TWO MINUTES FOR THOUGHTS: MAY 25TH, 2023May 25, 2023
It’s always the worst time of year when the ice comes out and the season ends. Unfortunately for the Hartford Wolf Pack, that was the reality on May 17th. The club dropped a 3-1 decision in Game 3 of the Atlantic Division Finals to the Hershey Bears, ending their season. With the win, the Bears swept the series and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they are currently facing the Rochester Americans.
It was a tough ending to a magical season in Hartford. It’s never easy to see something special end abruptly. That said, there is a lot to be proud of this season for the Wolf Pack. The club achieved a lot and took steps in the direction towards the goal of winning the Calder Cup.
We said it on our broadcast as we wrapped up Game 3 - 31 teams in the AHL will end their seasons without a championship. Only one team can hoist the Cup in June. It won’t be the Wolf Pack this season, but that doesn’t mean this season wasn’t a success.
For the final time this season, we’re onto the blog!
1.) Let’s start by congratulating you, the fans. Hartford is a hockey town. I know that. You know that. The rest of the AHL needed to be reminded of that, and you certainly did that this season. Over 16 times this season, there were over 5,000 tickets were sold for a game. 15 times, the lower bowl of the XL Center was sold out. Remember, the lower bowl of the XL Center is bigger than the entire capacity of some of the other buildings in the league.
Not only that, but your support made the 2022-23 season the highest-attended regular season since the 2006-07 campaign. That’s over 15 years. That’s impressive.
During my stops on the road this season calling games, I had numerous other broadcasters and front-office personnel come up to me and rave about the atmosphere in Hartford this season. Wolf Pack players noticed it too. I’ll never forget my elevator ride with Lauri Pajuniemi in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before the game on March 26th. He raved about the recent crowds and wondered just how electric it would be to play in front of that crowd in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Take a bow, Wolf Pack fans. You showed up in a big way this season. You’re a huge part of why the 2022-23 season was such a success.
2.) There was on-ice success for the Wolf Pack this season as well. Hartford made the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2015, snapping the longest active drought in the league. The club also won two playoff rounds, advancing to the Atlantic Division Finals. They were the first two playoff series victories since Hartford’s march to the Conference Finals in 2015.
On top of that, the Pack also saw a number of individual achievements on the ice this past season. Will Cuylle led the team in goals as a rookie with 25 and made his NHL debut with the Rangers in his hometown of Toronto. Tanner Fritz, meanwhile, set new career highs in both assists (33) and points (43). He also skated in his 300th career AHL game on February 4th against the Penguins.
Jonny Brodzinski was named the AHL’s ‘Player of the Month’ for the month of March after scoring 20 points (11 g, 9 a) in just eleven games. It was the first time a Wolf Pack player was named the league’s ‘Player of the Month’ since Corey Locke received the honor for his performance in November of 2009.
3.) How about some record-setting performances? The Wolf Pack saw plenty of those on both a team and individual scale this season. On the team side, the Wolf Pack tied the franchise record for assists in a game with 18 on March 4th in their 9-0 victory over the Bridgeport Islanders. That game also featured the second most points in a game in franchise history (27, 9 g, 18 a). The 9-0 victory tied the largest margin of victory in franchise history at nine goals, tied with the club’s 10-1 victory against the Springfield Falcons on March 29th, 2008.
Tim Gettinger nabbed the fastest goal to start a game in franchise history just eight seconds into an 8-2 victory over the Penguins on February 4th. Nigel Dawes held the previous record, scoring nine seconds into a game.
4.) On an individual level, there were a few performances that tied or set club records. Brodzinski’s and Gettinger’s +5 performances on February 4th were tied for the best +/- in a single game in franchise history. They joined Matt Kinch, Bryce Lampman, and Dwight Helminen in accomplishing the feat.
Fritz (February 19th, third period), Gettinger (March 4th, second period), and Brodzinski (March 24th, third period) all tied the club record for assists in a single period of a game this season. All three recorded three assists in a single period once during the season. No Wolf Pack player had done that since Kris Newbury on April 5th, 2013.
Brodzinski also tied the club record for points in a period with four (1 g, 3 a) in the third period of Hartford’s wild 6-5 comeback victory over the Springfield Thunderbirds on March 24th. For the record, that was the craziest game I’ve ever been on the mic for.
5.) Next up for the Wolf Pack and the parent New York Rangers? The NHL Entry Draft and the start of free agency. For the first time since 2019, we’ll be working on a normal off-season schedule. That means the draft goes in late June, and free agency returns to an opening of 12:00 p.m. Eastern on July 1st.
The NHL Entry Draft is set to take place in Nashville on June 28th (first round) and 29th (rounds 2-7). The Rangers will select 23rd overall.
As for free agency, as mentioned above, it will open on Saturday, July 1st, at 12:00 p.m. A number of Wolf Pack players are up for free agency and could be wearing new jerseys come October. As always, especially at the AHL level, change is coming to the roster. Be sure to stay tuned to Wolf Pack social media, as we’ll be dropping our player tracker for the 2023 off-season soon. That’ll be your number-one stop to keep up with who is coming and going when the frenzy begins.
6.) Lastly, I want to say thank you. Thank you for allowing me to come into your living room, car radio, computer speaker, or wherever you watched and listened from all season long. It was my absolute pleasure to bring you all 72 Wolf Pack regular season games and all nine playoff games. I enjoyed this season more than any year I’ve ever worked in broadcasting.
Your support and acceptance mean a lot, and I thank you all for making me feel part of this Wolf Pack community. Enjoy your summer, the good weather, and the company of family and friends. I know I will. We’ll all miss hockey, but remember, when the summer air turns into a crisp fall breeze, Wolf Pack hockey will be right around the corner waiting for you. I can’t wait to tell the story to you all again next year.
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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.