By Matt Calamia
The Hartford Wolf Pack remained unbeaten in regulation after back-to-back wins this weekend over Manchester and Portland.
Hartford is 5-0-0-1, good enough for first in the Northeast Division, and No. 2 in the Eastern Conference.
On Friday, the Wolf Pack made it four wins in a row with a 4-3, shootout win over the Manchester Monarchs at the XL Center in Hartford.
As they have in each game this season, Hartford needed a comeback, this time down 3-1 heading into the third period. In the final period Marek Hrivik scored with the teams playing four-on-four to make it a one-goal game. Just 24 seconds later, defenseman Aaron Johnson scored shorthanded to knot the game up with about five minutes remaining. In the first period, Danny Kristo opened the scoring for Hartford with his third goal of the season.
After overtime could not solve anything, both Hrivik and Brandon Mashinter scored in the shootout to propel the Wolf Pack over Manchester.
Goaltender Cam Talbot made 30 saves in the win, including a penalty shot in the overtime period.
“Obviously, it was a huge win for the guys,” Johnson told HartfordWolfPack.com. “We have put ourselves in this position all year, but we came out and had a great shootout win.”
The Wolf Pack didn’t need a shootout the next day, as they defeated the Portland Pirates on the road, 3-2, to earn their fifth consecutive victory.
Trailing after the first period, the ‘Pack tied the game 15 seconds into the second period on defenseman Conor Allen’s first professional goal. It was short-lived, though, as Portland regained the lead just 1:40 later.
Forward Michael Haley scored his first of the season to tie the game at 9:41 of the second. About 3:30 later, Kristo scored another goal — his fourth of the season — that held up for the winner.
Talbot made 39 saves for his fourth win of the season.
On Sunday, the Rangers recalled forwards Mashinter, Chris Kreider, as well as Talbot. In six games each, Mashinter had five assists while Kreider had two goals and two assists. Talbot is 4-0-1-0 in five starts.
Going the other way, the Rangers assigned forward Darroll Powe and goaltender Jason Missiaen to Hartford. In four games with the Wolf Pack, Powe had one goal, while Missiaen won his only appearance of the season with the Wolf Pack.
The Wolf Pack will face Portland again this Wednesday night at the XL Center, before games against Albany and Hersey this weekend.
(Photo: Chris Rutsch / Hartford Wolf Pack)