The Hartford Wolf Pack are in the middle of what could be a Cinderella race to the AHL’s Calder Cup.
After a late push that propelled them into the playoffs in the final weeks of the regular season, Hartford is one win away from eliminating the Providence Bruins, who finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
So, can the pack go all the way? We asked Patrick Williams from theAHL.com how far he thinks they can go.
“I could see them crossing the East,” Williams said. “I think their main obstacle will be the Hershey Bears if that’s how things go. Once you get to the West, the Calgary Wranglers are absolutely loaded. This is where I can see the run failing, but if they go that far it will be a fantastic experience for Rangers hopes.
The Bears won their series against the Charlotte Checkers on Thursday night and are awaiting the winner between the Pack and the Bruins.
Hartford Wolf Pack Cinderella Run?
The Wolf Pack had not made the Calder Cup playoffs since the 2014-15 season. After posting a 35-26-4-7 record, they finished fifth in the Atlantic Division one point ahead of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
A first-round game against the Springfield Thunderbirds, who owned the Pack for the season, was on the cards first. Hartford wiped the floor with them, sweeping the best of three series.
Hartford opened the second round against the Bruins by winning the first two games decisively, but fell short in Game 3. They have a chance to advance tonight as they host Game 4.
While many doubted the Pack could make a splash in the playoffs, their captain was supremely confident.
“Everyone is buying and striving for that goal,” Jonny Brodzinski said. “Everyone in the locker room and the whole organization thinks we have a roster that can go far in the playoffs.”
Brodzinski, 29, has split his time between the Pack and Rangers this season but was instrumental in March in leading the side to Calder Cup playoffs. In 46 games, he scored 21 goals and 47 points. He is now back with the team for the rest of the playoffs after the Devils eliminated Rangers in the first round.
As to why the Wolf Pack are in this position, Williams credits Rangers management for adding key players with experience as the trade deadline approaches.
“The Pack got a real boost when they saw Rangers step in and bring in veterans,” Williams explained. “Will Lockwood is a great two-way striker. Bringing in an agitator like Anton Blidh and a power-play veteran like Adam Clendening… getting that infusion of talent made a big difference.
Anton Blidh was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Gustav Rydahl. The 27-year-old forward has played in 14 NHL games this season with the Avs scoring zero points, but has been huge in the pack’s playoff push with 11 points in 17 games.
Will Lockwood was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in the Vitali Kravtsov trade and the forward has 12 points in 17 games since the trade.
In defense, Wyatt Kalynuk has been solid for the Pack with 2 assists in 15 games. The 25-year-old helped establish the blue line with Cooper Zech and Adam Clendening.
Zech was acquired in trade from Patrick Kane and had 2 points in 13 games. Veteran defender Clendening is no stranger to the Rangers organization who played 31 games with them during the 2016-17 season. He has 9 points in 20 games since leaving the Rockford IceHogs on a contract with the AHL.
These players all bring new momentum and round out a talented roster that included top prospects like Dylan Garand, Will Cuylle and Zac Jones. Together, this group could very well win it all and give this franchise its second title since the 1999-2000 season.
“It’s just a different group with a different mentality,” Willams concluded. “The pack teams of the past were almost expected to lose. Now it’s the opposite and they’re finding ways to win.