Press Release from the Hartford Wolf Pack
Photo Courtesy of the Hartford Wolf Pack
CHARLOTTE, NC – The Hartford Wolf Pack and Charlotte Checkers went back-and-forth on opening night at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, but when the dust settled it was the Checkers who skated away with a dramatic 4-3 overtime victory.
Anton Levtchi turned the lights out with his second goal of the night, capping off an exceptional AHL debut just 35 seconds into overtime. Levtchi took a pass from fellow rookie Finn Santtu Kinnunen, then darted in on Wolf Pack starter Louis Domingue. Levtchi held the puck until he got Domingue down, then buried a shot over the sprawled out goaltender for his second goal of the night.
Charlotte opened the scoring just 4:58 in, as Aleksi Heponiemi broke the ice on the season with a deflection in front of the Wolf Pack net. Heponiemi caught a piece of Dennis Cesana’s point shot, beating Domingue for his first goal of the season. The Wolf Pack responded rather quickly, however, tying the score under ten minutes later. Jonny Brodzinski gained possession of the puck after a turnover in the Checkers end, then fed a streaking Will Cuylle. Cuylle snapped a quick shot that beat J-F Berube for his first goal of the season at 13:52.
The Checkers again took a lead early in a period, this time 1:44 into the second. Levtchi notched his first AHL goal in his AHL debut, converting Charlotte’s first powerplay of the game. Lucas Carlsson’s shot was blocked on the way in from the point but bounced right to Levtchi. He quickly snapped a shot that beat a sprawling Domingue.
Lauri Pajuniemi had the answer, however. Hartford scored a powerplay goal of their own at 3:42, as Pajuniemi fired a one-timer from the far faceoff circle. Matthew Robertson set him up for his first assist of the season, while Tanner Fritz also got in on the scoring with an assist of his own.
Julien Gauthier, in his first game as a member of the Wolf Pack, would give the team their first lead of the night 8:07 into the third. The hulking winger barreled his way into the offensive sone, holding possession on his backhand. Then, after getting Berube down, he quickly transitioned to his forehand to bury his first goal with the Pack.
Unfortunately, the Wolf Pack couldn’t hold the Checkers off. Grigori Denisenko fired a shot that hit the leg of defenseman Ben Harpur and bounced right to veteran Chris Tierney. Tierney, wasting no time, collected the puck and beat Domingue for his first goal as a Checker at 12:28 of the final frame.
Charlotte pressed hard for a regulation winner, but Domingue stood tall, making 13 saves in the third period alone.
Charlotte’s only shot of overtime would be enough, however, as a turnover by the Wolf Pack sent the Checkers the other way. Levtchi would bury his chance to send the crowd home happy just 35 seconds into three-on-three overtime.
The Wolf Pack conclude opening weekend tomorrow with a rematch against the Checkers. Puck drop is set for 6:00 p.m., with pregame live on AHLTV and Mixlr at 5:45 p.m.
The Wolf Pack return to the XL Center next Saturday, October 22nd, for their home opener. Join us at 7:00 p.m. when the Pack hosts the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The first 1,500 fans will receive a 2022-23 Wolf Pack magnetic schedule, courtesy of Pepsi Zero Sugar. To get tickets, visit www.hartfordwolfpack.com.