Cardiac Pack?

Got a great tweet Saturday night from a fan whose handle is “Mark G”, after the Wolf Pack had completed a sweep of their home-and-home set with the Adirondack Phantoms, asking, “Too soon to call them the Cardiac Pack?”

Well, invoking mid-’70’s memories of Brian Sipe, I’m personally declaring it’s not too soon.

I mean, think about the fact that all of the Pack’s games so far have been one-goal games, two of the four have gone to shootouts and the Wolf Pack have trailed in all four, scoring inside the final five minutes of the third period in three of the four.

The Pack could easily be 0-4 right now, and it’s awfully early to start making pronouncements about great character and things like that, but for a group whose triggermen are so new to North American pro hockey, Ken Gernander‘s club has showed remarkable moxie in its first two weekends of action.

It was rookie defenseman Tommy Hughes stepping to the forefront in Saturday’s 3-2 win at the Glens Falls Civic Center, with an assist from classy veteran Brodie Dupont, after Danny Kristo and J.T. Miller had come up big Friday night at home against the Phantoms.

Hughes, an undrafted free agent out of the Ontario Hockey League who had all of three goals and 32 points in 169 career OHL games with his hometown London Knights, scored his first pro goal only 1:12 into the second period Saturday.  That recovered some key momentum for the Wolf Pack, after the Phantoms had countered an early Miller goal with a pair of their own, including one by Ben Holmstrom with only 53 seconds remaining in the first frame.

Danny Kristo

Danny Kristo

That second-period goal by Hughes was the result of his simply throwing the puck at the net from the point, and he got a break when Adirondack goaltender Cal Heeter seemed to be fooled and allowed the puck to go through his five-hole.  And Hughes made a similar good, simple play on the winning goal, which came with only 2:07 left in the third period and the Pack seemingly headed for a third overtime in four games.  The 21-year-old blueliner stopped an Adirondack pass along the boards and whipped the puck quickly towards the net, and Dupont, who has been a real nice fit so far as a fourth-line forward who can play center or wing, deflected it underneath Heeter.

That was after the Wolf Pack seemed to be battling uphill for most of the game on Friday, only to come back twice fairly late in the game, once from 3-1 down and then again after the Phantoms had taken a 4-3 lead.  Miller scored on a deflection early in the third period to tie it at three, and then Kristo ripped home the Pack’s second power-play goal of the game with 4:36 left to force overtime.  Both of those young guns then scored in the shootout, and Cam Talbot, who had come out on the short end of a shootout in the Pack’s season opener against Norfolk, stopped four straight Phantom shooters after allowing a goal on Adirondack’s first attempt.

The Wolf Pack’s three most experienced veteran D-men, captain Aaron Johnson, Danny Syvret and Stu Bickel, have been building the team a nice foundation, which allows for a confidence-building comfort zone, but the organization has got to be stoked about the fact that the young guys that were going to have to carry a lot of the offensive load for this Wolf Pack club have been coming up clutch in big spots.  The 23-year-old Kristo is tied for the AHL rookie points lead, with 2-3-5, and is 2/2 in shootout attempts, and Miller, who just turned 20 in March, has goals in all three games he has played since returning from the Rangers.  Only Toronto’s T.J. Brennan, who has exploded for seven goals in the Marlies’ first three games, has more AHL goals than Miller’s four.

And don’t discount big-save goaltending, either, as a major factor in the Wolf Pack’s 3-0-0-1 start.  I don’t think either Talbot or Jason Missiaen has been overly happy with some of the goals that have gone in during the first four games, but they both have saved their best work for the late-game crunch time, and have both stood tall in situations that were key to the Wolf Pack staying within striking distance when they were behind.

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