ALEX BELZILE’S TWO THIRD PERIOD GOALS NOT ENOUGH AS ISLANDERS EDGE WOLF PACK 5-4Dec 22, 2023
HARTFORD, CT – The Hartford Wolf Pack welcomed the Bridgeport Islanders to the XL Center for the latest installment of the “Battle of Connecticut” on Friday night. The Islanders opened the game with four unanswered goals before holding off a furious comeback bid from the Wolf Pack in a 5-4 victory.
It was Cole Bardreau’s third goal of the season that proved to be the game-winning tally at the 12:42 mark of the third period. Bardreau tucked a rebound by Louis Domingue just moments after a Hartford powerplay expired. Jeff Kubiak had the lone helper on Bardreau’s tally, his first game-winning goal of the season.
An early penalty from the Pack saw Bridgeport jump on the powerplay just over two minutes into the game. The Isles made quick work of their man advantage as William Dufour raced down the left-wing wall before cutting to the middle and beating Domingue on the far side, making it 1-0 Bridgeport at 3:16.
The teams exchanged chances in the ensuing minutes before Hartford would find themselves on the kill again. The Islanders put together another strong powerplay, generating shots in quick succession before Otto Koivula fired a puck from behind the net that caught a piece of Ruslan Iskhakov, pinballing past Domingue to put Bridgeport up 2-0 at 9:35.
A scrum after the whistle led to four-on-four hockey midway through the period. It would be Dufour taking advantage of the open ice, burying his own rebound for his second of the night after getting alone in front of Domingue, building the Islanders’ lead to 3-0 at 12:50.
Bridgeport got to work quickly in the middle stanza, striking at 1:18 as Koivula netted his fifth goal of the season to jump the lead to 4-0. Robin Salo recorded his second assist of the night on the play, as his shot was tipped by Koivula.
The Wolf Pack strung together some strong shifts following the Koivula tally, led by some close chances from Bobby Trivigno and Matt Rempe. Hartford was able to capitalize off of this shift in momentum, as Matthew Robertson found a streaking Brandon Scanlin in the left-wing circle. Scanlin one-timed the puck by Ken Appleby to make it a 4-1 game at 5:54.
Robertson had a strong second period, threading the needle with a point shot minutes later to beat Appleby for his first goal of the year, making it 4-2 Isles. The goal, scored at 7:26, was Robertson’s second point of the night (1 g, 1 a).
History was made six seconds into the third period, as Alex Belzile netted a cross-ice feed from Brennan Othmann to cut Bridgeport’s advantage to 4-3. The goal set a franchise record for the quickest goal to begin a period.
A quick rush broke out off the draw, as Belzile crashed to the back post to bury his tenth marker of the season.
The goals by both Robertson and Belzile came on the powerplay, while Belzile’s goal was his tenth of the season.
An opportunity to even the score arose after Tanner Fritz went off for cross-checking at 10:21 of the third. The Isles’ penalty killing unit stood tall, and a rush was sprung shortly after the powerplay expired that led to Bardreau’s insurance marker that would stand as the game-winning goal.
Belzile gave Hartford some life at 16:39 after roofing a puck that ricocheted to the front of the net for his eleventh of the season and team-leading 26th point, making it 5-4. That would be as close as the Wolf Pack would get, however, as Appleby slammed the door shut from there to preserve the Islanders’ win.
The victory for the Islanders snapped a six-game winning streak for the Wolf Pack in the head-to-head series and ended Hartford’s nine-game home point streak (6-0-3-0).
The Wolf Pack hit the road in five nights to take on the Springfield Thunderbirds. The puck drop is slated for 7:00 p.m., with coverage on AHLTV and Mixlr starting at 6:45 p.m.
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ABOUT THE HARTFORD WOLF PACK: The Hartford Wolf Pack has been a premier franchise in the American Hockey League since the team’s inception in 1997. The Wolf Pack are the top player-development affiliate of the NHL's New York Rangers and play at the XL Center. The Wolf Pack has been home to some of the Rangers newest faces including Igor Shesterkin, Filip Chytil, and Ryan Lindgren. Follow the Wolf Pack on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.