The Hartford Wolf Pack opened their 17th season in Hartford last night. The experience was quite interesting and obviously very different from last year. Off the ice there are noticeable changes to the XL Center. The new concessionaire has already received many compliments. Ovations replaced Delaware North from last season. The prices are competitive with Delaware North but fans I spoke to at the game were happy with the quantity and quality of the food. The concourse has new flat screen televisions now and it is such an improvement from the 20th century sets that used to be there.
The game had a special visitor planted in the audience. There was an incredible crowd entertainer who really did his job well. The crowd of 6,347 really responded as he pumped them up and even got them to create one of the best waves I've seen in Hartford in some time. He gave out a ton of Wolf Pack T-shirts and the kids in the audience absolutely went crazy when he would show up in their section. The crowd was contained in the lower bowl and that really had an affect on the atmosphere in the game. The crowd seemed like a solid 7th man. The crowd created an atmosphere that was perfect for a hockey game. They were impressively loud even with this being the lowest attended home opener in Hartford's 38 years of professional hockey. (2010-11 home opener attendance 7,013)
The Pack didn't disappoint early as fights broke out in the first period. Michael Haley and Zack Stortini dropped the gloves and had a lengthy duel you can see it on the video attached.
Later that same period Stortini wasn't finished as he locked up with Dylan McIlrath. The two took time in landing big shots. You can see them go at it here.
The Pack lacked some offensive punch through half of the game. They did generate shots and they out shot Norfolk 37-28. Norfolk had a 2-0 lead on the Pack before got on the score board.
With a new season in the AHL there are always new players to witness for the first time in live action. What an interesting player Danny Kristo looks to be. Kristo was acquired in the Christian Thomas trade with Montreal. He was quick and was the owner of Hartford hockey's first goal of the season.
Kristo beat Norfolk goalie Frederik Andersen on a snappy wrister. The crowd got loud but they would get even louder when the near impossible happened. The Pack were able to tie the game with .04 left in the third period. With goalie Cam Talbot pulled the Pack crowded the net off a face off win by Darrell Powe. Powe pushed the puck into the net just before the game ended. The referees called no goal but after a video review you could see the puck go over the line before the period ended.
The Pack fought back and went into overtime with hopes to pull out a win in the opener. That was not to be as they struggled to score in the shootout. Kristo found the net but consecutive misses by Andrew Yogan and Ryan Bourque ended the Packs chance for two points.
Today the Pack is back at the XL Center to play division rival Albany Devils at 3pm.