Feb 3, 2024

HARTFORD, CT – The Hartford Wolf Pack and Springfield Thunderbirds played a wildly entertaining edition of the ‘I-91 Rivalry’ on Saturday night at the XL Center in Hartford. The Wolf Pack stormed back from a 3-0 hole to tie the game 3-3, but the T-Birds would pull away with three unanswered goals of their own to take a 6-3 decision in front of 8,670 fans.  

Zach Dean would get the game-winner for Springfield, deking his way to the front of the net before beating Dylan Garand on the backhand to put the T-Birds up 4-3 at 13:47 of the second period. The goal was Dean’s first since December 22nd and countered a three-goal stretch from the Wolf Pack.

The Pack came out with good energy, testing Malcolm Subban early on. Matt Rempe was denied on a wraparound try that almost gave Hartford a quick lead. Later on in the shift, Rempe went off for boarding, giving the T-Birds the first powerplay of the contest.

Hartford was able to get the kill, but mere seconds after the powerplay expired, Hugh McGing hit Jakub Vrana with a pass at the top of the right-wing circle. Vrana blasted a one-timer by Garand for his seventh goal of the season to make it 1-0 T-Birds at 9:05.

Springfield added a second goal just under two minutes later, as Ryan Suzuki intercepted a cross-ice pass before beating Garand under the glove on a breakaway to make it 2-0 Thunderbirds. Suzuki’s fourth of the year came at 10:59.

The Thunderbirds continued to press, eventually extending the lead to 3-0. Mikhail Abramov hit Vrana with a stretch pass that sent the forward in on a breakaway. Vrana snapped his second goal of the night and eighth of the season by Garand at 13:59, completing a stretch of three goals in 4:54.

Late in the first period, Jake Leschyshyn caught a puck that was flying over the T-Birds’ net, quickly wrapping it around the cage. Subban denied both Leschyshyn and Adam Sýkora’s bids before a crease-crashing Alex Belzile finished the job to put Hartford on the board at 17:04, making it a 3-1 game heading to the intermission.

The Pack was shot out of a cannon in the middle stanza, taking just 55 seconds to cut Springfield’s lead in half. A pinching Brandon Scanlin knocked home a setup feed from Ryder Korczak to make it a 3-2 game. The goal was Scanlin’s seventh of the season, continuing a career year for the defenseman.

It took under two minutes for Hartford to tie the game up, as Korczak fired a shot that Subban could not corral. Rempe crashed the net and potted the rebound at 2:46, making it 3-3.

Dean’s go-ahead goal to make it 4-3 came after a stalemate, in which both sides began to register equal scoring opportunities. The Pack came inches away from taking the lead just moments before. Artem Anisimov’s cross-ice feed to Matthew Robertson was blocked by a Thunderbirds’ defenseman who made a brilliant defensive play with his stick.

The Thunderbirds picked up the insurance marker 7:54 into the third period, as their captain extended the lead. Matthew Peca’s shot was denied by Garand, but the rebound popped into the air, hanging for a moment. When the puck finally dropped down, it found its way to the back of the net to make it 5-3.

Will Bitten iced it with an empty netter at 18:08, a goal that made it 6-3. McGing notched his third assist of the night on the play, giving him a season-high three points.

Wolf Pack hockey returns on Friday, February 9th for the 2,000th game in franchise history against the Bridgeport Islanders! Be sure to join us for $2 beers and $2 hot dogs until the end of the first intermission.

Tickets are available at 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.  

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