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Hartford Wolf Pack

Wolf Pack, T-Birds Trade Goals in Wild Game

#AHL | The @WolfPackAHL and @ThunderbirdsAHL tested the lights on the scoreboard at XL Center Friday night, trading multiple goal leads in a high-scoring game. @FPHBears has the breakdown of the contest.

Photo Courtesy: Hartford Wolf Pack

Wolf Pack, T-Birds Trade Goals in Wild Game

HARTFORD, Conn. – It’s safe to say that the crowd of 6,351 that came out to XL Center in Hartford got their money’s worth Friday night. The Hartford Wolf Pack and the Springfield Thunderbirds traded a lot of goals and each saw multiple-goal leads crumble. Ultimately, Will Cuylle’s hat trick goal inside of the final minute of regulation broke a 5-5 deadlock and lifted the Wolf Pack to a 6-5 decision, keeping their playoff hopes alive. Vadim Zherenko took the loss in goal for the Thunderbirds with 31 saves, while Louis Domingue earned the win with 23 stops.

If ever there were a game that defined a see-saw contest in the American Hockey League, this game would be presented as exhibit A, with the Wolf Pack scoring the game’s first two goals in the opening stanza. Lauri Pajuniemi buried a rebound of a Turner Elson shot just over two minutes into the game for his 18th goal of the season. Cuylle would get in on the act with his first goal of the game before the opening stanza was half over, jamming a puck that Zherenko couldn’t corral over the line to get the Wolf Pack up by a pair.

After a fairly tame start, the game took a turn in the Thunderbirds’ favor after yet another slow start, something that’s been a trend for them of late. Springfield hasn’t scored a first period goal in their last four games and have had to battle back from deficits in three of those games as a result.

Martin Frk and his 109 MPH slap shot, would use his underrated wrist shot from the top of the right circle to cut into the lead just past the 3:30 mark of the period, while on a power play. The Thunderbirds evened up the game later on with Greg Printz’s sixth of the season, and seized the lead with Adam Gaudette’s 23rd of the year on the power play to pull the Uno reverse card on their hosts.

We mentioned the power play a couple of times already, and there was a hefty emphasis on special teams work in this game, particularly in particular in the third period.

The T-Birds made short work of a carry-over power play, when Matthew Peca beat Domingue over the blocker to make it 4-2 just 20 ticks into the period. Just 38 seconds later, the goal onslaught continued when Will Bitten lit the lamp off a two-on-one rush for his 19th of the year, capping a stretch of five straight goals for the Thunderbirds.

Seemed insurmountable, right?


Hartford cut into the lead when Ryan Carpenter put a centering feed from below the goal line on the tape of Cuylle to pull to within two goals. With four minutes to play in regulation, the Wolf Pack cycled the puck around and eventually found Jonny Brodzinski all alone, to pull to within one. Hartford came back to tie it just under a minute later by winning a puck battle along the boards in the offensive zone, finding Tanner Fritz all alone for the tying goal.

There would be no overtime on this evening, as the comeback would be completed with just seconds remaining on the regulation clock. Brodzinski threw the puck to the net and Cuylle won a net-front scramble to send the home fans in a frenzy and hats littering the ice with his third goal of the evening.

The common thread of the frame for Hartford saw all four goals come on the power play, four-for-nine overall for the Wolf Pack, making the Thunderbirds pay each of the three times they took a minor penalty inside of the final five minutes of the game. The teams combined for seven power play markers in a furious game between two Atlantic Division rivals.

Hartford’s comeback was crucial for the Wolf Pack to keep pace with the Bridgeport Islanders, who scored a win over the Belleville Senators on Friday. Hartford sits three points back of the sixth and final playoff spot in the Atlantic while simultaneously extending their lead on eighth place Wilkes-Barre to five.

On the other side, Springfield misses out on a big chance to cut down on the five-point gap between them and the Charlotte Checkers for third place while staying just three points above idle Lehigh Valley for fourth. The two teams will play again this evening, and if last night’s game is any indication, it will be must-see hockey action.

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