Hartford, CT- After a rough five game losing streak the Hartford Wolf Pack (9-7-2-0) finally broke the streak. What started last Friday night with a huge loss against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at home (5-2- Bridgeport), followed by a rough week, ended once again back home with the Sound Tigers this Friday night. After the drawn out slump the Wolf Pack clearly were ready to get serious and defeat the team that had thrown them into their spiral. Ultimate redemption. The XL Center was packed, the crowd was buzzing. You could hear fans talking, some making bets on if tonight would be the night and others shaking their heads expressing doubt. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (10-5-1-1) are a very good team, aggressive and skillful; they know how to make the connections between stick, puck and goal, perfect execution, no space for errors. No wonder there was such a mixed attitude, the out come of the game could go either way- in the end it just came back to who wanted the win more, Hartford or Bridgeport.
It only took 58 seconds from the puck hitting the ice in the first period for a fight to break out between #8 defenseman Dylan Mcllrath (Hartford) and #3 defenseman Andrey Pedan (Bridgeport), and if you ask anyone in the crowd that fight certainly set the tone for the entire game. The Wolf Pack were not going down without a fight this time. Most of the first period went back and forth between the two teams. Goalie Mackenzie Skapski had a few key saves in the period to keep the game knotted up. Skapski has really been impressive as of late. You would never know he was a rookie. Nothing phases the kid and he’s really proving he can hold in own in the league, at only 20 years old, he’s literally forcing Coach to give him more playing time with his talent. Despite the back and forth play, Bridgeport came out of the period with the lead in shots on goal, 11-5, a problem that has plagued the Wolf Pack and has attributed greatly to the losing streak. However, there was still no score, and Hartford was still in it.
The second period brought more physical play with another fight breaking out, this time #4 Conor Allen defenseman for Hartford against #7 Scooter Vaughan, right wing for Bridgeport. At 8:25 the Tigers pounded one in on Skapski- this couldn’t be blamed on him, his defense did little to help him out, and the play lined up perfectly for the Sound Tigers.
Following a penalty on Bridgeport’s Chris Langkow at 17:15 for hooking, the Wolf Pack were able to capitalize with a power play goal at 17:32 to tie up the game at one. Scoring the goal was Chris Bourque, his seventh of the season, with an assist from Danny Kristo and Conor Allen.
Hartford really began to take control in the second period, with more shots on goal than Bridgeport. Going into the third Hartford continued to be in control, but even with their dominance and determination, it wasn’t enough. Both teams were pushing for the win, it was clear that neither of them were going to let a goal get by. Still tied at the end of the period, we headed into overtime.
Again starting dominant, the Wolf Pack was constantly firing shots at the goal; no one could quite capitalize on it though. With 5:33 left in OT #28 Hartford defender, Michael Kostka, had a big opportunity to score yet he couldn’t burry it. At 2:00 left we dropped to 3 on 3, high tension and wide-open hockey, Hartford took advantage- out shooting Bridgeport. With one minute left in overtime, #2 Mat Bodie of Hartford finally managed to put one in the net, slipping it past Bridgeport goalie Kevin Poulin. With the help of Miller, Borque, and the goaltending of young Mackenzie Skapski, the Wolf Pack finally broke their losing streak
The team was obviously all smiles coming off the ice. The locker room was booming, music playing, a cheerful atmosphere. Coach Grenander had a lot of positive comments about his players, “I prefer the 3 on 3 over a shoot out,” he said, “The guys remained calm and poised though in such an intense situation.”
Bodie commented also that they “didn’t hit the panic button” and just stuck to the plan. Grenander, along with teammates, also attributed the cool collectiveness in OT to their young goalie. Everyone made sure in their post-game interview to express his trust and confidence with Skapski, many referring to him as a true star.
Up next the Hartford Wolf Pack hits the road to face the Albany Devils (7-6-1-3) on Wednesday before returning home to the XL Center on Friday to once again take the Sound Tigers.