The Hartford Wolf Pack’s strong start to the 2013-14 season continued last weekend with a home-and-home sweep of the Adirondack Phantoms. Hartford remains undefeated in regulation at 3-0-1.
On Friday, the ‘Pack trailed the Phantoms 3-1 in the second period before two straight goals by Dylan McIlrath and J.T. Miller, with the second coming early in the third. Adirondack regained the lead before Danny Kristo sent the game to OT with his second goal of the season at 15:24 of the third on the power play.
Overtime didn’t solve anything, but Hartford was successful in the shootout and walked away with the 5-4 win after Kristo and Miller each scored in the competition.
The following night the scene shifted to Adirondack, where once again the Wolf Pack found themselves trailing. After Miller opened the scoring in the first period, the Phantoms scored two straight. Tommy Hughes tied the game early in the second period and Brodie Dupont scored the game-winner with just over two minutes to play for the 3-2 win.
“We’re happy with the four points,” Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander told BlueshirtsUnited.com this week. “I think Friday night we were a little fortuitous with our scoring … but we had a decent effort in net by [Cam Talbot] and when we did get chances, we were able to convert and cash in for goals. It was a pretty good weekend for our team.”
While teams — and coaches — would prefer to lead in games, the Wolf Pack must be pleased with their ability to come back in games after trailing.
“We’ve come from behind in every game this year,” Gernander said. “Each game we’ve been trailing at some point in time. You want to give them top marks for perseverance … but we’d like to see if we can play with a lead once here.”
Through four games, Kristo leads Hartford with five points, which is tied for fourth in the AHL and most by any rookie.
“The coaches have been giving me a good opportunity to play on the top line” and power play,” Kristo told BlueshirtsUnited. He’s been skating on a line with Chris Kreider and Oscar Lindberg. “When your linemates are clicking and having good chemistry on the power play, it helps the team.”
Gernander said Kristo mixes his skill with a willingness to go into the dirty areas on the ice, though there is still work to be done with the 23-year-old.
“He’s got a great release. It’s a shot that’s a little bit difficult to pick up off the blade. He’s able to disguise it,” the head coach said, before adding that Kristo must limit the turnovers. “We want to try and squeeze that out of his game” and “enhance his play away from the puck.”
Gernander has attributed the strong start to the balance in his lineup and timely scoring from players who are not known for that part of the game.
“It’s been nice that we’ve had some secondary scoring” from players like McIlrath, Dupont and Darroll Powe. “Those are big goals by players that isn’t necessarily their calling card.”
This weekend, the Wolf Pack take on the Manchester Monarchs at home before skating against the Portland Pirates on the road. Manchester enters the contest 3-0-1, tied with Hartford for first place in the Eastern Conference, making them a good early test for the Wolf Pack.
“They haven’t had a home game yet and they’re still undefeated,” Gernander said of Manchester. “A large majority of their players from last season are back. We’re going to need to generate more offense than we did last weekend.”
Kristo said the team must continue to do what’s brought them success through the season’s first two weeks.
“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing," Kristo said. "Keeping it simple and when you have the opportunity to make some plays, make some plays.”