On Saturday night the Hartford Wolf Pack crushed the Hershey Bears by a score of 5-2. It was the team’s fourth straight win and their tenth straight game picking up at least one point. Yes, you read that right, the Wolf Pack are red hot.
Saturday’s game was also Brendan Smith’s first in Hartford and his first AHL contest since the 2012-13 season. But as it turned out the big storyline from Saturday’s victory wasn’t Smith (he had one shot on net, one minor penalty, and finished as a -1), it was Hartford finding success with a depleted and ever-changing roster. Saturday’s lineup was pretty exceptional.
Forwards: Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Adam Tambellini, Cole Schneider, Ryan Gropp, Scott Kosmachuk, Steven Fogarty, John Albert, Boo Nieves, Dawson Leedahl, Eric Selleck, Daniel Catenacci
Defensemen: Ryan Graves, Brendan Smith, Brandon Crawley, Hubert Labrie, Vince Pedrie, Ryan Sproul
Goaltenders: Brandon Halverson, Chris Nell
Clearly, the Wolf Pack’s roster has gone through quite a bit of chaos in recent weeks. On February 9 the Blueshirts dealt Adam Chapie and Joe Whitney to Washington for veterans John Albert and Hubert Labrie. Hartford also recently released defenseman Desmond Bergin from his PTO. But of course the biggest change for Hartford has been the absence of Tony DeAngelo, John Gilmour, Neal Pionk, Peter Holland, and Vinni Lettieri — all five skaters are skating with the Rangers due to injuries and Smith’s demotion.
“I thought they were excellent,” Hartford Wolf Pack head coach McCambridge said of Albert and Labrie after Saturday’s win. “I thought right away the players in that room, the players that have been here, made them feel like they were part of the team, and I thought the on-ice product for all the players was really strong. Nice additions, and real good job by Chris Drury.”
Oh, and did we forget to mention that Hartford’s starting goaltender Marek Mazanec is injured and that Alexandar Georgiev is playing with the Rangers? As a result Hartford’s goalies right now are Brandon Halverson and Chris Nell. Halverson’s start on Saturday was his first game for Hartford since April 14. Nell was recently called up from the ECHL after being demoted to the Adirondack Thunder on December 11. Wolf Pack general manager Chris Drury also recalled defenseman Sergei Zborovsky from the Greenville Swamp Rabbits to bolster a greatly depleted defense.
With deadline day looming, more changes are sure to come for the Rangers’ AHL affiliate. The Rangers roster isn’t the only one that is going to look different on February 27.
According to reliable source, Lias Andersson will be returning to Frolunda later this month.— Leslie Treff (@HFNYRangers) February 6, 2018
Hartford is currently two points behind the Charlotte Checkers for the final playoff spot in the AHL’s Atlantic Division. Thanks to Saturday’s win the Wolf Pack now have more points than they did in the 2016-17 season. McCambridge getting this team into the playoffs in his first season as head coach would be no small feat. It would also hold added significance because it would represent valuable AHL playoff experience for youngsters in the organization.
Whether or not the Wolf Pack can continue to excel without Georgiev and with a paper thin roster remains to be seen, but McCambridge deserves a lot of credit for his team’s recent success. He has had all kinds of curveballs thrown his way this season. The fact that the Wolf Pack might soon be playing in the 2018 Playoffs is nothing short of remarkable.