Springfield, MA - John Gilmour’s goal at 3:54 of overtime gave the Hartford Wolf Pack a 3-2 win over the Springfield Thunderbirds Saturday night at the MassMutual Center.
The goal was Gilmour’s 18th of the season, tying Andrew Hutchinson’s 2007-08 franchise record for most goals in a single year by a defenseman, and it came on the Wolf Pack’s only shot of the OT, after Hartford had killed a delay-of-game penalty to Gabriel Fontaine.
Steven Fogarty broke up a Springfield pass behind the Wolf Pack net and sent the puck around the boards to Gilmour, who sped into the Springfield zone on a breakaway. Thunderbird goaltender Alex Sakellaropoulos, who was making his first career AHL appearance, got his left arm on Gilmour’s shot, but could not keep it out of the net.
“The penalty kill did a good job, giving us a chance to get the win,” Wolf Pack head coach Keith McCambridge said, “and John, with his speed, had a very nice finish.
“It was nice to score the first goal, especially in this building, and I felt as the game went on, the third period was our best. We created some good scoring chances, did a better job taking care of the puck, and were rewarded for it.
“Out of our last 13 games, we’ve got points in ten of them, so that’s a credit to the group, playing the right way, and having the attention to detail and the structure in our game.”
The two teams played nearly 17 scoreless minutes in the first period, before combining for a pair of goals in a span of only 14 seconds in the last 3:02 of the period.
Matt Beleskey gave the Wolf Pack a short-lived lead with a power-play goal at 16:58, with Jean-Sebastien Dea off for hooking. Vinni Lettieri fed the puck from near the right-wing corner to Gilmour high in the slot, and he directed it to Beleskey. He fired a slap shot from just above the left faceoff dot that beat Sakellaropoulos high to the glove side, with Fontaine screening.
Harry Zolnierczyk got that goal right back for Springfield at 17:12, though. The Wolf Pack were unable to get the puck out of their zone near the blue line, and Paul Thompson and Dea were able to combine to find Zolnierczyk, who had snuck behind the Wolf Pack defensive pairing of Darren Raddysh and Sean Day. All alone in front of Hartford goaltender Brandon Halverson (36 saves), Zolnierczyk put a backhander into the top corner over the catching glove.
The clubs traded goals in quick succession again in the second period, starting with Lettieri putting the Wolf Pack back in the lead with his 18th goal of the year at 4:59. Fogarty and Brandon Crawley were able to work the puck away from the Thunderbirds’ Ludwig Bystrom on the left-wing side and find Lettieri in the slot, and he fired a bullet of a shot high into the net on the stick side of Sakellaropoulos.
This time it took the Thunderbirds 1:42 to answer, as Anthony Greco would even the score at two at 6:41. A Juho Lammikko pass sent Greco down the left side, and he moved to the middle before wiring a shot through a Wolf Pack defender and past Halverson.
That was the extent of the offense for the rest of regulation, despite the Thunderbirds, who came into the game clicking at an AHL-leading 25.5% on the power play, having a late man advantage in the third period, after Ville Meskanen received a double minor for high-sticking Riley Stillman at 15:47. The Wolf Pack killed that off, helped by an interference call against Zolnierczyk at 16:57 that interrupted the power play, and then Halverson and the penalty killers came up big again in the overtime, after Fontaine knocked a Springfield pass out of the air and over the glass 26 seconds into the extra frame.
The Wolf Pack, who have now won three straight, are right back in action on Sunday, hosting the Hershey Bears at the XL Center in a 3:00 PM game. That is another chance to take advantage of the Wolf Pack’s “Click It or Ticket Family Value Pack”, which includes two tickets, two hot dogs and two sodas, all for just $40.
Tickets for all 2018-19 Wolf Pack home games are on sale now at the Agera Energy Ticket Office at the XL Center, on-line at www.hartfordwolfpack.com and by phone at (877) 522-8499. Tickets purchased in advance for kids 12 or younger start at just $13 each, and all tickets will have a $3 day-of-game increase.
Season ticket information for the Wolf Pack’s 2018-19 AHL season can be found on-line at www.hartfordwolfpack.com. To speak with a representative about all of the Wolf Pack’s many attractive ticketing options, call (855) 762-6451, or click here to request more info.
Hartford Wolf Pack 3 (OT) at Springfield Thunderbirds 2
Saturday, March 9, 2019 - MassMutual Center