A few short weeks ago, the Hartford Harpoons appeared to be on track to win the CHL’s Eastern Division with ease. They’d been out front of the division since the beginning, with a quality, balanced offense from their top two lines combined with reliable goaltending from Jonas Schemko. Over the last seven games, however, the East race has been shaken up significantly, as the Harpoons have come back to the pack thanks to a winless skid highlighted by a vanishing offense.
Hartford’s woes began the week before the All-Star break. The week began in fine fashion on Sunday, as the Harpoons drubbed the then-second-place Virginia Rhinos 8-2. Since then, though, Hartford hasn’t scored more than two goals in a game, and they’ve averaged just one goal per game during their 0-6-1 slide.
“I don’t know why it hasn’t been clicking for us lately,” said C Liam Engstrom. “But it’s been really frustrating, that’s for sure.”
The Harpoons’ most frequent tormentor during their slump: the Oshawa Drive. During their seven-game winless run, Hartford has played Oshawa four times and gone 0-3-1. The most agonizing of those games was on Saturday, when Harpoons RW Jacques Bacon scored a power-play goal with 22 seconds left in regulation to tie it up, only to give up an overtime goal to Drive LW Troy Blackwood to fall 3-2. Unsurprisingly, while Hartford has swooned, Oshawa has surged, going 5-1-1 to close an 11-point gap in the standings to a single point.
“Honestly, they’ve looked a little spooked out there,” said Blackwood. “They’re trying to force passes and take gambles, the kind of things you do when you’re in a slump and you can’t find your way out.”
The Drive aren’t the only team that has soared in the standings lately. The Baltimore Blue Claws have won seven games in a row, zooming up from fifth place to tie Hartford for first. One of those wins came against the Harpoons just before the break. Baltimore scored twice in the third period to notch a come-from-behind 3-2 win.
Harpoons coach Herman Chambers said that he’s not worried about the team’s recent struggles. “It’s not like we forgot how to play hockey overnight,” Chambers said. “We’ve just hit a bit of a dry spell; plenty of time left to straighten it out. We just have to refocus and play the way we know how.”
Chambers noted that two of the Harpoons’ leading scorers, RW Felix Delorme and D Brett Stolte, were called up to the parent Boston Badgers during the break, and that has played a role in the team’s dry spell.
“There’s no question that we’ve been pressing a little bit,” said Chambers. “But it’s not really a big thing. Once we have a game ot two where the puck bounces our way, we’ll be right back on track.”