PAJUNIEMI SCORES HAT TRICK AS WOLF PACK BLOW AWAY THUNDERBIRDS 5-1Feb 22, 2023
SPRINGFIELD, MA – The Hartford Wolf Pack picked up their third consecutive victory in convincing fashion on Wednesday night, taking a 5-1 decision in the ‘I-91 Rivalry’ over the Springfield Thunderbirds.
Lauri Pajuniemi took his turn in the spotlight, scoring the first hat trick of his AHL career. Pajuniemi’s first goal of the night, 8:12 into the second period, would stand as the eventual game-winner. Pajuniemi was hit coming into the Springfield zone, but quickly regained his balance and made his way into the slot area. Will Cuylle sent a pass to the edge of the right-wing faceoff circle that Pajuniemi collected and snapped home for his 12th goal of the season. The goal made it 2-0 at the time.
For the second visit to Springfield in a row, the Wolf Pack would strike first. Matthew Robertson lit the lamp 16:10 into the game, scoring his first goal since December 31st. After a miscommunication at the side of the Springfield goal, the puck ended up along the left-wing boards. Robertson stepped into a shot that found its way into the goal as Hofer raced back to the crease.
The Pack would take a 2-0 lead 8:12 into the middle stanza on Pajuniemi’s first of the night, but the Thunderbirds would respond 2:58 later with a powerplay marker. With Tanner Fritz in the box for holding, the third-ranked powerplay in the league took advantage. Martin Frk fired a shot from the point that Dylan Garand denied, but the rebound popped to Will Bitten who tucked home his 15th goal of the season at 11:10.
However, the goal was all the Thunderbirds could muster on this night as Garand turned in a terrific performance. The rookie netminder made 15 saves in the third period, including a few on high-danger chances. Garand stopped 30 shots on the night for his tenth win of the season.
Hartford responded to Springfield’s powerplay goal with a man-advantage marker of their own 2:31 after Bitten’s tally. Pajuniemi rifled home his second goal of the night and 13th of the season at 13:41. Robertson set Pajuniemi up in the left-wing faceoff circle, where he fired a one-timer that beat Hofer.
After scoring two consecutive multi-goal comebacks in the third period over the weekend, the Wolf Pack ensured the same wouldn’t happen to them tonight. Just 70 seconds into the final stanza, Cuylle deflected his team-leading 17th goal of the season by Hofer to make it a 4-1 game. Jonny Brodzinski fired the puck from the left-wing corner, and Cuylle got a piece to end the intrigue.
Pajuniemi polished off the hat trick, his first in North America and the third by a Wolf Pack player this season, as he hit the empty net at 17:12.
The Wolf Pack continue their longest road trip of the season on Saturday night when they visit the Syracuse Crunch. The puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. The Pack return to the XL Center on Sunday, March 5th, for a matinee matchup with the Charlotte Checkers. The puck drop is set for 3:00 pm. To get tickets, visit www.hartfordwolfpack.com.
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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.