Hartford, CT- Wednesday night the Wolf Pack (8-5-2-0) were home again, ready to kick off a brand new week with their first game against the Syracuse Crunch (8-4-3-0). The Pack had some high hopes after a three-game skid and they wanted to turn their losing streak around.
Hartford’s XL Center was filled with an enthusiastic air despite the smaller crowd. Fans were elated and hopeful – time for redemption, everyone thought. But was it?
Taking the ice for the first time after a short hiatus, Cedric Desjardins took the goal. Excited and determined, he seemed ready to take on a fight. He was ready to really prove himself this time around. Suddenly, that hopeful exuberance ended. Center Mike Angelidis scored 16 seconds into the first period. Despite the quick goal, the Wolf Pack battled back, tying the game quickly at just 43 seconds into the first period by defenseman Michael Kostka. The game was heating up with two goals in the first minute; both the crowd and the players could feel that this would be a tough one. Later in the period at 6:01, Justin Vaive scored a controversial goal resulting in quite a long review. Eventually the goal was officially called and the Pack were leading 2-1. Following a Wolf Pack penalty, the Crunch went on the power play, scoring to tie the game up at 6:34 with a goal scored by left wing Yanni Gourde.
The Crunch scored again at 10:40 of the first to take a 3-2 lead off another goal from Mike Angelidis. There was a lot of early scoring in this with 5 goals in 12 minutes.
The Crunch built up their lead to 4-2 off of another goal scored by Gourde at 16:01.
It was here that Coach Ken Gernander had seen enough. He pulled Desjardins in favor of the young Mackenzie Skapski, who held his own in his relief appearance.
The first period was simply unacceptable. The turnovers that led to goals and sloppy play left Gernander very unhappy and he let everyone know it.
With the Crunch holding a steady lead, the Wolf Pack took the ice with the intentions for redemption. The boys really kicked it up physically, at 5:06 the gloves were dropped by Dylan Mcllrath of the Wolf Pack and Luke Witkowski. This fight ignited the crowd that was once losing hope in their beloved team. Following the fight, Hartford scored 2 goals to tie the game. One goal came at 8:06 by defenseman Conor Allen, followed by another at 19:20 by center JT Miller. Miller scored off of a rebound.
Finishing up the second period tied, 4-4, tensions ran high for both the Wolf Pack and Crunch as they made their way into the third.
Skapski seemed to have shut things down heading into the third period. That changed with a tie-breaking goal scored by Phillippe Paradis of the Crunch. This gave Syracuse the 5-4 lead just four minutes into the final period.
Blood boiling and tensions running higher than ever, Hartford fought hard and strong- attempting to tie it up and score at all costs. At 15:56, as the game was coming to a close, Hartford received one final chance. A power play, courtesy of an Angelidis delay of game. Hartford couldn’t quite make the connection, though. Ultimately the missed opportunity lead to another lost game as the Crunch went on to win by a final score of 5-4.
The team seemed to react positively to their fourth loss in a row. In a post game interview, Conor Allen commented that “[he] was happy to see the team really bounce back a little bit.”
Coach Gernander had kinder words for the ailing team this time around, a big change from Sunday’s harsh criticism. “Turnovers,” he said after the game, “they’re our biggest problem right now.” This seems to be true. It is apparent that the majority of the Crunch’s goals were due to turnovers. Gernander had other complaints about his team.
“Body placement,” he said. “Body placement, especially on small plays are a big issue for the team. It’s definitely something we’ll be working on.”
The Hartford Wolf Pack will be on the road this Friday to take on the Providence Bruins (8-6-1-0) at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I.
The boys will return back home to the Hartford XL Center on Saturday night to face the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, whom the Wolf Pack dropped two games to in the past week.
– Shots on Goal Hartford 20 Syracuse 24
– Attendance 1,782
– Hartford’s 4th straight loss