The Wolf Pack didn't disappoint fans for the final home game. After 9 straight starts in net by David LeNeveu the goaltending duties for the final home game were given to Dov Grumet Morris. Grumet Morris added to the Wolf Pack shut out total. He stopped all 23 shots and earned his first shut out of the season. It also happened to be the third time in a row the Pack shut out the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Ryan Bourque scored the game winner, his 21st of the season and T.J. Hensick scored his 11th when he put the puck in Bridgeport's empty net in the final minute. The Pack won 2-0 and earned their 9th win in the last 10 games.
The Wolf Pack finished the season on a good note they were able to get 18 points out of their last 10 games. It wasn't enough to get them into the playoffs they fell short by about 10 points, thats about five losses too many. You can point to a miserable record in November and find five losses pretty quickly.
Global Spectrum made the Fan Appreciation night a prize extravaganza. Fans in the audience won J.T. Miller autographed stick, signed pucks from New York Rangers Rich Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Brad Richards and more. They gave away signed Dylan McIlrath bobble heads and there was a jersey give away as well.
The fans voted David LeNeveu as the fan favorite for the season. That had everything to do with his three straight shut out performance and 8-1 record over his last nine starts. LeNeveu was the hottest goalie in the AHL in that stretch.
Ryan Bourque was named the teams 7th player by the Connecticut Sports Media, I would have chosen the same player. Bourque had his best season in the AHL scoring in the final game gave him 21 goals and 16 assists for 37 points.
The Wolf Pack missed the playoffs for the third time in the last five years. This is the first time they have missed the playoffs two seasons in a row. It is AHL hockey, sometimes the roster you have in the first half of a season can be totally different then the roster you have in the second half.
The season started with goaltending difficulties. Cam Talbot had been playing well for the Wolf Pack/Whale for the better part of three seasons. He was gone early in the season, called up to back up the Ranger goaltending star Henrik Lundqvist. It was a great promotion for Talbot but it made a huge hole in the Wolf Pack roster. After running several young goaltenders in and out of the line up a need for veteran leadership in the net was needed. The Pack went out and got two veteran goalies who had played in Hartford before. Dov Grumet Morris and David LeNeveu both played extremely well this season.
The other issue was defense. The teams defense took a while to connect and mature. When the season started only Dylan McIlrath was returning and he had about a half of a season in AHL experience. Stu Bickle was injured and did not return to the Wolf Pack this season. The Wolf Pack had brought in Aaron Johnson to anchor the defense and he was named team captain. Offensive minded defenseman Danny Syvret was acquired in the Kris Newberry trade late last season. The Wolf Pack brought in Connor Allen, and Tommy Hughes as well. Over these last ten games the Wolf Pack defense has only allowed 15 goals in its last 10 games. The defensive core has improved so much that the Pack could contend with just about any team in their conference. They have had wins over Springfield, Providence and Manchester, and St. John's recently, four different playoff teams.
The Wolf Pack started off the season as one of the most penalized teams in the league. They were first in penalties in the first quarter of the season. They finished the season with the fifth highest with 1493 penalty minutes.
It was a difficult team to coach this year. The youth, defense and goaltender issues took their toll in November when the team plummeted in the standings, only earning one victory in 11 games. That stretch would haunt the Pack for the rest of the season. They were 15th in the standings in the conference for most of the year. They made a run at the end of the season and rallied to finish five games above .500, something that didn't seem possible in early January. They finished 9 points out of the last playoff spot but they also rose from last in the conference to 10th behind Hershey.
The turn around is impressive and provides some hope for a better prepared team next year. Since a roster shakeup in mid January the team went 26-14. Including an end of the season run where they went 9-1 with four shut outs. This may have been one of the toughest years to coach the AHL club and Ken Gernander and his staff have transformed this team into a competitive and gritty winner. I sure bet that MSG is happy with the development of the team. They have made call ups this year to J. T. Miller and Jesper Fast along with others including Cam Talbot.
The season is over and now the concern will turn to the resigning of players. There are quite a few players that become free agents at the end of this season. Here we go again, who will return and who will be replaced?
Forrest Gump would probably say that AHL rosters are like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get.