CANTLON’S CORNER: Wolf Pack Weekend PREVIEW
By: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings
HARTFORD, CT – The Hartford Wolf Pack get another crack at a three-in-three in closing out the first month of the season.
Friday, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers make their first trip to the XL Center for a rematch of last Sunday’s 6-3 loss in the Park City.
Then, on Saturday it’s on the road to the PPL Center in Allentown, PA to do battle with Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the second time this year. They will wrap it up in a building that has haunted Wolf Pack team’s in the past few years – The Giant Center in Hershey, PA.
“We have a very tough division and we have three division games this weekend,” Keith McCambridge said. ‘We know you can’t let points slip away from you (early) playing. Just a few days ago helps as you have a fresh idea of some of their systems and personnel, but we gotta focus on ourselves at this point.”
The Pack head coach commented on his team at .500 at 3-3-0-1 heading into the third weekend of the regular season.
The lineup from Sunday has changed from Sunday some expected and some not.
McCambridge literally changed his line and defensive combos every practice this week.
“The nature of the American Hockey League is players are coming and going. You’re happy about players going up and for me, I like the work. I have to deal with change as a coach. It’s a challenge comes with the territory.
“I learned over the years that you can’t write your lineup on the board because that could change in twenty minutes and it did this week,” said McCambridge with a wry smile.
Boo Nieves, the center for the only intact line of the season to this point, was recalled by the Rangers on Tuesday. The Rangers also put Adam Cracknell on waivers, so Nieves looks to be their fourth-line center for now. Cracknell cleared waivers and was assigned to the Wolf Pack.
“Boo’s game has progressed in a small sample here. He has good speed, good size, is defensively responsible, which fits in what the Rangers need at that position. I’m glad to see him get a chance with the dynamics he’s worked very hard to get another chance in New York.”
Nieves showed that and more with a three-assist effort and getting voted as the Number One Star in a 5-2 win over Arizona.
Defenseman Garrett Noonan was dispatched to Greenville with the arrival of newcomer Ryan Sproul from the Grand Rapids Griffins. In a trade last week, Sproul came wast while Matt Puempel headed to the midwest.
The Rangers sent Tony DeAngelo to Hartford on his 22nd birthday Wednesday. He split last season between Tucson and Arizona.
“With Ryan, our pro scouts liked what he showed, and to lose a guy like Puempel, a good forward who worked hard here, we got the type of depth you’re looking for with Ryan and (he) adds things you need. In my experience, you can never have enough defenseman. It does thin out a bit (as the season progresses).
“He has some offensive upside to him and he has had three good practices this week.”
The transition from the Detroit organization, where he spent the last three years and started the year, is a bit of a learning curve for him to adapt to the Rangers system.
“It does take time. You give the (cliff) notes with what the systems are in all three zones. You do some in-game stuff and video work. He is an intelligent enough young man to understand systems and you don’t overwhelm a person either at the start,” commented McCambridge.
For Sproul, the trade was something of a surprise. This was his first as a pro and he hadn’t heard a thing until last Saturday afternoon.
“I was getting ready to go to the rink for the game and got the call I was traded. I never asked for or expected a trade. Ken (Detroit GM, Ken Holland) mentioned to me when I was sent down somebody was maybe looking into me. I didn’t expect it whatsoever. It was a surprise,” Sproul, who won a Calder Cup lasts spring with Griffins, said.
A trade never is easy for players.
“This is my first trade. There is so much to go through. I have my car back home and most of my stuff. My girlfriend and dog are there, so I had a lot of things to sort out in the last 48 hours as to what we’re going to do with everything from options for housing, and how to get my car here. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but I’m looking forward to the hockey part of things,” Sproul said.
Sproul is relying on his former junior hockey teammate, Dan Catenacci, to help him get adjusted, not only to a new team but to get used to how he has to jump right in for a three-in-three which out West is almost non-existent.
“I think we have had two in my three years in Grand Rapids.”
D’Angelo came as a surprise, but he fits in with the team’s needs.
“He is quite mobile, has good vision and he comes here to play some minutes.”
Cracknell has had a real roller coaster two years. He’s gone from West to East in Vancouver, Dallas, and placed on waivers in training camp. He was claimed by the Rangers and played four games, was put on waivers again and not claimed. He now arrives in Hartford.
“Adam has come here and immediately fit in. He gives a real versatile forward. For the player, as a person, that is a very big swing. In a few years, you’re never sure where a player’s head is at when they come down.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but Adam has been the opposite. He works with the younger players and it’s nice not to have to worry about him.
You don’t worry about the business side rather the player side in helping work to get their game back to their top level so they return (to the NHL) and that’s what we’re here for,” commented McCambridge.
Alexander Georgiev will start in net for the Wolf Pack tomorrow night
Sound Tigers lineup will change as well as they received forwards Josh Ho-Sang and Alan Quine from the Islanders mid-week.
Health update on a pair of centers, Filip Chytil (lower body), and Dan Catenacci (foot), will both be back in the lineup
Lehigh Valley received forward and Wethersfield native, Colin MacDonald, from their parent team, the Philadelphia Flyers, earlier in the week.
Ex-Wolf Pack, Justin Vaive, signed a PTO deal with the Belleville Senators after starting the season with Cincinnati (ECHL).
Former Wolf Pack, Tommy Thompson, was loaned by Idaho (ECHL) to the Texas Stars.
Chandler Stephenson, the nephew of former Whaler, Bob Stephenson, was recalled by the Washington Capitals from the Hershey Bears.
Goalie Steve Michalek (Glastonbury/Loomis Chaffe) was reassigned by Iowa to Rapid City (ECHL).
A pair of ex-Sound Tigers d-men both are on the move. Steve Olesky was recalled from San Diego by Anaheim and Griffin Reinhart was sent down by Las Vegas to the Chicago Wolves.
With two major goalie injuries in the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights net, the Chicago Wolves, their farm team, got help from the Toronto Marlies. They have three goalies and loaned Kasmir Kaskisuo to the team.
Former Springfield Falcon, Oscar Dansk, won his first NHL game with the Golden Knights defeating Chicago 4-2 on Tuesday. He played the last two years in Sweden with Rogle BK.
Three players with CT ties will be a part of the team Canada pre-Olympic team at the Karjala Cup. They are ex-CT Whale, Christian Thomas, who’s now with the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins, Wojtech Wolski of Kunlun (China-KHL) and ex-Sound Tiger d-man, Chris Lee, who resigned a deal this week for a fifth year with Metallurg Magnitogorsk (Russia-KHL).
The tournament is being held in Helsinki, Finland and Biel, Switzerland. Five other countries, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Russia, Finland, and Sweden, will compete from November 8-12.
The recently departed ex-Pack, Malte Stromwall, according to the Swedish hockey website, Kvallposten, has signed a deal with KooKoo (Finland-FEL) presently in 9th place in a 10 team elite league.
Former Wolf Pack, Calle Andersson, put his name on a contract granting him an extension with the defending Swiss NLA champion SC Bern. His younger brother, Rasmus, plays with Stockton. His father Peter is an assistant coach with Charlotte.
Former Sound Tiger, Robert Nilsson, did the same signing an extension with ZSC Zurich.
Former Wolf Pack, Lauri Korpikoski, has also signed a deal with ZSC Zurich. Korpi’s contract is for the rest of the year after looking at an offer from HC Lausanne.
Former Sound Tiger goalie, Kevin Poulin, signed a deal with Medvescak Zagreb (Croatia-AEHL).
Ex-Pack defenseman, Petr Zamorsky, was released by HC Sparta Prague (Czech Republic-CEL) with a minus-nine in 15 games.