Kicking off 2015 on their home ice Friday night, the Hartford Wolf Pack (18-11-2-2) came on to play the St. John’s Ice Caps (12-16-5-1). As usual with the XL Center packed, a beaming Wolf Pack were ready to play their hearts out and start their New Year off on the right skate. The New Year shows some adversity however, as it was just confirmed that goalie Cedric Desjardins has torn his ACL and will be out for, at least, the remainder of the season. Left wing Justin Viave, another strong player for the team, also remains out of play coming into 2015. However, despite the outage the Wolf Pack has signed a new goalie, journeyman Yann Danis to a “PTO” – or professional try-out. Danis is no rookie to the game, the 33-year old has seen his fair share of NHL action and is entering his 11th year of professional play. Not a bad addition for the Pack, bringing in a veteran goalie with 53 NHL games under is belt is a smart move.
The first period, the Wolf Pack appeared rather sloppy. Which raises the question, yet again-will the team be able to get it together fully? Though they seemed rather lively during warm ups, entering the first it seemed that they’d become almost lifeless, that they were playing in slow motion. Even the fans seemed relatively silent, which is a surprise because normally they’re full of life, cheering and screaming. The team seemed to play rather carelessly; at 2:08 we see an early power play for the Ice Caps, followed by a number of preventable turnovers on the Pack’s part. It wasn’t until 10:26 that the Wolf Pack finally grabbed their first power play, a penalty on #27, Will O’Neill an Ice Caps defenseman. Needless to say, if you have been following the struggles of the Wolf Pack closely, they were unable to capitalize on the power play.
The first period seemed to drag on, more unnecessary penalties called on Hartford. At 13:22 Joey Crabb is called for holding, there seemed to be a lot of unintentional falling, as if the boys couldn’t skate properly. At 14:36 St. John’s racked up their first point, a perfectly executed power play, capitalized by #24 Scott Kosmachuk. Perhaps this goal woke the Pack up, there seemed to be a tremendous amount of pushing and shoving in front of the Ice Caps’ net. The game began to gain traction as the physicality increased with a couple of fights breaking out toward the end. Despite the Wolf Pack getting a last minute power play at 18:18, the Pack was unable to capitalize ending the period 1-0, Ice Caps.
The second period started off no differently, with a sluggish Wolf Pack taking unnecessary penalties. The Wolf Pack losing composure, gave up another goal to the Ice Caps, though it was noted that this was one that rookie goalie Mackenzie Skapski could not avoid. The 2-0 lead for St. John’s caused more tension for Hartford, with 1:14 left another fight erupted, momentarily stalling the game and resulting in multiple penalties, the Wolf Pack seemed a bit hopeless.
Alas! Surprise with 5.1 seconds left in the second period Hartford finally got one in the net. A beautiful quick goal by defenseman Tommy Hughes assisted maybe even better by Chris Bourque and Marek Hrivik. Could the Wolf Pack make a come back in the third though? Or was this a short-lived surge for the reeling team?
Incredibly, the third period transformed the once lifeless Wolf Pack into a powerhouse. At 2:53 an incredible goal taken from behind the goal by Chad Nehring to tie the game up, sometimes it’s better to be lucky then good. Despite the remarkable comeback, Hartford continued to waste the power plays that followed the goal.
Taking the lead, Conor Allen assisted by Danny Kristo fired in a shot. The Pack was taking it up a notch, a major turn around from the dull first period and slightly better second. The Wolf Pack kept the momentum up until the last seconds of the game with a final goal by Michael Kostka on an empty net from the other side of the rink – a remarkable shot.
“It was a slow start,” says Allen, “ We definitely want to have a better first period tomorrow” The Wolf Pack will be playing the Ice Caps again tomorrow, Saturday night.
Will they once again triumph? “We started so slow, and we took so many penalties that we shouldn’t have” said Nehring. “We’ve really got to just throw the shot on the net. Put it on (net), and good things will happen.”
These are comments that players have made over and over again this during the season, but has it really gotten to them, that they need to step it up? Coach Ken Gernander said, as he has before “We’ve got to get that power play cranking. We need to just put it on net and let it pay off.”
So what will happen tomorrow night for the teams? Such a sudden loss, it has to be assumed that St. John’s won’t let Hartford completely override their efforts; they’ll definitely be coming to play.
*Scratches Hartford: Cedrick Desjardins, Yann Danis, Ryan Potulny, Justin Vaive, Nick Tarnasky
*Scratches St. Johns: Keaton Ellerby, Brendon Kichton, Brandon MacLean, Ben Walker, Ralfs Freibergs, Patrick Holland
3 Stars of the Game
1. Conor Allen- Hartford
2. Chris Bourque- Hartford
3. Chad Nehring- Hartford