PRE-GAME REPORT: WOLF PACK AIM TO STAVE OFF ELIMINATION VS. BEARS IN GAME 3May 17, 2023
HARTFORD, CT – The Hartford Wolf Pack have their backs against the wall for the first time during the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs. Tonight, the Pack will look to keep their magical season alive as they try to stave off elimination against the Hershey Bears in Game Three of the 2023 Atlantic Division Finals.
Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. and coverage is available on both AHLTV and Mixlr.
Tale of The Tape:
The Wolf Pack and Bears met six times during the 2022-23 regular season, with the Bears taking four of the six meetings. Hershey ended the season series with a 4-2-0-0 record, while the Wolf Pack posted a mark of 2-3-0-1. The Bears won two of three meetings at the XL Center, going 2-1-0-0. They claimed a 2-1 victory on November 25th and a 1-0 shootout decision on November 26th.
Hartford won 4-2 on October 28th, their lone home-ice win in the season series. That victory was their first of the season.
The Bears won each of the final three regular-season meetings between the clubs and have since extended the winning streak to five games with victories in Games One and Two. In Game Two, the Bears put the Wolf Pack on the brink of elimination with a 4-2 triumph.
Mason Morelli opened the scoring 3:12 into the tilt, converting on the first powerplay attempt of the game. Will Cuylle drew Hartford even at 11:32, burying a centering pass for a powerplay goal of his own. The goal was Cuylle’s first career Calder Cup Playoff tally.
The draw would last just 72 seconds, however.
Beck Malenstyn sprung into the offensive zone and snapped a shot by Dylan Garand to give the Bears a lead they never lost. Mike Vecchione potted the eventual game-winning tally 8:48 into the middle stanza, making it 3-1 at the time. Hendrix Lapierre would then convert an odd-man rush at 13:14 of the third period, putting the Bears ahead 4-1 and cementing the 2-0 series lead.
Adam Clendening scored at 15:09 for Hartford, firing home his second goal of the postseason. It would not be enough to spark a rally, however.
Hartford’s last victory against Hershey came on November 20th by a score of 4-2 at the Giant Center.
Wolf Pack Outlook:
The Wolf Pack have dropped back-to-back games for the first time since a four-game losing streak (0-3-1-0) that spanned from March 5th through March 11th. After going 1-for-2 on Saturday in Game Two, the Wolf Pack powerplay is 3-for-6 in the Atlantic Division Finals. They had been 2-for-16 through five prior playoff games.
Cuylle’s powerplay goal in the first period of Game Two was the first goal of his Calder Cup Playoff career. He became the tenth Wolf Pack player to score his first career playoff goal this spring.
Tanner Fritz, who racked up two assists in Game Two, leads the club in playoff scoring with ten points (1 g, 9 a) through eight games. It was Fritz’s third multi-point game of the postseason. Lauri Pajuniemi, meanwhile, paces the club in goals with four.
The Bears finished second in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference with a record of 44-19-5-4 during the regular season. Their 97 points placed them fourth overall in the entire AHL during the 2022-23 regular season. The Bears received a First Round bye in the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs, then eliminated the Charlotte Checkers in four games (3-1) in the Atlantic Division Semifinals.
During the regular season, the Bears were the stingiest defensive team in the Eastern Conference, allowing just 184 goals. Only the Calgary Wranglers (174) allowed fewer goals in the entire league.
The eleven goals allowed by Hershey through six playoff games are tied for the fewest allowed by any team with a minimum of five games played. They are tied with the Texas Stars.
Aliaksei Protas (3 g, 4 a) and Sam Anas (2 g, 5 a) are tied for the team lead in points with seven each. Protas, Morelli, and Connor McMichael are all tied for the team lead in goals with three each through six games.
Play-by-play voice of the Wolf Pack Alex Thomas will have ‘Wolf Pack Pregame’ starting live at 6:45 p.m. on both AHLTV and Mixlr.
If the Wolf Pack win, Game Four will take place at the XL Center on Friday, May 19th, at 7:00 p.m. For playoff ticket information please visit www.hartfordwolfpack.com/tickets/playoff-information.
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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 is the top player-development affiliate of the NHL's New York Rangers and plays 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.