WOLF PACK CLINCH FIRST PLAYOFF BERTH SINCE 2015 WITH 5-3 VICTORY OVER BRUINSApr 8, 2023
PROVIDENCE, RI – The Hartford Wolf Pack are going back to the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2015. Coupled with an 8-2 victory by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins over the Bridgeport Islanders, Hartford’s 5-3 triumph in Providence over the Bruins pushed them back into the playoffs, snapping an eight-year drought.
Libor Hájek scored his second goal of the season 2:21 into the third period, extending Hartford’s lead to 4-2 at the time. Bobby Trivigno was sprung into the Providence zone but denied by Kyle Keyser on a partial breakaway. The rebound came to Turner Elson, but his shot hit the side of the net and came into the left-wing circle. There, Hájek stepped into a blast that beat Keyser for the eventual game-winning goal. It was Hájek’s second game-winner of the season.
The Wolf Pack opened the scoring just 2:42 into the game, with Elson potting his 14th of the season. Zac Jones darted into the left-wing circle and sent a backdoor pass to Elson, who easily beat Keyser for the icebreaker.
The Bruins responded with two goals of their own, however, turning the tide in the game. First, Josiah Didier fired a shot from the right-wing point that snuck through traffic and beat Dylan Garand for his third goal of the season at 6:31. Then, with the Bruins pressing, rookie Luke Toporowski put them ahead at 10:54. Toporowski snapped a shot over the glove of Garand for his 14th goal of the season, igniting the Amica Mutual Pavilion.
Hartford got to work in the offensive zone and found a response marker of their own at 16:46. After a hard-working shift in which Hartford forced a pair of turnovers, Elson found the puck at the top of the crease and beat Keyser for his second of the night and 15th of the season.
Tied 2-2 early in the second period, Hartford would regain the lead after a scramble in the Providence zone. Trivigno’s initial shot hit a leg and ended up behind the Bruin goal, where Tim Gettinger collected it. Gettinger’s wraparound attempt was denied, but the rebound came right to Ryan Carpenter. His shot snuck through Keyser at 6:03, giving the Wolf Pack a lead they never lost.
Hájek’s goal at 2:21 of the third period gave Hartford the needed insurance to push this win over the finish line, as Garand largely stood tall from there. Didier fired another shot through traffic at 8:33 to make it a 4-3 game, but Tanner Fritz potted an empty net goal at 19:34 to cement the two points. The goal, Fritz’s 10th of the season, gives him 43 points on the campaign. That’s a new career-high for the veteran forward.
The win clinches Hartford their first playoff berth since 2015, snapping the longest drought in the American Hockey League. The Wolf Pack currently sit in sixth in the Atlantic Division with 79 points, one back of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Springfield Thunderbirds, and Charlotte Checkers. All of those teams are tied for third place with 80 points.
The Wolf Pack return to the XL Center for the final regular season home game on Friday, April 14th, hosting the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Join us for Fan Appreciation Night featuring special guest Johnny Damon! The puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. 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.