The Hartford Wolf Pack had struggled for most of the 2013-2014 American Hockey League season with the call-ups of Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Cam Talbot, and mid-season trades and early releases. The team had something of a discipline problem as well, practically leading the league in penalty minutes until the latter part of the season. They lacked a strong power play and had defensive struggles and were buried in the basement of the Eastern Conference at 15th place of 15 teams until David LeNeveu stepped up in the number one goalie slot and gave the team a much needed shot in the arm.
The Wolf Pack’s most recent burst of success really started back on Saturday, March 29th, in their home game against their in-state rival, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. David LeNeveu was in net for the Wolf Pack and faced 22 shots and made 22 saves for the first of his three consecutive shutouts in three consecutive starts, establishing a new franchise record, surpassing former Wolf Pack star goalie, Jason LaBarberra.
In the Saturday March 29th game, the Wolf Pack saw bursts of offensive life renewed by the likes of Ryan Borque, who scored 2 goals, his 18th and 19th tallies of the season. Danny Kristo added a goal for his 21st goal of the season adding the nail to the Sound Tigers’ coffin. The final score was 4 – 0.
On Sunday, March 30th, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers would host the Hartford Wolf Pack for a chance at some revenge, but building off of the previous night’s success, David LeNeveu gave another stellar performance in net and made 31 saves on 31 shots to seal his second shutout. The Wolf Pack’s offense was helped by contributions by Darroll Powe’s 12th goal of the season and Marek Hrivik’s 10th goal of the season. T. Hensick also added a goal for his 10th of the season. Michael Haley chipped in with 2 assists.
The final score was 3 – 0 in favor of the Wolf Pack.
For David LeNeveu’s third shutout, the Hartford Wolf Pack travelled to Manchester, New Hampshire on April 4th, 2014 to face the Manchester Monarchs, the top team in the Eastern Conference. Manchester out-shot the Wolf Pack 37 to 16 but David LeNeveu held firm and strong in net and made every save. While the Wolf Pack were held off the scoreboard for the first period, the second period saw the Wolf Pack strike twice with goals by Danny Kristo, for his 22nd of the season, and Marek Hrivik, for his 11th goal of the season. The difference maker for this game was David LeNeveu, obviously, but credit had to also be given to the penalty killing units who held the Monarchs scoreless on five power play opportunities.
Building on this newfound momentum, the Wolf Pack returned to Hartford on April 5th for a classic rivalry match-up with the Providence Bruins. The Wolf Pack were looking to earn their fourth win in a row with David LeNeveu in net. This game would need to be decided in a shootout. Both teams played extremely tight defensively and were very evenly matched. Shots on goal were 27 to 26 in favor of the Providence Bruins. The shootout went through six rounds and it was the Wolf Pack’s last two shooters, T.J. Hensick and Ryan Borque, who chipped in goals to earn the impressive win for the Wolf Pack.
On Sunday, April 6th, 2014, the Hartford Wolf Pack hosted the Norfolk Admirals, in search of a fifth win in a row. Again David LeNeveu started in net for the Wolf Pack, riding a lot of momentum and having himself a hot streak and something of a renaissance in his career. David LeNeveu’s performance in net was great but uit was Jasper Fast’s offense that seemed to steal the show. Jasper Fast’s quick back-to-back goals at 15:04 and 16:34 of the 2nd Period were fast, furious and big momentum builders for the Wolf Pack. Jasper Fast finished the game with 2 goals and an assist for 3 points. The final score was Wolf Pack 3 – Admirals 2. The Wolf Pack would earn their 5th win in a row and climb up the standings from last in the Eastern Conference having earned 10 standings points in 5 games.
On Wednesday, April 9th, the Wolf Pack would pay a visit to another classic rival, the Worcester Sharks. In another tight match-up, the Wolf Pack would be tested and David LeNeveu’s endurance would be pushed to a limit. However, the Wolf Pack persevered and came away with a 2 – 1 victory after LeNeveu’s 35 save performance. Marek Hrivik and Darroll Powe provided the offense the Wolf Pack needed to earn their impressive 6th win in a row.
The biggest upset and suprise of the late season, in my view, occured on Saturday, April 12th, 2014 when the Hartford Wolf Pack travelled to St. John’s, Newfoundland to faceoff against the very tough and intimidating St. John’s Ice Caps. Much to my surprise, the Hartford Wolf Pack stormed into St. John’s and despite giving up the first goal, pounced back and jumped on a relentless attack to give the Wolf Pack a 2 – 1 lead at the end of the 1st Period. In the 2nd Period, Oscar Lindberg oppened up the scoring to extend the lead to 3 – 1 for the Wolf Pack before the St. John’s Ice Caps slipped one past David LeNeveu. Yet Marek Hrivik would respond to break the Ice Cap’s momentum and enthusiasm with his 13th goal of the season. It was 4 – 2 in favor of the Wolf Pack at the end of the 2nd Period with the Ice Caps outshooting the Wolf Pack 23 – 16. In the 3rd Period though, it was all Wolf Pack led by J.T. Miller’s two goal assault. Also of note was Danny Syvret’s three assists on the night as well. With this surprising win, the Wolf Pack had earned their 7th win in a row, the longest win streak of their season.
Despite the sad outcome of the follow-up game between the Ice Caps and Wolf Pack the next day in St. John’s, where the bubble would burst and the Ice Caps would win 6 – 2 to snap the Wolf Pack’s win streak, the Wolf Pack would host their traditional rival and Northeast Division leading Springfield Falcons and take a 2 – 1 victory over them and climb from 15th place in the East Conference to 11th place in the East Conference, and secure for themselves a third place spot in the Northeast Division just behind the Albany Devils and Springfield Falcons.
On Saturday, April 19th, on the Hartford Wolf Pack’s last game of the season, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers returned to Hartford for some payback but were defeated by Dov Grumet-Morris, who earned himself a nice 23 save shutout. This would be the Wolf Pack’s third shutout win in a row against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Ryan Borque scored his 21st goal of the season on this night and T. J. Hensick scored as well for his 11th of the season. Danny Syvret had two assists.
Although the Wolf Pack could not clinch themselves a playoff berth, they managed to end on a high note, winning 9 out of their last 10 games and finishing the 76 game season five games above the .500 mark with a 37-32-1-6 record for 81 standings points. Their offense produced 202 goals this season while their defense and goaltending allowed 220 goals against.
Wolf Pack Leading Scorers 2013-2014
Rookie Danny Kristo led the team in goals scored with 25 goals.
Ryan Borque scored 21 goals this season, a marked improvement over his last season total of only 8.
The big point leader for the Wolf Pack was Danny Syvret with 9 goals and 38 assists for 47 points in 76 games. Oscar Lindberg was second in team point totals with 18 goals and 26 assists for 44 points in 75 games. J.T. Miller, who spent some of his season with the parent club New York Rangers scored 15 goals and 27 assists for 42 points in his 41 games with Hartford this season, giving some of the scouts and critics something to consider for next season.
Wolf Pack Goaltending 2013-2014
In terms of goaltending, the Wolf Pack saw a lot of shuffling about within the ranks. Cam Talbot started off the season with the Hartford Wolf Pack for five starts but was soon promoted with the retirement of Martin Biron from the New York Rangers early in the season. Cam Talbot had 4 wins and an overtime loss for the Wolf Pack before his promotion. Replacing Cam Talbot was a pairing of rookie prospects and hopefulls in Scott Stajcer and Jeff Malcolm. Jeff Malcom was NCAA playoff MVP last year with the Yale Bulldogs, who went on to win the 2013 NCAA Division I Hockey Championships against Connecticut rival, Quinnipiac Bobcats in the Frozen Four. Jason Missiaen, up from the East Coast Hockey League affilliate, Greenville Road Warriors, tried to keep the Wolf Pack together in the early season but struggled to find his footing and his rhythm. The Wolf Pack lucked out by acquiring former 2010-2011 Connecticut Whale goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris from the San Antonio Rampage and former 2007-2008 Hartford Wolf Pack goaltender David LeNeveu from the Providence Bruins. Of the crop of goaltenders the Wolf Pack employed, David LeNeveu stood out with his three consecutive shutout performance and his 12-8 record and .915 save percentage. Dov Grumet-Morris finished his season with 16 wins and 9 regulation losses and a respectable .918 save percentage as David LeNeveu’s backup.
Even though the Wolf Pack were eliminated from playoff contention early, they certainly demonstrated a “won’t quit” attitude in the latter half of the season and certainly drew a lot of fan attention to their remarkable turnaround. It should also be a positive for fans to know that the New York Rangers recieved a lot of help this season for their own playoff run from the likes of Cam Talbot, J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider, and Carl Hagelin, and other former Wolf Pack players and current prospects. Many Wolf Pack players over their history have been promoted to the National Hockey League and have seen significant improvements in their careers and have made names for themselves on the New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadians, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, Boston Bruins, and Vancouver Cannucks for example. This year the Hartford Wolf Pack have developed an excellent class of players for the Rangers to call up for this year’s playoffs and I suspect Jasper Fast, Danny Kristo, and Danny Syvret as well as Ryan Borque to have very good chances at permanent roster spots with the Rangers fairly soon.
— All statistical data was provided by www.theahl.com and www.hartfordwolfpack.com