Hartford, CT– “Especially at home, you have to use the home ice to your advantage.” #23 Justin Viave said Thursday night after a great game, and excellent win over the Albany Devils (11-9-1-4). It is true, no one likes to lose on their home ice, and lately the Wolf Pack (14-9-2-1) refuses to allow that to happen. Although a few weeks ago they had that long streak of losses, the past couple of games, the Wolf Pack has managed to step it up and finish their plays, capitalize their shots and score, finally.
Friday night back at home with the same mentality the Wolf Pack took the ice to face off against the Worcester Sharks (10-11-2-0). Friday nights bring in the biggest, rowdiest crowds to the Hartford XL Center and, tonight was no exception. Especially when there’s word of a new goalie coming in, Jeff Malcolm, for the Wolf Pack to fill in for Mackenzie Skapski who is still nursing an injury from last week.
The first period got off to a very defensive start; in fact the first 8 minutes were spent down in the Wolf Pack zone. With no regard for his body, defenseman Mat Bodie, #2, was blocking goals left and right, trying to fend off as many shots possible to give Jeff Malcolm a little back up on one of his season debut. Overall the first period up until this point was pretty quiet. No penalties, no goals, not much shoving- it appeared the teams were focused more on just taking it easy than becoming intense.
The Bourque Brothers, Chris (#17) and Ryan (#9) again were working hard as they did in the previous games. Trying to slam in as many shots possible to create that early lead. R. Bourque and Joey Crabb (#14) came close toward the middle of the period but failed to get it past Sharks goalie Troy Grosenick (#1). Grosenick, actually seemed to put up a pretty decent fight against the Bourque Brothers. Even when C. Bourque fired one of his hard shots at the goal, one that would generally pass the goaltender, Grosenick blocked it immediately with the glove save.
It wasn’t until the last 60 seconds of the period that Conor Allen (#4), managed to get the puck past Grosenick with the help of Michael Kostka (#28). Ending the first with a 1-0 lead Hartford, and both teams having an equal 12-12 shots on goal. It was an unusually quick first period, little commotion or penalties by the players. It appeared pretty easy on both of the teams, even the Sharks who were down 1-0 seemed to not be bothered.
The second period, is when things began to heat up. What Bob Crawford, Wolf Pack’s announcer described as “pond hockey play,” and certainly it was. Once the 9:43 mark hit, the game transformed from an easy going play to rapid fire back and forth goal frenzy. Worcester’s Danill Tarasov (#19), caught a deflection in front of Malcolm tying it up. But you know the saying, when it rains it pours? Oh it poured goals after Tarasov’s sneaking slap shot. A few seconds later, Sharks’ Adam Burish slammed another one past Grosenick. Stealing the lead from the Wolf Pack and making the score 2-1 Sharks.
That wouldn’t stop the Wolf Pack however, the team who once became discouraged by stolen leads decided not to fall back into their old ways. With a perfect set up by C. Bourque and a quick pass to the wide-open Michael Kostka, the Pack tied it right back up. Not sure what the Bourque Brothers, and Kostka have been eating but lately they’ve been really teaming up and playing some incredible hockey.
The credit can’t all be given to those three though; Marek Hrivik (#15) and Ryan Malone (#6) have also been making a phenomenal team. At 13:35 setting up an amazing play behind the net, that some would call Gretzky-like, the two assisted our power scorer C. Bourque to pound in one more goal to steal the lead, making it 3-2 Wolf Pack.
However, Sharks can be just as thirsty as Wolves, at 14:05 the Sharks’ Michael Haley (#18) tying up the game 3-3. Ending the period in the tie with Worcester leading the shots on goals 26-21.
Gliding into the third period, the Wolf Pack were not planning to have another overtime game, or another tight near-victory. They’d been playing wide-open hockey, and they knew it was time to lock it down. Between periods, Hartford’s Henrik Tallinder (#7) who currently is out right now due to a shoulder injury even had some kind words for his fellow teammates, “They’re a great group of guys,” he said, “Top notch, and always helpful and respectful on and off the ice.”
Perhaps the team took that as a tiny bit of motivation when coming out for the third period. At 0:36 Wolf Pack’s Ryan Haggerty (#39), unassisted pushed one in behind Grosenick to set the tone for the first period. Minutes later at 5:03, Crabb and Vaive managed to set up an awesome shot for Oscar Lindberg (#24), who pounded that one in making the score 5-3 Wolf Pack.
The Pack was able to maintain that lead through the end of the game, continuing their winning streak. Up next on the Wolf Pack’s schedule is a road game to face off against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (12-10-2-1), a team they struggled to conquer in the past. The Wolf Pack seems ready though, they seem extra confident this time around especially after getting back on their feet the past couple of games and really playing well. Although Coach Kevin Gernander did comment that “Danny Kristo and Mackenzie Skapski seem doubtful to play Sunday’s game” Which could present a big issue in terms of who to use as a goalie against the team that had once sent the Wolf Pack into a downward losing spiral. However young goalie Jeff Malcolm seems to be making a great impression, with Gernander commenting that “[he] made big saves and was an absolute gamer, playing some amazing hockey during practice and now in the game.”
Gernander wasn’t the only one to comment on the new goalie’s efforts, Chris Bourque also had some pretty nice things to say as well, making the comment that “[Malcolm] had shut the door on the goals in the final two periods,” a great compliment for someone to get on their first night taking the ice of the season.
However one thing seems to really be on the teams mind and that is the points. Everyone wants to make it to the top 8, Chris Bourque made a powerful quote about obtaining a spot in the 8. “We got to pile up wins, got to rack up the points now over the course of the season. We lost too much before, time to really bounce back full on.”
Will they though? Or will the Sound Tigers throw the team off again? Stay tuned for Sunday night’s game to see if the Pack can keep the winning streak alive.
*Scratches Hartford- Mackenzie Skapski, Henrik Tallinder, Shawn O’ Donnell, Ryan Potulny, Danny Kristo, Nick Tarnasky,
*Scratches Worcester- Taylor Doherty, Petter Emanuelsson
*Danny Kristo and Mackenzie Skapski remain day-to-day
*Shots on goal Worcester 38 – Hartford 28
*Michael Kosta was seeing the doctor post game and was unavailable for comment
3 Stars of the Game
1. Chris Bourque
2. Michael Kosta
3. Marek Hrivik