Apr 21, 2023

HARTFORD, CT – For the first time since 2015, playoff hockey returned to the XL Center, as the Hartford Wolf Pack hosted the rival Springfield Thunderbirds in Game Two of the First Round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Seven different players scored as the Pack routed Springfield 7-1, completing the sweep, and advancing to the Atlantic Division Semifinals series.

Wyatt Kalynuk potted the eventual game-winner for the Wolf Pack 10:48 into the game. Anton Blidh forced a turnover behind the Springfield net and found Tanner Fritz in the left-wing circle. Fritz quickly snapped the puck to Kalynuk at the blue line, setting up the chance. Kalynuk stepped into a shot and blasted a howitzer through traffic that Joel Hofer never saw. The goal was Kalynuk’s first as a member of the Wolf Pack, his first career playoff goal, and his first career game-winning goal.

Additionally, the assists by Fritz and Blidh were their second points of eventual three-point nights for the duo. Fritz tallied six points (1 g, 5 a) in the two-game series, the most for either team.

Fritz’s first point was the icebreaker 8:03 into the first period. Blidh entered the offensive zone and sent a pass to Lauri Pajuniemi in the slot. Pajuniemi found Fritz powering towards the goal, and the veteran forward beat Hofer by the glove to give the Wolf Pack a lead they would not lose. The tally was Fritz’s first career playoff goal.

Kalynuk potted the eventual game-winner at 10:48, but the Wolf Pack were far from done.

Ty Emberson tallied his second goal in as many games just over two minutes later. Fritz held the puck just beyond the left circle and fired a cross-ice pass to an open Emberson. Emberson walked in before ripping a wrist shot through the five-hole of Hofer to put the Pack up by three.

The Thunderbirds got on the board in the final minute of the opening stanza. Kalynuk was sent to the box for hooking, initiating the first powerplay of the game. Nikita Alexandrov attempted to jam the puck into the Hartford net, but Dylan Garand denied the attempt. The puck bounced to Will Bitten, who fired a shot that deflected off the pad of Garand and into the net, putting the Thunderbirds on the board. The goal would be the only blemish on Garand’s record, as the rookie netminder denied 19 of the 20 Thunderbirds shots.

Hartford continued to pour it on in the middle stanza. Brady Lyle was sent to the box for tripping at 2:18, giving the Wolf Pack their first and only powerplay opportunity of the night. Turner Elson powered into the offensive zone and found Bobby Trivigno in the slot. Trivigno promptly lit the lamp with a shot by the glove of Hofer to extend the Hartford lead back to three. The tally was Trivigno’s first playoff goal.

Blake Hillman followed up, scoring his second goal in as many games at 6:30 of the second period. An extended sequence in the Springfield zone ended with Zac Jones corralling the puck along the left wall. Jones snapped a pass to a wide-open Hillman, who walked in and uncorked a shot from the right circle that Hofer had no chance of stopping. Hillman, who did not have a goal during the regular season, has now scored in both of Hartford’s playoff contests.

The Wolf Pack tacked on a pair of empty net goals in the final stanza. Blidh put Hartford up by five at 13:34. The Wolf Pack were forced to play four-on-six hockey, with Jones in the box for delay of game and the extra attacker on in favor of Hofer. Blake Hillman controlled the puck along the back wall and rimmed it around the boards to clear. A footrace for the loose puck ensued between Blidh and Scott Perunovich. Blidh tripped, got back up, and managed to redirect the puck into the empty net. The goal was Blidh’s third point of the night. It was the first time Hartford had managed to hit the empty net while being short-handed this season.

Tim Gettinger capped off the scoring with another empty net goal at 15:02. It was the first playoff goal and point for Gettinger, the longest-tenured member of the Wolf Pack who has played 237 games in Hartford. Five minutes later, Hartford completed the sweep and advanced to the Atlantic Division Semifinals.

The Wolf Pack will face the Providence Bruins in the Atlantic Division Semifinals of the Calder Cup Playoffs. The series begins at the Amica Mutual Pavilion in Providence on Friday, April 28th. The puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m.

The Pack return to the XL Center for Game Three of the best-of-five series on Wednesday, May 3rd. The puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. To get tickets, 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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