CANTLON: WOLF PACK WRAP UP DAY

Wolf Pack Wrap Up Day

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – The XL Center arena was dark. The ice is gone. Almost no equipment remains in the locker room as the picture was that of a 2016-17  AHL season Hartford Wolf Pack clearly over. While it may be over for the players, for the off ice staff was still at work with their season-ending multiple tasks.

The only news of the day was that the New York Rangers will not be recalling as many players for the playoffs as there have in the past to be a part of the Black Aces squad. The Rangers are ready for a crucial Game 4 in their Best-of-Seven series with the Montreal Canadiens. The Rangers find themselves down two games to none. Magnus Hellberg, who was recalled earlier in the week was on the bench in the place on Antti Raanta. Hellberg may remain the only recall, but that remains undetermined.

“The list is truly not finalized as of yet. There are several contractual and other matters that need to be ironed out, but I can say there will be very few players going to New York,” Head Coach Ken Gernander said.

Gernander finished the last of the exit interviews as well as his organizational discussions with Rangers Assistant GM, and Trumbull native, Chris Drury. Also in those meetings was Assistant Coach, Keith McCambridge, and Assistant Coach/Assistant GM, Pat Boller.

The sting of a highly unsuccessful season, in terms of wins and losses, is still very fresh for Gernander. Reflection and perspective will take some time.

“I haven’t had much time yet to reflect. (I) had Easter with my family and today was strictly focusing on each individual guy and at some point in time (I’ll reflect), but I’m not there yet.”

Sixty minutes of consistent hockey on the ice was very elusive for this team. You could literally count on one hand the number of times they managed to do that. Consistently, the Pack would fall behind their opponent by giving up the game’s first goal. They did that an astounding 51 times and only managed to come back to win in twelve of those games.

“In any sport, whether a guy hits a home run in baseball or a golfer who hits that long drive, you have to be able to do it time and again, game after game, and season after season. That is a big part of growth and development and guys are drafted and signed because there is recognition they have showed signs and traits and skill level. There are deficiencies and that’s what we’re here to work on. We’re also here to develop that consistent effort you need to exhibit.”

The feeling of a finished season was evident as the stick bay contained just the remains of four players. Everything else was gone.

Speculating, the likely players to head to New York should anyone go, would be defenseman Chris Summers, and forwards Marek Hrivik, and Nicklas Jensen. However, for all three of them, their contracts are finished. With the expansion draft upcoming, whether they will be a part of it before July 1 is likely a consideration in the post season autopsy of this team and how to move forward for 2017-18.

Officially, having completed their contracts is clearly an issue, but players like Hrivik and Jensen are likely to represent their countries, Slovakia and Denmark respectively, at the 2017 IIHF World Championships tournament which runs from May 5-12 in Paris, France, and Cologne, Germany.

Players whose deals are set to expire include goalie Mackenzie Skapski, who’s been in Greenville, defenseman Tommy Hughes, and Mike Paliotta. Forwards joining Hrivik and Jensen include Chris Brown – who scored the last goal of the season – Dan Catenacci, and Taylor Beck, who was acquired in a deadline deal with the Bakersfield Condors.

Players on one-year deals include Matt Carey, Philip McRae, Malte Stromwall, Robin Kovacs.

The lone two-year deal is defenseman John Gilmour.

Ryan Graves and Adam Tambellini will return to Hartford in the fall for the final year of their entry-level deals. Players who are in the middle of those deals  (ELC) include Steven Fogarty, Brandon Halverson, Boo Nieves, and Michael Joly.

Players currently wit the Swamp Rabbits in Greenville include the aforementioned Skapski, fellow goaltender Jeff Malcolm, defensemen Spiro Goulakos, Garrett Noonan, and Troy Donnay, who was not recalled this season and is currently injured. Of the forwards, they include Adam Chapie, Allen MacPherson, and Ahti Oksanen, who spent considerable playing time in Hartford as well as forward Brandon Alderson, who had a short recall.

Two players season ended in tough directions.

Gilmour played in all 76 games this season and sported a league-worst minus-39. It was not the season he thought he would have, but as he drives back to the South Shore of Montreal, he will have much to ponder.

“I was able to dress in every game as a rookie, but I learned in pro hockey you can’t take a night off because you pay for it. I learned from the veterans what it means and takes to be a pro. It’s tough and very demanding. It was a difficult position to be in no question. I had to learn about having a routine to prepare yourself professionally.”

The pro schedule was an eye-opener after playing in half the amount of games he did while at Providence College. “I played what 34 maybe 40 games in college. Playing the full 76 (games) takes a toll on your body and you learn you have your body ready for each game, so it’s a different schedule than college. Here, it’s a full-time job, so there were differences to be learned for sure.”

Boo Nieves started the year off well and demonstrated flashes of speed and skill. His hard work earned him a one-game emergency recall by the Rangers who were on the road in Vancouver, but the second half of the season didn’t provide much happiness. Nieves missed 19 games with a concussion. He returned in Hershey and scored a gorgeous goal on a breakaway, but never played another game in the season because his symptoms returned the next day.

“I’m doing well,” Nieves said. “I had to take the time off and sometimes you have to step aside even though you don’t want to you have to take in account your health and wellness and be able to be ready to go at it next year. Because of medical staff, they did a great job with me with plenty of workouts off the ice. I feel as close to 100 percent as I’ve felt in some time,”.

Watching the season unfold as it did was very hard for Nieves.

“It was very hard to watch from the stands. We had a season with lot more downs than ups, that’s for sure. It was very hard when we knew the playoffs were not in the cards for us – that was very difficult,” Nieves said., who is two to three credits short of obtaining his University of Michigan degree will be working on that in the

Nieves is two to three credits short of obtaining his University of Michigan degree and will be working on that in the off-season and his talent with music. “I hope to find some drums, play guitar and maybe find a piano someplace to practice on.”

The music of this season was too melancholy. Maybe Nieves can write a happier tune this summer for the return of the Wolf Pack when they re-convene in Hartford in the fall.

NOTES:

Greenville is off to strong start in their first round ECHL playoff series with the South Carolina Stingrays. The Swamp Rabbits had two impressive wins and hold a two-games-to-one lead with Game 4 Tuesday night.

Malcolm was in net for all three games which were 6-3 and 4-1 wins and a 6-0 loss. Allen MacPherson is hot. He’s on top of the league with three games played and four assists and six points. He’s followed by Oksanen who in three games has two goals and five points. Ex-Pack, Tyler Brown, has three goals in three games.

South Carolina features former Quinnipiac Bobcat defenseman Danny Federico and goalie Parker Milner (Avon Old Farms) on their roster.

Luke Esposito (Greenwich/Brunswick Prep) finished up at Harvard and signed a PTO deal with Grand Rapids. His uncle is none other than number 11, Mark Messier.

Former Yale player, Broc Little, switches countries for next season going from HC Linkopings (Sweden-SHL) to HC Davos (Switzerland-LNA).

Sean Sullivan, who was in training camp with the Pack, will stay in Germany next season going from EHC Straubing to ERC Ingolstadt.

The Swedish Hockey League final pits Brynas IF starring ex-Pack players, Daniel Paille, and Tomas Zaborsky. They will take on HV 71 coached by ex-Pack, Johan Lindbom. They also have former Wolf Pack and Sound Tiger, Dylan Reese. They also have another ex-Sound Tiger in David Ullstrom. Also on the roster is former CT Whale Erik Christiansen, and Lias Andersson, nephew of former Whaler Mikael Andersson – expected to go in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft in Chicago in June.

No surprise SKA St. Petersburg won the KHL Gagarin Cup with Rangers top goalie prospect Igor Shestyorkin and four top former  NHL players.

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