Mar 17, 2023

HARTFORD, CT – The Hartford Wolf Pack continued their chase toward the Calder Cup Playoffs on Friday night, welcoming the Springfield Thunderbirds to town for the first of three meetings between the two teams at the XL Center this month. The Wolf Pack took a 2-0 lead into the third period, but a four-goal performance from Springfield delivered a stunning 4-2 decision for the T-Birds.

Martin Frk potted the eventual game-winner for the Thunderbirds, their third straight goal in the four-goal stretch. Wyatt Kalynuk was sent to the penalty box at 13:14 of the third period, giving Springfield a late powerplay opportunity. Frk took a shot from the slot, but his shot went high. Matthew Peca sent the puck back to Scott Perunovich, who fed Frk near the top of the offensive zone. Frk blasted a one-timer that found the back of the Hartford net, giving Springfield their first lead of the game at 14:39, one they would not give up.

Anton Blidh quickly snapped the Wolf Pack’s skid of six scoreless periods against the Thunderbirds in the opening stanza. Lauri Pajuniemi had a breakaway opportunity, but Vadim Zherenko made a kick save to prevent the icebreaker. Blidh collected the rebound and went bar down over Zherenko, putting the Pack on top just over the four and a half minute mark. Blidh’s goal was his third since joining the Wolf Pack on March 3rd.

Will Cuylle stretched the lead to two just over a minute later. Ty Emberson took a shot from the blue line into a chaotic scramble in front of the net. The puck was tipped by Jake Leschyshyn and finally by Cuylle before finding its way into the Springfield net. The tally was Cuylle’s 21st goal and 37th point of the campaign, both good for the team lead.

Leschyshyn’s helper on the goal was his seventh point in eight games with the Wolf Pack this season. Leschyshyn has tallied two goals and five assists since being assigned to Hartford by the New York Rangers on February 26th.

The netminders kept the second period scoreless. Zherenko stopped eleven Wolf Pack shots, while Dylan Garand denied twelve Thunderbirds bids. Garand made an impressive save at 6:41, denying Mikhail Abramov on a wraparound opportunity to keep the Thunderbirds off the board and send the game into the final period with the Wolf Pack leading by two.

The Pack’s lead would soon be erased, however, as Will Bitten drew the Thunderbirds even with a pair of goals in a five-minute stretch in the final stanza. Bitten put Springfield on the board at 6:21, when he backhanded an Abramov pass over the glove of Garand.

Bitten scored again at 11:41, drawing the teams even. Hugh McGing stripped the puck from Matthew Robertson behind the Hartford net and fed Bitten, who walked to the right side and slid the puck under Garand’s glove.

Frk lit the lamp at 14:39 of the final period, putting the game out of reach for good.

Bitten would cap off a hat trick, scoring on the empty Hartford net at 18:47.

The Wolf Pack hit the road for a pivotal installment of the ‘Battle of Connecticut’ against the Bridgeport Islanders tomorrow. The puck drop is set for 7:00 pm. The Pack return to the XL Center on Friday, March 24th, for a rematch with the Thunderbirds. Join us for Pucks ‘N Paws and College Night! The puck drop is set for 7:00 pm. 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.  

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