Nov 30, 2023

Thanksgiving has come and gone. The holiday lights are up and shining. That means we are set to enter the month of December, which is an exciting time for everyone. That’s the case in hockey too, where the first two months of the season have come and gone. Now, we have an idea about what each team is all about. We have an idea about which teams might just be contenders when the cold weather leaves us and the temperature both on and off the ice starts to heat up.

For the Hartford Wolf Pack, the start of the 2023-24 season has been about as good as could be hoped for. There’s a lot of track left to run, however, and a lot to unpack as we enter the season’s third month.

Onto the blog!

1.) Jonny Brodzinski, you are ridiculous. What a start to the season for the Wolf Pack captain, who leads the AHL in scoring with 25 points (11 g, 14 a) through 16 games as of this writing. Brodzinski was arguably the most impactful AHL forward during the stretch run last season and has picked up right where he left off this year.

I don’t think it is a stretch to suggest that Brodzinski is one of the best players in the AHL and is someone who should garner serious MVP consideration should he continue to produce, and the Wolf Pack continue to win hockey games.

Brodzinski has certainly earned his recall to the New York Rangers, which came on Tuesday morning. Best of luck to the captain during his current stint in New York!

2.)  With Brodzinski recalled and a few players dinged up, the Wolf Pack elected to recall two forwards from loan to the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones earlier today. They are Cristiano DiGiacinto and Matej Pekar. This is DiGiacinto’s third season with the Wolf Pack, so he’ll be a familiar face to the XL Center faithful. Pekar is in his first season with the organization and has yet to make his Wolf Pack debut.

In terms of numbers, DiGiacinto will wear his familiar number 96, while Pekar will wear the number 10.

3.) The sign of a good team? Finding different ways to win hockey games. During their current four-game winning streak, the Wolf Pack have found a different way to win each and every night. They largely dominated the entirety of their 5-2 victory over Syracuse Crunch on November 18th, controlling the play from wire to wire.

On November 22nd, the Wolf Pack “didn’t play up to their standards” in the first 40 minutes, according to Brennan Othmann. It didn’t matter, as the Wolf Pack buckled down, played a great third period, and found a way to win in the final minute of regulation.

4.) This past weekend, the Pack found two more ways to win. They got great goaltending from Louis Domingue on Friday night, as the veteran made a season-high 39 saves. They also got scoring from all over the lineup, as both Brett Berard and Matt Rempe tallied five-on-five goals in the third period. The Wolf Pack outscored the Springfield Thunderbirds 3-1 in the final frame to win the game 4-2.

5.) On Saturday night, the Wolf Pack firmly believed that they were the better team against the Belleville Senators. Timely, opportunistic scoring and strong goaltending kept the Senators ahead most of the game, however, and forced the Wolf Pack to pull Dylan Garand for the extra attacker. The Wolf Pack stuck to the process and tied the game late before winning it late in overtime.

Four wins in four different ways. That is the sign of a good hockey team that is fully bought into their process.

6.) Give a lot of credit to interim Head Coach Steve Smith. Smith took the reins on November 12th from Kris Knoblauch, who was hired by the Edmonton Oilers, and the team hasn’t missed a beat. Since Smith stepped behind the bench, the Wolf Pack are 5-1-1-0 in seven games.

Kudos to the entire coaching staff for all of the hard work they have put in to ensure this good start would not be derailed by a rare mid-season change behind the bench in the AHL.

7.) A lot of talk about Brodzinski, and rightfully so, but there are three other veterans performing quite well early this season. Alex Belzile is tied for tenth in scoring in the AHL with 18 points (7 g, 11 a) through 18 games in his first season with the club. Belzile, a former captain with Laval, has also taken on a leadership role with the team.

Nash, who was Saturday night’s overtime hero, has also been playing good hockey in his first year with the club. Nash collected a goal and an assist in each of Hartford’s wins over the weekend. He’s currently riding a season-high seven-game point streak (2 g, 7 a, 9 pts).

8.) Mac Hollowell returned from an upper-body injury on Wednesday night and turned in arguably his best game of the season. He said pregame that night that he felt, after just two weeks out of the lineup, that he should be able to just jump right back in and provide strong play.

That was an understatement.

Hollowell recorded a career-high four assists in the 6-4 victory over the Bruins. He then added another assist in the victory in Springfield on Friday night and ended his week with two helpers against the Senators. Oh, and his second assist came on the overtime winner.

What a terrific addition Hollowell has been to this club.

9.) There’s a first time for everything, and Saturday night was a first for the Wolf Pack. The club collected its first win at the XL Center in franchise history over the Belleville Senators. Previously, the Wolf Pack had been 0-2-2-1 in five visits from the Senators.

The win was Hartford’s first home victory over a Senators affiliate since February 26th, 2017. That night, the Wolf Pack defeated the Binghamton Senators by a final score of 3-1.

10.) That win over Belleville snapped the second lengthy drought against a North Division opponent this season. Back on November 18th, the Wolf Pack defeated the Syracuse Crunch by a score of 5-2. That victory was Hartford’s first win at home over Syracuse since a 2-1 shootout decision on December 16th, 2016. It was their first home regulation win over the Crunch since October 18th, 2015 (5-2 W).

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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.  

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