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Hartford Wolf Pack

AHL Game Recap/Analysis

Hats Fly in Hartford Comeback Over Phantoms

#AHL | For the @WolfPackAHL and @LVPhantoms, Sunday was a great day to wear number 17, with both Gustav Rydahl and Garrett Wilson netting a hat trick. But who lifted Hartford to victory? @FPHBears has the recap. 

Hats Fly in Hartford Comeback Over Phantoms

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – In the vast landscape of teams looking to make their mark in the Atlantic Division, the Hartford Wolf Pack and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are teams in need of points. The two teams met up at PPL Center on Sunday, capping off a busy weekend.

Though, if you turned the game off going into the third period with the Phantoms up by two goals, you’d be surprised to learn that the Wolf Pack exploded offensively with five goals in the final 20 minutes on their way to a 6-4 win highlighted by a pair of hat tricks coming from unlikely sources. It’s safe to say most of those who entered the building with headgear on departed without it. Pat Nagle took the loss in goal for the Phantoms with 26 saves, while Louis Domingue earned the win with 22 saves.

It was a back-and-forth affair before a crowd of 7,732. Hartford opened the scoring midway through the first period as Gustav Rydahl struck first, potting a rebound of a Ty Emberson shot after Nagle attempted to clear the puck himself around the boards. Wilson would get in on the action in the second period as the Phantoms forced Domingue into a turnover behind the net, and Wilson crashed the net and dove headfirst toward the goal to jam in the loose puck.

The Phantoms had a great second period. Another player in orange and black to have a big game was Elliot Desnoyers as he drove to the net on the power play and took a feed from Ronnie Attard for his 18th goal of the year. Desnoyers factored in on all four goals for Lehigh Valley in this game, with one goal and three assists, and if it weren’t for the final score, he’d surely have landed one of the three stars. After tallying a gritty goal for his first one, Wilson followed it up in the back half of the period with a top shelf backhand shot, beating the poke-check from Domingue. After two periods, Lehigh Valley led 3-1, seemingly fully in command of the game.

If there’s one source of frustration for the Phantoms, it’s their penalty kill, which currently ranks at the bottom of the American Hockey League. Their struggles continued as Will Cuylle scored from the same spot as Desnoyers on a slick feed from behind the net by Ryan Carpenter. Those two players have done a lot of damage for the Wolf Pack this season and scored early to cut the deficit to just one goal.

It seemed like the most fun in the final stanza was reserved exclusively for players wearing the number 17: Rydahl and Lehigh Valley’s Garrett Wilson. Both Wilson and Rydahl stole the show to complete their respective hat tricks. Wilson drove to the net, and a puck battle behind the net was won by Desnoyers and Bobby Brink to feed him with a short-side shot by Domingue. This sent the home crowd into a frenzy and re-established a two-goal lead once again.

However, Rydahl and the Wolf Pack didn’t seem phased by the goal, as he jammed a loose puck through Nagle’s pads less than three minutes later. He capped off the hat trick not long afterward off a centering feed from Tanner Fritz to even it all up at four. Fritz tallied three assists in a big night of production as the top scorers from both sides factored in.

With under five minutes to play, though, there was still an opportunity for a hero to arise, and it was fitting that an unusual player would step up to the plate. Libor Hajek crept in from the point on a mad scramble that saw the puck put on a tee for him to bury for his first goal of the season after splitting time with the New York Rangers earlier, skating in just his fourth game for Hartford. The goal came with two minutes to play, and the Pack potted an empty-net goal to seal a massive comeback win.

The win gives Hartford two more points to keep pace with the Bridgeport Islanders, who won their third straight game over Wilkes-Barre on Sunday. Hartford is just one point behind Bridgeport for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. The two points lost by Lehigh Valley prevents them from gaining more separation from the rest of the pack.

Lehigh Valley plays one of those teams when they visit the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Wednesday, while Hartford plays in Springfield the same day.

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