HILLMAN CAPS COMEBACK IN WOLF PACK’S PRESEASON OPENING VICTORYOct 6, 2022
HARTFORD, CT – The Hartford Wolf Pack opened the 2022 preseason with a rollercoaster victory. The club trailed both 3-0 and 4-3 before taking a late lead that they would not lose en route to a 5-4 victory over the Bridgeport Islanders.
Defenseman Blake Hillman, who signed an AHL contract with the club over the summer, broke a 4-4 tie at 15:40 of the third period with his first goal of the preseason. Hillman collected a loose puck in the high slot and wired a wrist shot by Henrik Tikkanen to give the Pack their first lead of the afternoon. The goal would stand as the game-winner in the club’s exhibition opener
The Islanders jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, scoring a trio of early powerplay goals to put the Wolf Pack in a hole. Daylan Kuefler opened the scoring 6:09 into the contest thanks to a redirection in the slot of a Jimmy Lambert shot. The deflection snuck through the five-hole of Wolf Pack starter Olof Lindbom.
The Islander powerplay struck again just 5:26 later to make it a 2-0 game. Vincent Sevigny fed William Dufour in the near faceoff circle in the Hartford zone. The 152nd overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft fired a one-time shot that cleanly beat Lindbom over the glove at 11:35 for his first goal of the preseason. Ruslan Iskhakov extended it to a 3-0 lead at 15:15, scoring a powerplay goal of his own.
The Wolf Pack battled back, finally getting on the board at 17:51 on a powerplay of their own. Austin Rueschhoff gained the zone and sent a centering pass to Lauri Pajuniemi, who fired a shot at the Islander goal. Ken Appleby made the initial save, but Patrick Khodorenko found the rebound and jammed it home for his first goal of the preseason.
Tim Theocharidis, in camp on a PTO, made it a 3-2 game 1:11 later. The puck took a favorable bounce off the end wall and popped right to Theocharidis, who collected possession behind the net and fired a shot off of Appleby and into the net at the 19:02 mark.
Alex Whelan, who ended the 2021-22 season on a hot streak, scored at 2:47 of the second period to even the scoring at 3-3. Rookie forward Ryder Korczak collected the puck at the side of the net, then sent a pass over a sliding Appleby to Whelan. Whelan had a wide-open net in which to deposit his first of the preseason.
The Islanders regained the lead with their first five-on-five goal of the game at 9:03 of the period. Jimmy Lambert took possession in the Hartford zone after a turnover, turning that into a partial breakaway where he beat Lindbom for his second point of the afternoon.
The Wolf Pack made an expected goaltending change at the 9:03 mark of the second period, as Dylan Garand came in for Lindbom. Henrik Tikkanen, meanwhile, took over in the Islander net at the start of the third period.
The Wolf Pack again fought back to get the game even, scoring their second powerplay marker of the affair 3:30 into the final stanza. Louka Henault fed Lauri Pajuniemi at the top of the far faceoff circle in the Islander zone. The second-year Finnish forward blasted a one-timer by Tikkanen for his first of the preseason to make it a 4-4 game.
Hillman would cap the comeback with his goal at 14:50, giving the Wolf Pack a 5-4 edge.
The Wolf Pack conclude the 2022 preseason tomorrow, October 7th, at 6:00 p.m. when they play host to the Islanders. The game will be played on the campus of Trinity College at the Koeppel Community Sports Center, located at 175 New Britain Avenue, Hartford, CT. Doors open at 5:15 p.m. The game is open to the public and is a non-ticketed event. A $5 charitable donation is encouraged.
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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.