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Two Minutes for Thoughts: January 20th, 2022

January 20, 2022 - American Hockey League (AHL) - Hartford Wolf Pack News Release


What a complete whirlwind the last few weeks have been. The Hartford Wolf Pack have been extremely busy both on and off the ice, kicking off their 2022 slate of games and seeing the transactions come in by the handful. In case you missed it, the latest news came this morning as the club saw forwards Jonny Brodzinski and Tim Gettinger recalled to the taxi squad along with defenseman Zac Jones.

Tomorrow, the Pack will load the bus and head down to Hershey for a key back-to-back set of games on Saturday and Sunday that will have a big impact on the Atlantic Division race. Things are getting quite interesting as we barrel towards the midway mark of the season!

Stepping Up

It was nice to see the Wolf Pack roll out a nearly full roster on Wednesday night against the red-hot Toronto Marlies. The result, a 5-2 victory and back-to-back wins for the first time since November, was even better. The best part of the win? It was a total team effort. Yes, Brodzinski kicked off the scoring on a feed from Tim Gettinger and Keith Kinkaid was terrific in net, but this win was about more than the veterans doing their thing.

Austin Rueschhoff scored a pair of goals in the victory, while Alex Whelan tacked on the insurance marker in the third period. Patrick Khodorenko played arguably his best game of the season, while Matthew Robertson made consistently strong decisions in the defensive zone. For the second game in a row, the Wolf Pack were fully bought in and made life difficult for the opponent.

Players stepping up has been a theme since the return from the holiday break. Rueschhoff is just the most recent example, having scored in four consecutive games. During this stretch, Rueschhoff has scored six goals, been a force on the forecheck, and given the Wolf Pack depth scoring.

He's not alone, however. Justin Richards has three assists in his last two games and continues to play solid two-way hockey. Mike O'Leary has quietly found his offensive touch in January and tacked on another assist on Wednesday. Defensively, Anthony Bitetto is back in a groove and has four helpers in the last two games. Robertson, a rookie, has also looked comfortable as of late while playing a larger role.

As the Pack get back towards full strength, they appear to be a deeper and more well-rounded team than the one that was challenging for first place in October and November. Head coach Kris Knoblauch mentioned in our intermission interview on Wednesday how the opportunities that some players have gotten has helped their confidence and made the Pack a deeper group.

As the stretch drive approaches, and the games mean a little more as the weeks go by, these experiences will be key.

The Pipeline Is Strong

How great was it last Thursday night to watch the Rangers skate to a 3-0 victory in San Jose with several Wolf Pack players having an impact? Braden Schneider scored his first career professional goal in his NHL debut, while Anthony Greco made his emotional Ranger debut. Brodzinski, Gettinger, Morgan Barron and Greg McKegg were all in the lineup as well, while Knoblauch was behind the bench and collected his first win of the season at the NHL level.

The American Hockey League is all about development, and the Wolf Pack have thrived in this area all season long. Not only are Wolf Pack players finding themselves up with the big club, but in each instance they all look like they belong in the NHL. The coaching staff, led by Knoblauch and assisted by Casey Torres, Steve Smith, Jeff Malcolm, and countless others, have done a terrific job of preparing and developing players all season long.

The fact that eleven Wolf Pack players and one coach have gone up and helped the Rangers this season is remarkable. The fact that has happened AND the Pack is fighting for the Atlantic Division crown? It's a true testament to the hard work and dedication that management, the coaching staff, and the support staff have put in this season.

There's a long way to go, but the first three months of the season have been a huge success for the Wolf Pack.

This N' That

Stick taps to Greco, who scored his 200th career point in the AHL on Wednesday night! A true professional who has kept working hard, it was nice to see him rewarded with his Ranger debut last week. I'd argue he was one of the Rangers' best players in that game as well. He's already hit the milestone marks of 300 career AHL games and 200 points this season. Up next? 100 goals. Greco currently has 97. One would imagine it's only a matter of time until he hits that mark.

Yes, it's only January, but what a measuring stick opportunity for the Wolf Pack over the next ten days. The club will play two in Hershey on Saturday (7:00 p.m.) and Sunday (3:00 p.m.) before returning home on Wednesday to face the Springfield Thunderbirds. After that? It's a Friday night tilt with the Providence Bruins followed by a Saturday showdown against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, both at the XL Center.

Over the final five games of the month, the Pack will face the fourth place Bears, second place Thunderbirds, first place Bruins and the Phantoms, who are arguably the hottest team in the Atlantic over the last month and a half. These next five games will tell us quite a bit about the Atlantic Division race.

Want to be here for the action? Tickets for all Wolf Pack home games are available at www.hartfordwolfpack.com. We'll have $2 beers and $1 hot dogs next Friday when the Bruins are in town, followed by 'Star Wars Night' on the 29th against the Phantoms! Can't be here? I'll have you covered on AHLTV and Mixlr!


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