Hartford.
- Tarmo Reunanen debuted the season on Sunday against Providence. He was out of the lineup on Friday and Saturday.
- Jeff Taylor played in one game (vs Springfield).
- Zac Jones, Braden Schneider, Anthony Bittetto, and Matthew Robertson played in all three games.
Hartford Elects Captain
The Wolf Pack elected to select Jonny Brodzinski to become Hartford’s captain. Tim Gettinger and Anthony Bitetto were given the “A”.
Wolf Pack Announce First ECHL Recall of Season
In anticipation for the upcoming weekend, Hartford elected to call up forward Alex Whelan from Jacksonville.
The 24 year old recorded two goals and one assist in 10 games last season with the club.
Hartford will play two games this weekend before returning home the following weekend.
Friday, October 22nd vs Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh) at 7:05pm, Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza
- This is the first of six meeting in the season series. Hartford was 0-3 against the Penguins in the 2019-2020 season. However, the season series was unable to be completed as the season was cancelled.
- The Penguins are 1-1 last weekend. The club defeated the Phantoms 2-1 on Saturday, then dropped a 4-1 decision against Charlotte.
- The Penguins have a young roster similar to Hartford. Penguins prospect Valtteri Puustinen and Juuso Riikola leads the club in points (two). Puustinen is a right wing forward while Riikola is a defenseman.
- Listen – News Radio WILK (Penguins feed). Watch – AHLTV.
Saturday, October 23rd vs Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia) at 7:05pm, PPL Center
- This is the first of six meetings in the season series. The clubs did not meet last season. However in the 2019-2020 season, the club met five times. Hartford went 3-1-1.
- The Phantoms are winless through two games. The club lost 2-1 against the Penguins and Bears.
- Lehigh Valley’s Cam York leads the team in points with two. The defensive rookie prospect recorded two assists.
- Listen – Lehigh Valley Phantoms Radio Stream. Watch – AHLTV.