Hartford, CT – The playoffs- it’s been on the top of every team, and every player’s mind; the topic of conversation in each interview and arguably the focus of most game recaps and news articles. Finally, the playoffs have officially arrived. 16 teams currently are in the running for the coveted Calder Cup- but of course, only one will succeed in earning the championship title.
Hartford’s XL Center was booming tonight; and why shouldn’t it have been? Game one, and the Hartford Wolf Pack faced off against the Providence Bruins. The Wolf Pack and Bruins haven’t met each other in a playoff series since 2007, and considering Providence is just about a hop, skip and a jump from Hartford – this series is sure to be a fire-y one. Not to mention, the last time the two teams met at the end of March in their regular season game, the Wolf Pack won in a landslide 5-0 victory.
It didn’t take long for the Wolf Pack to put one up on the board. Hartford’s Steve Spinell shot a hard slap from the point, left wing Tyler Brown got the tip to get the puck past Providence goalie, Jeremy Smith. An excellent start for the Wolf Pack, but things started to get a little rocky as Chris Bourque (HFD) was called for holding, which subsequently resulted in a power play for the Bruins at 6:19.
The first period was back and forth; both teams were playing hard and putting up a great fight. Ryan Haggerty (HFD) came close to another great scoring opportunity for the Wolf Pack, but Smith quickly saved the shot. Despite the numerous penalties and being outshot 12-5 by the Bruins, the Wolf Pack ended the first period with a 1-0 lead.
Another quick goal for the Wolf Pack to get the second period going; this time the score came from right winger, Danny Kristo on an assist from Chris Mueller at 3:19. With the 2-0 lead in favor of the Wolf Pack, the Bruins began to fight back; succeeding with a power play goal at 8:34 by Zach Trotman. The second period closed with the Wolf Pack still ahead, 2-1.
Providence gained a power play to start the third period, coming in early at 1:16 after Marek Hrivik was called for tripping. With the game so close, both teams were really getting their heads in the game; the Wolf Pack especially was trying to maintain their lead. C. Bourque exhibited some really smart play, getting a penalty for tripping in order to prevent a breakaway.
Hartford managed to hold down the fort for the remainder of the third. Carl Klingberg (HFD) scored the empty netter at 19:56 to make the official end score 3-1 Wolf Pack.
“There’s a lot of young guys who haven’t experienced the playoffs yet, so it’s good to get the nerves out now,” said Mueller after the game. He went on to say, “We got a lot of young guys and a lot of old guys. Hopefully us old guys can lead by example.” The Wolf Pack definitely have a lot of rookies on their roster for the playoffs. Goalie Mackenzie Skapski, who is still out due to injury, is still just 20-years-old and recent addition to the team Brady Skjei just turned 21-years-old a few weeks ago.
Hopefully both Skapski and Skjei take advantage of this opportunity. “Not many guys get the chance at a championship at this level,” Hartford’s veteran defender Michael Kosta said. Kosta has experienced quite a few playoff situations, including one with Tampa Bay Lightening last year. Although he’s been fortunate with his experiences, he definitely understands that a lot of his fellow teammates haven’t felt this type of pressure before.
As of now the Hartford Wolf Pack are leading the Providence Bruins 1-0 in the first game in the best of five series. Game two will be hosted once again by the Wolf Pack at the Hartford XL Center this Saturday night with the puck dropping at 7PM.
1. Yann Danis
2. Danny Kristo
3. Tyler Brown