Apr 19, 2023

SPRINGFIELD, MA – The Hartford Wolf Pack played their first Calder Cup Playoff game since 2015 on Wednesday night, travelling to Springfield to take on the rival Thunderbirds. Defenseman Ty Emberson and forward Tanner Fritz both scored three points, pacing the Hartford offense in a 6-1 Game One victory over the Thunderbirds.

Zac Jones potted his first career Calder Cup Playoff goal 6:02 into the middle stanza, fresh out of the penalty box. Freed from an interference minor, Jones took a pass from Will Lockwood and sprinted into the Thunderbirds zone on a breakaway. Jones went backhand to forehand, deking Joel Hofer out of the net and stuffing home the eventual game-winning goal. Emberson also picked up an assist on the tally, his second point in a three-point outing.

Hartford opened the scoring just 3:37 into the game, as Lauri Pajuniemi fired home his first career Calder Cup Playoff goal. Tanner Fritz sent a pass across the ice to Pajuniemi in the right wing circle, where the second year forward collected the puck. Pajuniemi quickly fired a shot that beat Hofer, giving the Pack a lead they never lost.

Jones extended the lead 6:02 into the second period, sprung in on a breakaway after being freed from the penalty box. Just over two minutes later, at 8:37, Pajuniemi was whistled for a hooking minor, giving the Thunderbirds another powerplay opportunity. Once again, the Wolf Pack got a kill, and once again, they got a breakaway immediately after.

Anton Blidh fired a pass to Pajuniemi, who burst in on a breakaway and lasered a shot by Hofer to make it 3-0 at 10:43.

Hartford didn’t stop there, making it 4-0 in the final ten seconds of the stanza. Bobby Trivigno corralled a loose puck behind the Springfield net and sent a backdoor pass to Blake Hillman. Hillman sent a shot to the net that trickled across the goal line despite a terrific effort from Hofer. The goal was Hillman’s first career Calder Cup Playoff goal and first goal as a member of the Wolf Pack.

The Wolf Pack made it 5-0 3:42 into the final frame, as Will Cuylle sent a centering pass to Ryan Carpenter in the slot. Carpenter rifled a shot that cleanly beat Hofer, essentially putting the game away.

The Thunderbirds finally broke Dylan Garand’s shutout bid at 11:44, as Adam Gaudette blasted a one-timer home on the fourth powerplay of the night for the home side. The powerplay goal snapped a streak of 29 successful kills for the Wolf Pack, dating back to March 26th.

With the Thunderbirds pressing to add on some offense late, Emberson fired a full ice shot into the empty net at 18:38 to cement the victory and give him his first career Calder Cup Playoff goal.

Garand made 24 saves in the victory, his first career Calder Cup Playoff victory in his playoff debut. Fritz ended the night with three assists, while Emberson also scored three points (1 g, 2 a).

The Pack is back at the XL Center for Calder Cup Playoff hockey for the first time since 2015 this Friday night for Game Two against the Thunderbirds. The puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. For Calder Cup Playoff tickets 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 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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