By Zack Grenier
Hartford, CT, January 2, 2015 – A shorthanded goal by Tommy Hughes started a Hartford Wolf Pack comeback from a 2-0 deficit Friday night at the XL Center against the St. John’s IceCaps, and fellow defenseman Conor Allen scored the third-period game-winner in a 4-2 Hartford victory.
Michael Kostka added an empty-net goal and an assist for the Wolf Pack, and Chad Nehring also scored. Mackenzie Skapski made 18 saves. Scott Kosmachuk and Kyle MacKinnon scored for the IceCaps, and Peter Budaj made 27 saves.
It was the first-ever home victory for the Wolf Pack over St. John’s in the four-year history of the IceCaps franchise. Hartford had been 0-5-1 in six previous home games in the all-time series.
The IceCaps struck first, on a power play at 14:36 of the first period, when Chase Balisy sent a blind backhand pass across the crease to Kosmachuk for his fourth goal of the season.
The next goal didn’t come until there was only 2:26 left in the second period. It was MacKinnon who gave the IceCaps a 2-0 lead, when he came in on a two-on-one and beat Skapski on a straight shot over his blocker.
“We started slow, taking a lot of penalties which doesn’t help our team game,” said Nehring. “We got that late goal in the second and it gave us a little bit of life and we just came out in the third and took over the game like we should have.”
That late shorthanded goal came with just 5.1 seconds remaining in the second period. Chris Bourque turned his back to the defenseman and left the puck for Hughes, who was trailing the play, and Hughes fired the puck at the net. The shot beat Budaj five-hole to cut the IceCaps lead to just one.
“Good strong shot, just putting it on net,” said Hartford coach Ken Gernander. “I think that was good. It gave us a little bit of a boost and some momentum going in to the third.”
Nehring was the man who tied the game up for the Pack in the third. The puck bounced in to the right-wing corner and Nehring just threw the puck at the net. His shot caromed off of Budaj’s skates and bounced in at 2:53, for Nehring’s third goal of the season.
“When that line scores for us good things are going to happen,” said Allen. “I thought that line had a great night. (Chad) Nehring, (Dallas) Jackson, and (Shawn) O’Donnell played really hard for us. Yeah, that was a big goal and it just kind of got the momentum going right away in the third, and we just took it from there.”
At the 8:42 mark, Allen fired a slapshot at the net with traffic in front. The shot went straight over Budaj’s glove to give the Pack their first lead of the game at 3-2.
“We took a lot of penalties and it was kind of disrupting how we want to play hockey,” said Nehring. “We play fast in 5-on-5 hockey, and when we stayed out of the box in the third we got our chances, and we capitalized on them and got a big two points.”
The Pack added another goal to the lead when Kostka fired a full rink slap shot at an empty net with 15.9 seconds left in the game.
The Wolf Pack and IceCaps tangle again at the XL Center Saturday night, with faceoff at 7:00 PM. The first 2,000 fans into the game will receive a free Wolf Pack 2015 calendar, presented by LAZ Parking.
Tickets for all 2014-15 Wolf Pack home games are now on sale at the XL Center ticket office, on-line at www.hartfordwolfpack.com and by phone at (877) 522-8499. Wolf Pack tickets start as low as $12 for youth 12 years old or younger.
To speak with a Wolf Pack representative about season or group tickets, or any of the Wolf Pack’s many ticketing options, call (855) 762-6451, or click here to request more info.
St. John’s IceCaps 2 at Hartford Wolf Pack 4
Friday, January 2, 2015 – XL Center
St. John’s 1 1 0 – 2
Hartford 0 1 3 – 4
1st Period-1, St. John’s, Kosmachuk 4 (Balisy, O’Dell), 14:36 (PP). Penalties-Haggerty Hfd (hooking), 2:08; O’Neill Stj (tripping), 9:34; Malone Hfd (cross-checking), 9:54; Crabb Hfd (holding), 13:23; Lipon Stj (instigating, fighting, misconduct – instigating), 17:25; Hughes Hfd (interference, fighting), 17:25; Melchiori Stj (interference), 18:18.
2nd Period-2, St. John’s, MacKinnon 2 (Riley, O’Neill), 17:34. 3, Hartford, Hughes 1 (C. Bourque, Hrivik), 19:54 (SH). Penalties-Melchiori Stj (cross-checking), 3:47; Cornell Stj (roughing), 5:34; McIlrath Hfd (interference), 9:30; Lindberg Hfd (hooking), 12:41; Bodie Hfd (cross-checking), 15:12; Olsen Stj (roughing), 18:46; Mueller Hfd (tripping, roughing), 18:46.
3rd Period-4, Hartford, Nehring 3 (Jackson, Kostka), 2:53. 5, Hartford, Allen 5 (Kristo, R. Bourque), 11:18. 6, Hartford, Kostka 3 19:44 (EN). Penalties-Brassard Stj (slashing), 3:32; O’Dell Stj (holding), 13:15.
Shots on Goal-St. John’s 9-6-5-20. Hartford 8-14-9-31.
Power Play Opportunities-St. John’s 1 / 7; Hartford 0 / 6.
Goalies-St. John’s, Budaj 0-6-1 (30 shots-27 saves). Hartford, Skapski 8-6-1 (20 shots-18 saves).
Referees-Olivier Gouin (66).
Linesmen-Brent Colby (7), Luke Galvin (2).