Wolf Pack Showing Signs of Offensive Life

I hadn’t truly realized how hard a time the Wolf Pack has had scoring goals this year until I noticed that Oscar Lindberg’s two-goal game in Friday’s 5-2 win over Springfield was only the second multiple-goal game a Pack player had put up all season, and the first since J.T. Miller had two tucks in the second game of the year!

Also, Friday night was only the third time the Wolf Pack had scored as many as five goals in a game, and Sunday’s 6-3 win at Adirondack marked the first time all season that the club has gotten to six.

The good news is, the Pack showed definite indications this weekend that the offense is coming around.

The club had been last in the league in goals-scored-per-game pretty much since Christmas, but 18 goals in the last five games has jumped Ken Gernander’s group up to 27th in that category, and the power play is coming off of back-to-back two-goal games.

Jesper Fast

Jesper Fast

Individually, Jesper Fast has all of a sudden broken out into a relative frenzy of goal-scoring, Miller has strung together a six-game point-scoring streak and, not coincidentally, the defensemen who have habitually been good point producers, like Danny Syvret an Aaron Johnson, are suddenly ringing up some distinctly noticeable numbers.

Fast and Miller are the engines that are driving the resurgence, which has helped lead the Wolf Pack to wins in three of its last five games.  Fast, who had only two goals in his first 13 AHL games this year, now has six in his last five, and Miller has nine points, all but one of them assists, in the last six games.

Those two have played together on a line for most of the time that Miller has been back in the AHL, and they are starting to show the confidence of players that feel like they are going to cause the opposition serious problems every time they are on the ice.  Fast scored seven seconds off the opening draw, won by Miller, in Friday’s 5-2 win over then league-leading Springfield–the fastest goal I think I’ve ever seen off an opening faceoff and the quickest goal from the start of a period in franchise history–and then put up consecutive two-goal games Saturday against St. John’s (the only bright spot in an otherwise ugly 6-2 loss) and Sunday at Adirondack.

That Sunday game had the feel of a statement game by the Pack, in that they started it quite poorly, much like Saturday’s clunker, giving up a goal only 49 seconds in and falling behind 2-0, but turned the ship around nicely, getting better and better as the afternoon wore on.  Trailing 3-1 as late as the 18-minute mark of the second period, the Wolf Pack scored the last five goals of the game, including the winner by Fast with 4:41 left off a great shift with linemates Miller and Ryan Bourque.

J.T. Miller

J.T. Miller

Of course, I thought a couple of other recent Hartford wins, including Friday’s, were turnaround games too, and they were followed by depressing losses, so we’ll see, but I was very impressed with the way the team shook off the bad beginning Sunday and progressively took over the game.

Syvret had an empty-net goal and an assist Sunday in his old barn, and he now has a four-game point streak, in which he has two goals and six points.  Johnson, who was so prolific on offense in the season’s first month, has quietly put together a stretch in which he has seven points in six games.  He made a great slap pass to Marek Hrivik for the power-play goal that got the Pack to within 3-2 Sunday, with 1:39 left in the second.  It seems clear that both Syvret and Johnson are benefitting, statistically anyway, from several of the forwards getting on somewhat of a roll.

Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson

On the other side, Danny Kristo, who is still the only Wolf Pack player in double digits in goals (14) and is tied with Johnson for the team lead in points with 26, has hit a rough patch.  The rookie winger was a healthy scratch in Sunday’s game, with the coaches clearly looking to send a message to the whole team about the unacceptability of Saturday’s collective performance.  Kristo, possibly feeling the effects of already being past the number of games-played that would comprise an entire college season, has been held to one goal and four points in his last ten games, and the Wolf Pack need him to rediscover his scoring touch in order to make a realistic run at a playoff spot.  How Kristo reacts to the comeuppance will be highly significant for the team, and could have a big impact on his individual career as well.

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