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2023 Calder Cup Playoffs

AHL Atlantic Division Round 1 Preview: Springfield Thunderbirds vs. Hartford Wolf Pack

AHL Atlantic Division Round 1 Preview: Springfield Thunderbirds vs. Hartford Wolf Pack

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – It would be considered an unlikely match-up if discussed in December or January. Still, the Springfield Thunderbirds and the Hartford Wolf Pack are set to face off in the first round of the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs with a chance to move on to the Atlantic Division semifinals. Both teams occupied the basement of the division at times throughout the season. Still, late surges with bolstered lineups moved the needle toward the playoffs and into intense competition in the last week of the regular season. Now, the two close rivals will battle it out in a best-of-three series that sees Hartford return to the dance for the first time in nearly a decade.

Final Regular Season Records:

Springfield Thunderbirds: 38-26-3-5, 84 points, 4th Atlantic.

Hartford Wolf Pack: 35-26-5-7, 81 points, 5th Atlantic.

Series Schedule:

Game 1: Hartford at SPRINGFIELD, Wednesday, April 19 at 7:05 p.m. EST

Game 2: Springfield at HARTFORD, Friday, April 21 at 7:00 p.m. EST

Game 3 (if necessary): Hartford at SPRINGFIELD, Saturday, April 22 at 7:05 p.m. EST

Season Series Recap:

Springfield owns a 9-2-0-1 record over 12 total games against Hartford this season. The strong record extends over a long stretch of the regular season, with the most recent match-up happening on April 15 in Hartford’s final game of the season. Interestingly, the meeting before that was also a Springfield win, a 4-0 decision back on March 25. Hartford went on a run of eight consecutive wins prior to that final game, where the Thunderbirds ultimately ended the Wolf Pack’s winning streak. Hartford took a 6-5 decision the day before on March 24.

How Springfield wins:

Simply put, the Thunderbirds need to continue playing Springfield Thunderbirds hockey to win this series. No matter how strong Hartford has been in the last couple of months, no one has known them better than their closest rival. Joel Hofer could be the biggest difference-maker in the series, as he’s posted three shutouts in his last three starts against the Wolf Pack and made 27 or more saves in each of those efforts, far from a quiet night for one of the league’s top netminders. The Thunderbirds boast one of the league’s top scorers in Martin Frk and Matthew Highmore, two skaters to hit the 60-point mark this season. Springfield has been hot for the last three months, and their continued success against Hartford includes four total shutouts in the 12-game series. With their affiliate, the St. Louis Blues, missing the postseason, Springfield benefits from roster stability.

How Hartford wins:

The Wolf Pack have unequivocally been one of the league’s hottest teams recently, surging from the bottom of the Atlantic Division’s standings and as far as fifth place, not getting help to move as far as third place. Ever since their roster was stabilized by their National Hockey League affiliate, the New York Rangers, players like Jonny Brodzinski (who was recalled to the Rangers recently), Tim Gettinger, Ryan Carpenter, and Tanner Fritz represent just the tip of the iceberg of Hartford’s surge in the standings. It remains to be seen if the Wolf Pack will have Louis Domingue in goal for the playoffs, as he was recalled to the Rangers over the weekend; otherwise, Dylan Garand will get the start. Domingue has been the better of the two netminders, but the Wolf Pack will have to prove they can potentially live without two of their stars. Their depth, which has been so strong, will need to power their success in this series.

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