PACK TURN UP HEAT TO MELT HERSHEY BEARS’ PLAYOFF RUN
BY: Gerry Canton, Howlings
HARTFORD, CT – Magnus Hellberg’s 20 saves, and a total team defensive effort coupled with a complete sixty minutes of hockey by the Hartford Wolf Pack helped them earn their first shutout in over a year and a 3-0 win over the visiting Hershey Bears before 4,493 at the XL Center.
The Bears’ (38-20-8-3) playoff hopes took a big hit with the loss as the Providence Bruins defeated the Albany Devils 4-1. The Bruins now hold a two-point edge (89-87) as well as a lead in winning percentage (.657 to .630) over Hershey.
The Pack record improves to 23-39-4-2 (52 points), and they now have a .382 winning percentage. The Pack won the first two meetings this season against Hershey. However, the Bears won the next five games of this series by a combined total score of 25-14. In their final meeting of the season, it was time for some Wolf Pack redemption.
“We’re a team that doesn’t have the playoffs to play for, but it’s always fun to destroy other teams’ playoff run,” Hellberg said. “I don’t want anybody to come in here, in our barn, and think it’s gonna be an easy two points. We played a really good game tonight against a very good team.”
The Pack’s last shutout came on March 20, 2016, in a 3-0 win over the Springfield Falcons by Pack netminder Jeff Malcolm. If you recall, Malcolm stepped off a plane at the last minute to do so. The last shutout at the XL Center by the Pack came on October 17, 2015. It too was a 3-0 score coming against the Utica Comets with Hellberg in net.
Hellberg rarely had to face bang-bang plays except late as he stopped Jakub Vrana first followed by Riley Barber with 2:50 to go. His defense, led by Chris Summers and Mike Paliotta, were blocking shots and taking Bears out of scoring positions all over the ice.
“Compared to last weekend when I faced about 100 shots combined, it was a much better effort all around. I would rather take this than (what happened) last weekend,” Hellberg said. “We played a lot more as a team today. It was nice not see a lot of action for awhile, and I was ready at the end because the guys did a great job in front of me. The guys were throwing themselves in front of the pucks, eating them and for a goalie, when guys are doing that for you, it’s a good feeling.”
Head coach Ken Gernander was pleased with all the aspects of his team’s performance. “I was impressed with a lot of the effort. I was VERY pleased down the stretch with the efforts with all the blocked shots by Palsy (Paliotta ), (Matt) Carey play off a draw. Brownie (Chris Brown) coming around the net (on the goal) passing it out to Jenner (Nicholas Jensen). It’s a pretty unselfish play when he could have stuffed it in himself. There was lots of good stuff tonight.” Continue reading