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Garland boosts Wolf Pack past Charlotte and into next round

Hartford goalie Dylan Garland, right, made 38 saves to help the Wolf Pack beat Charlotte Sunday and advance in the AHL playoffs. (Photo courtesy Hartford Wolf Pack)

Hartford Wolf Pack goalie Dylan Garand made a playoff career-high 39 saves to help the Wolf Pack beat the Charlotte Checkers, 3-1, Sunday afternoon and win their opening round American Hockey League playoff series, 2-1.

With the win, Hartford advances to the Atlantic Division semifinals and a best-of-five series against the Providence Bruins beginning on Wednesday night, May 1. Game 3 will be in Hartford on Wednesday, May 8 along with game 4 on Friday, May 10, if necessary.

Just 2:39 into the third period, Charlotte’s Mike Benning was whistled for tripping, giving the Wolf Pack their fourth power play of the game. The Pack connected for the third time in the series, ballooning their lead to 2-0.

Brett Berard sent a backdoor pass to Riley Nash, who settled the puck and tapped home a backhander for his second goal of the Calder Cup playoffs at 4:21. The goal would stand as the game-winner and series winner.

For the second time in the series, the Wolf Pack jumped out to a first-period lead with the icebreaker. Hartford’s Mac Hollowell found Jaroslav Chmelař just outside of the Charlotte zone, hitting the young forward with a pass. Chmelař entered the zone and danced around Skyler Brind’Amour, who slipped and crashed to the ice. Chmelař then cut to the goal and snapped home his first career Calder Cup playoff goal at 10:10 of the first period.

Garand made twelve saves in the first period.

Garand stood strong in the second period as well, making 15 saves to keep the Wolf Pack ahead through 40 minutes. Garand’s best save of the period came during a stretch of four-on-four play when Casey Fitzgerald was teed up for a one-timer from the slot. Garand kicked the bid away with his right pad, keeping it 1-0 for the Wolf Pack.

Nash’s goal early in the third period gave the Wolf Pack a 2-0 lead. Berard extinguished the hopes at 14:52, making it 3-0 with the first goal of his Calder Cup playoff career. Berard took a pass from Nash and rushed into the offensive zone on the right-wing side while shorthanded. Berard used his speed to create a breakaway before snapping a shot by Hellberg.

It was Hartford’s first victory in a winner-take-all elimination game since Game 5 of the 2015 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Providence Bruins. Hartford won that game by a final score of 3-2 in overtime.

First round (Best of 3)
Thursday, April 25
Charlotte 3, Hartford 1
Saturday, April 27
Hartford 3, Charlotte 2, OT
Sunday, April 28
Hartford 3, Charlotte 1 (Hartford wins series, 2-1)

Atlantic Division semifinals (Best of 5)
Wednesday, May 1
Game 1 at Providence, 7:05 p.m.
Friday, May 3
Game 2 at Providence, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday, May 8
Game 3 at Hartford, 7 p.m.
Friday, May 10
Game 4 at Hartford, 7 p.m., if necessary
Sunday, May 12
Game 5 at Providence, 3 p.m., if necessary

Since 2009, the Collinsville Press has been providing award-winning coverage of sports and news in the Farmington Valley and across Connecticut.

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