While all American Hockey League teams deal with the loss of their top players throughout the season due to National Hockey League call-ups, the Hartford Wolf Pack have dealt with losing two of their leading scorers and their starting goaltender and haven’t missed a beat in the standings.
Through 10 games, the ‘Pack are 7-2-0-1, good enough for first in the Northeast Division and tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference with the Manchester Monarchs, a team they’ve already beaten this season.
“I just think we have a pretty close group,” Andrew Yogan told BlueshirtsUnited.com. “We gelled pretty fast. I think when that happens, the team starts to work for each other and not individually and that really helps you win games.”
Yogan, who made his debut with the organization during the 20101-11 season, said the team’s chemistry has been building for several years, as the team’s core continues to mature and grow together.
“We all have been going through the same thing,” said Yogan, who has a goal and three assists this season. “We all started our careers at the same time. We’ve always been close, the main guys who have been here.”
This season, the Wolf Pack have lost forwards J.T. Miller — who was the team’s leading scorer when he was recalled last month — Chris Kreider, Brandon Mashinter and goaltender Cam Talbot, yet they’re still rolling.
“It’s part of the business,” Yogan said, adding that when that does happen, it opens up opportunities for others. “Guys get called up. You can only control what you can down here. Guys have been doing their jobs and it’s been working for us. You can’t dwell on the guys you’ve lost to the Rangers.”
One of the players that has been given an opportunity was goaltender Scott Stajcer, who was recalled to Hartford from the East Coast Hockey League — though he had been rehabbing an injury in Hartford since the offseason. Since he recent promotion, Stajcer has appeared in two games and picked up his first win in the AHL.
“It was exciting,” Stajcer said of being recalled. “I’ve always wanted to be here. To be part of the team again is a nice feeling.”
It’s been a strenuous couple of seasons for Stajcer, who was drafted by New York in the fifth round in 2009, as he’s battled injuries, most recently on his hip. The 22-year-old is finally back to 100 percent.
“It’s been a tough couple years for me with injuries,” Stajcer said. “Now that I’m 100 percent I’m just really looking forward to playing and playing well.” He made 20 saves in a 4-3 win over Hershey on Oct. 26 for his first win.
While more faces will depart and others arrive this season for Hartford, Yogan said the team has to just stick to what they’ve had success with.
“Stick to our game plan and keep improving as a team and as individuals,” Yogan said, and added that the players push each other to be the best they can be.
“That kind of just spreads throughout the team,” he added. “If we stick to our game plan I think we’re going to have a pretty good year here.”