I think part of the appeal of minor league hockey is that it's inherently quirky, but this Hartford Wolf Pack season has been particularly bizarre. After starting out as one of the hottest teams in the AHL, a slew of call-ups, including Cam Talbot, depleted the roster a bit and began months of incompetence that has led to them being the worst team in the league. A number of roster moves later, including a complete overhaul of the goaltending, and they're now 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. Last night's contribution to that streak was a 5-2 win over the Springfield Falcons; the Blue Jackets' affiliate and one of the top teams in the AHL.
The best player on the ice for either team was J.T. Miller by an extremely wide margin. Miller was just an absolute monster in virtually any facet of the game you can think of. He scored Hartford's first goal with a nice wrist-shot from the top of the right faceoff circle off the rush and earned assists on the next two Wolf Pack goals. He turned on the jets shorthanded to get a breakaway, and after getting hooked, converted a penalty shot with a nice deke. He played a physical game and a solid game defensively. The Falcons, as previously mentioned, are a very good team and it's a team filled with plenty of NHL experience. The fact that a 20-year-old Miller could stand out and completely run rampant says a lot about his physical and mental maturation.
Ryan Bourque was the other Hartford player to stand out. Bourque scored a powerplay goal by putting a shot in while falling down in the slot. He, along with Miller, was a big part of limiting damage on the PK as the Wolfpack sent a parade of players to the penalty box in the third period while trying to preserve the lead. And he got an empty netter for good measure.
Marek Hrivik, after having two goals in his previous 26 games, now has a 2-game scoring streak. A Jesper Fast PP shot went behind the net, and the waiting Hrivik took it towards the front and eventually banked it off goaltender Mike McKenna into the net. It's been a disappointing season for Hrivik offensively, and he doesn't hold much value in other areas. He certainly has a handful of nice offensive tools, though, so if he can salvage the rest of the season and put up some numbers it could save himself from being sent packing in the offseason.
Dylan McIlrath was very good defensively, and particularly on the penalty kill. Conor Allen also had a pretty good game and earned two assists. Oscar Lindberg did not have his best effort, only generating one shot while taking two penalties, but even still he made a great cross-ice pass to Miller for the first goal. Jesper Fast got an assist on the Hrivik goal, while Danny Kristo had a nice game despite blanking on the scoresheet.
Keep reading for some other prospect updates, including video of Ryan Graves' first goal since being traded to The Val-d'Or Foreurs.