HARTFORD, CT- Returning to their home ice tonight, the Hartford Wolf Pack (30-18-5-3) were back to play the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (31-18-2-4). Last weekend, the Pack suffered a pretty tough loss against the Penguins, however a week can change a lot. Tonight the Wolf Pack were looking for redemption, especially with the arena being packed amid a special night to honor the 1980 Men’s Olympic hockey team.
Yann Danis took the net for the Pack, as rookie goalie Mackenzie Skapski continues his NHL stint with the Rangers. Oscar Lindberg who also was brought up to the Rangers for a cup of coffee, came back to the team this weekend. It was a rather clean and quiet first period for the teams, with the exception of a brief fight between Chad Nehring and Bobby Farnham half way through the period.
The second period started with an early goal for the Penguins, coming from Reid McNeill at 1:54. The Wolf Pack responded, coming back and keeping the puck in the Penguins’ zone. After gaining a power play, Hartford’s Chris Mueller scored to tie up the game at 5:53. As the period progressed, the pace seemed to pick up. Even though the Pack remained strong through the period, the Penguins were certainly prepared for battle. Closing the second period, the Penguins put another one in the net with just a few seconds left, to end the second with a 2-1.
A bad turnover in front of the net early on in the third almost led to another Penguins goal, but Danis was able to block the shot. The Pack seemed to be losing composure as the period continued, as Dylan McIlrath found himself in two different scraps. The Wolf Pack managed to pull it together with 8:43 left in the game when Mueller came to the rescue with a second goal. The response of the tying goal proved to be testy, Lindberg, a player who is normally pretty calm, changed his tone and found himself in a bit of a pushing and shoving match with just 6:34 left in the game. Both teams were not going to let the game get away, with the score still tied up at the buzzer, the game headed into overtime.
Putting up a fight, the Wolf Pack seemed to still be a little flustered from the third. With 4:33 left in overtime, the Penguins’ Andrew Ebbet caught a breakaway off a bad turnover, and capitalized, scoring the game-winning goal.
“This is what you expect this time of year. Hard, physical hockey,” coach Ken Gernander said after the game. “We were on the offensive side of things and we had the big turnover, and they finished.”
Games are getting tenser for the Wolf Pack, especially against teams like the Penguins whose records are so closely aligned to their own. Every team wants to make the playoffs, the upcoming games are going to be important in deciding who makes it and who doesn’t. The Wolf Pack will be back home at the XL Center Saturday, March 7th to play the Hershey Bears.
1. Chris Mueller (HFD)
2. Andrew Ebbet (WBS)
3. Dylan McIlrath (HFD)