The Hartford Wolf Pack picked up where they finished the 2015-16 AHL season with some fury and passion by recording a 5-3 win over the St. John’s IceCaps. The Pack’s 2015-16 campaign ended with a defeat at the hands of the IceCaps, but a new look roster made an impressive debut on Friday at the XL Center in Hartford.
The organization made it a point to bolster the roster with youth as opposed to carrying some AHL journeymen, and that was evident during the win. Although the game’s leading scorer Philip McRae is a battle-tested AHL veteran, rookies Robin Kovacs, John Gilmour, and Cristoval “Boo” Nieves stood out in a big way. Sophomore Adam Tambellini also had a memorable performance as he got the Pack going with a goal 1:56 into the first period assisted by newcomer Michael Paliotta and McRae.
St. John’s found a way to get on the board but shortly after that McRae put the Pack back on top after finding a puck initially thrown on net by Tambellini. The IceCaps would tie up the game at 2-2 but from that point on the Wolf Pack pushed forward and held the lead for the rest of the contest.
Swedish import Robin Kovacs scored his first North American goal in the second period, and it was setup after some hard work from both Gilmour and Boo Nieves. Toward the second half of the middle period, the IceCaps started pressing hard, but some clutch and timely saves from Magnus Hellberg kept Hartford in front.
The third period is where the game took off for the Wolf Pack as Nieves tucked home a puck around the net put on goal by Malte Stromwall. During the period Gilmour also recorded his first goal as a professional hockey player, and it came in a 4-on-4 situation on a beautiful cross-ice feed sent by captain Mat Bodie.
— Adam Herman (@AdamZHerman) October 15, 2016
The sixth and final goal came via an empty netter by Marek Hrivik with three seconds remaining, and that was all she wrote.
Official Three Stars of the Game
1st- Philip McRae | 2nd- John Gilmour |3rd- Adam Tambellini
Tom’s Three Stars
1st- John Gilmour: During the preseason fans got a chance to look at what he could do, and he was mighty impressive in his first game with the Pack. Gilmour killed penalties, ran the point on the power play and was able to keep the game moving when he was on the ice. Whether it was his smooth stride, slick shot or quick first pass; Gilmour was making it happen all night long.
2nd: Philip McRae: It would be hard to overlook the impact McRae had on opening night, and with three points he earns the second star of the evening. The AHL veteran was in the right place at the right time all night long and is bound to put up points hanging around the net mouth during the season.
3rd: Adam Tambellini: “Tambo” is one of the players fans should be excited about this season, and he got off on the right foot in the season opener. With a goal and an assist Tambellini was involved offensively, but his ability to generate shots stood out. In the WHL he was able to score 50 goals, and in due time he could develop into a very consistent goal scorer for the Pack.
Honorable Mention: Magnus Hellberg: Hellberg stood on his head for the Pack all night long, especially during a tense second half of the second period when St. John’s outshot Hartford by a margin of 13-8. It easily could have been a situation in which St. John’s tied the game or took the lead, but Hellberg was a brick wall which kept the game stuck at 3-2.
All in all, there is a reason for fans to be excited about the Pack this season. The team is full of youth, talent and tons of speed that allows for a dynamic offense full of options on the rush. This roster makeup should foster tons of competition and put the Rangers in a position of strength if a call up is needed due to injury later in the season.
- Adam Tambellini (1) from Michael Paliotta (1) and Philip McRae (1).
- Philip McRae (1) from Adam Tambellini (1) and Chris Brown (1)
- Robin Kovacs (1) from Boo Nieves (1) and John Gilmour (1)
- Boo Nieves (1) from Malte Stromwall (1)
- John Gilmour (1) from Mat Bodie (1) and Philip McRae (2)
- Marek Hrivik (1) from Nicklas Jensen (1)
Next Game: On Saturday the Pack will go on the road to square off against the Wiles-Barre Scranton Penguins at 7:05 p.m,