Hartford CT – A warm welcome tonight for the Hartford Wolf Pack; who, after being forced out of their home arena last week by the circus, finally returned to the XL Center to play Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Hershey Bears. A win would end the series, giving Hartford the advancement, while a loss would send both teams back to Hershey for a final Game 7 meeting Sunday to determine the series winner.
The Wolf Pack dominated the Bears tonight with a 6-3 victory; allowing the team to move forward to the Conference finals, the first time the franchise has advanced this far since 2004.
Things started off well for the Bears. Scoring early, courtesy of Andre Burakovsky (HER) who fired a snap shot over goalie Yann Danis’ (HFD) glove at 1:24, it might have been assumed that the quick goal would be setting the tone of the night. However, later in the period, Chris Bourque managed to take the puck down into the Bears’ zone and dumped it into the left corner for Marek Hrivik to quickly tap in at 9:02. “I got the monkey off my back, that’s for sure,” said Hrivik of his play tonight. “Obviously I’m glad we won the game. That was a great team effort and I think it was a well-deserved win.”
Hrivik, who has remained scoreless for the past twelve games, led the way tonight and finished up the game with a hat trick. “[Hrivik] has been one of our better players in this series,” commented head coach Ken Gernander. “He’s been very good distributing the puck, defensively, winning face-offs. He’s done so many things. I think the offense, or the goals I guess, is just a matter of time, and it’s good to see him rewarded in a big way.” Hrivik’s second goal came in the second frame at 1:26, after a wraparound that managed to slip between Bears’ goalie Philipp Grubauer’s pads and into the net.
The Pack’s 2-1 lead wouldn’t last long though. Shortly after Hrivik’s goal, the Wolf Pack earned a power play however, Dustin Gazley (HER) took a clean pass from Kris Newbury (HER), which he promptly fired over Danis’ glove tying the game at 5:39.
Like most meetings between the Wolf Pack and Bears, the game quickly turned into a tug-of-war for the win. Hartford regained their lead again at 9:00, when Michael Kostka rebounded his own shot, slipping the puck into the far post. “We don’t want to have to come from behind, but we know that if we stick with it we’ll get our chances,” coach Ken Gernander said. “As of late, we’ve been paying them off.” A few minutes later, Joey Crabb sent one past Grubauer again after being set up by a one-time pass from Oscar Lindberg.
The score held out for the most part. Until 12:44 of the third period when Nate Schmidt carried the puck down behind the slot. This, subsequently lessen the score gap. Hartford responded immediately with Carl Klingburg (HFD) came in sharp with a wrist to increase the deficit to the 5-3.
Finally, to seal the win, Hrivik took the empty netter with 35 seconds left to go in the final game of the series. Hrivik’s empty netter secured both his hat rick and the Wolf Pack win.
Next, the Wolf Pack hits the road to Manchester, New Hampshire for the conference finals. Hartford’s next opponent, the Manchester, Monarchs, led the AHL in points during the regular season. “We know they’re a skilled team,” Lindberg said of the Monarchs. “I think we just have to keep playing the way we’re playing and don’t try to change things too much. We know they’re a good team, but we’re a pretty good team right now too.”
1. Marek Hrivik
2. Oscar Lindberg
3. Chris Bourque
Shots: 37-26 Hartford