BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings
Hartford, CT – The math is simple for the Hartford Wolf Pack, 3-1= 5.
The Eastern Conference Final series stands at 3-0. The Pack must make the standings, 3-1 if they are to get to Game Five Saturday night at the Verizon Center in Manchester.
Game Four between the Pack and the Monarchs is at the XL Center with the puck dropping just after 7pm.
“It starts with one, right?” queried Pack head coach Ken Gernander. “Whatever transpired before now we have to chalk up to a learning experience. We have to be smarter and a better team moving forward, but certainly our focus is going to be the task at hand.”
That task is not a simple one. Hartford must dismantle and disrupt the Monarchs machine, that last night, maintained puck possession for most of the game and energized their offense and rendered the Wolf Pack offense inoperable.
The Monarchs balanced offensive attack with five different players scoring is a major threat. They seem not to be worried about line combinations as the AHL’s top regular season team started their second line, which has been incredibly successful, consisting of Sean Backman, Nic Dowd and Zach O’Brien who scored the game-winner Tuesday night.
Though the mountain may seem insurmountable given the circumstances, the Pack is not shying away from the challenge.
“It’s fun,” defenseman Michael Kostka said with a slight smile in an empty, silent hallway. “We’ve got a lot of guys that have gone through a lot of character building, experience and games and seasons with other teams.
“Those are fun to come back from. You could say your back is against the wall, but also it’s a situation when you’ve got nothing to lose. I think that is our mindset–leave it all out there,” Kostka, an eighth-year veteran defenseman on his seventh AHL team and started the season in New York with the Rangers, said.
The Pack must get more shots on the Manchester net. They’ve been held to twenty or less in all three games. They must also not allow Manchester to get off to as fast of a start as they’ve grown accustomed to doing. The Monarchs are 10-0 when scoring first in the post-season.
“They (have) executed really well and they’ve done a good job of getting off to a good start,” Kostka said. “We seem to have been playing from behind every game we’ve been in. I don’t think we have put together a sixty-minute game yet in this series and it has shown.”
Freeing themselves from those defensive chains requires the Pack to have the puck more and when they have it to challenge Jean-Sebastian Berube, the Monarchs’ netminder. Berube has shown that he is a susceptible goalie and make his life more miserable to get that first victory. Getting Chris Bourque, Marek Hrivik, Danny Kristo, and Ryan Haggerty using their considerable offensive prowess will be the elixir that allows them to get the one they need…the math to play in Manchester again on Saturday night.