From the Wolves Den: Busy Wolves weekend and news

  

This past week has been full of action, news and rumors. The Wolves played two games before entering the AHL All-Star break. Players are off until Friday night when the Milwaukee Admirals return to town.

Game recaps

The Wolves were in Cedar Park, Texas for two games against the Texas Stars on Friday and Saturday. The Wolves ultimately split the two-game set with the Stars, who are only one point back of third place after the weekend series.

On Friday, the Stars were the team to strike first. At the 7:13 mark of the first period, the Stars executed some excellent passing, ultimately resulting in defenseman Gavin Bayreuther ripping a slap shot through traffic and into the back of the net.

Despite the early momentum for the Stars, the Wolves answered. After having an excellent set of breakaway chances in the Wolves shutout loss to the IceHogs, Brandon Pirri capitalized on his breakaway chance Friday night. For a team who seems to live and die by the stretch pass, defenseman Jake Bischoff connected on a long stretch pass from the defensive slot to tie the game. Pirri’s marker came with just 23 seconds remaining in the middle frame.

In the third period, the Wolves took the lead and never let up. At 2:30 in the third, Nicholas Roy found himself with the puck as the Wolves’ power play expired. Roy teed defenseman Jimmy Schuldt for a one-timer and he did not miss. Schuldt beat Jake Oettinger to give the visitors the 2–1 lead.

Oscar Dansk was a huge part of the Wolves’ success on Friday. Stopping 19 of 20 shots, Dansk continues to put together an excellent campaign for the third-place Wolves.

Unfortunately, Saturday’s game wasn’t as favorable for the visitors. Although the Wolves outshot the Stars 37–19 for the evening, the home team got the best of goaltender Garett Sparks.

The Wolves drew first blood, scoring on the power play. Nicholas Roy finished a nice pass from Keegan Kolesar in the slot to give Chicago the 1–0 lead. However, just over two minutes later, the Stars answered on a goal from Chicago native and former Rockford IceHog Anthony Louis to tie the contest at 1–1.

Not long after, 24 seconds later to be precise, a Wolves turnover in their own zone led to Brad McClure giving the Stars a 2–1 lead, deflating the Wolves after capturing the game’s first goal.

At 12:30 in the first period, Roy set up Kolesar this time and the Wolves managed to tie the game at 2–2. However, the Stars found some magic. At the 15:49 and 17:16 marks of the first, former IceHogs Tanner Kero and Anthony Louis tallied, respectively, giving the Stars a comfortable two-goal cushion before the first intermission.

The Wolves made things interesting when Jake Leschyshyn scored from just outside the crease at 6:03 in the third on a nice play by Curtis McKenzie, but it would not be enough. Just after a Stars’ power play concluded, Jason Robertson found himself wide open and was set up perfectly by Michael Mersch to extend the Texas lead to two goals once again.

Garett Sparks did not look great in Saturday’s contest, allowing five goals on only 19 shots. However, the rest of his stats from this year were actually better than Oscar Dansk’s at one point. Now, Dansk has passed Sparks in both goals against average and save percentage.

The Wolves restart regular season play on Friday at Allstate Arena as they welcome the Milwaukee Admirals back to town. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CST. The Wolves will also be home on Saturday, February 1 when they play the Manitoba Moose at 7:00 p.m. CST.

All-Star break

AHL All Star festivities started on Sunday evening in Ontario, California with the AHL skills competition. The competition saw Zdeno Chara’s hardest shot record be snapped by Ontario forward Martin Frk, who registered a 109.2 mph slap shot. The Western Conference took the skills challenge by a score of 18–15. Lucas Elvenes, the Wolves’ lone All-Star representative, participated in the puck control relay, the pass and score and the breakaway relay. Elvenes was paired with former Wolves T.J. Tynan and Kasimir Kaskisuo for the pass and score competition.

On Monday, the AHL hosted the actual All-Star game. A six-game round robin tournament kicked off at 7:00 p.m. CST and made for entertaining hockey. The Central Division team found themselves in the final at the end of the night, where they ultimately lost to the Atlantic Divison, 3–1. Elvenes scored two goals and added two assists in the four games throughout the night.

Another special moment from Monday’s All-Star game happened in the early afternoon. Long-time Wolves forward Darren Haydar was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame on Monday afternoon. The forward played five seasons with the Wolves and in 780 career AHL games tallied 788 points.

Speculations

There has been some notable news streaming through the Twitter-sphere over the past few days. The Vegas Golden Knights, the Wolves current NHL affiliate, is looking to buy an AHL franchise and relocate them to Las Vegas.

This idea doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Many NHL clubs are now purchasing their AHL clubs in order to ensure they control how the organization is run, as well as cutting down distance between the two clubs in the event of call-ups.

Currently, Chicago to Las Vegas is a decent distance for a player to make when being called up from the AHL. The Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche both have their AHL affiliates within reasonable distance of their parent clubs. You can get coverage on the Rockford IceHogs and Colorado Eagles from our very own Mario Tirabassi and Marie Sexton, respectively.

The reports have indicated that the Wolves refuse to move. If that’s the case, another AHL team will be bought by the Vegas Golden Knights, or an ECHL club could be purchased and promoted, if the Golden Knights so choose.

An interesting theory was posed by SinBin Fuel, and friend Evan Miller, about what could happen in this situation.

It’s certainly an interesting situation. Would the Wolves finally affiliate with the Blackhawks? That idea is a bit doubtful. Would the Indy Fuel move up to the AHL? Who knows what could happen in this situation. However, there are many possible situations that could indeed shake up the AHL in a bit of an unforeseen way.

An idea that could be interesting is the birth of a Las Vegas AHL team via purchase and relocation of an ECHL team. I think there is a decent chance the Golden Knights purchase a lower club and move them rather than purchase an already existing AHL club. This would set up perfectly for the Wolves to affiliate with the NHL Seattle franchise that is set to begin play in 2021. The Wolves would likely have to survive one season as an independent team but could then align with the NHL’s newest franchise.

The flaw with that idea is the same as the current situation with the Golden Knights, distance. Early on it would be a good partnership, but there is little doubt that the NHL Seattle ownership would want the minor league club to be closer than the four hour flight from Chicago to Seattle.

Nonetheless, it presents an interesting question that the Wolves’ ownership will have to monitor as Vegas begins their search to purchase a franchise for their AHL affiliation.

All for now. Until then, see you at the Wolves Den.

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    Ron Luce
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    This past week has been full of action, news and rumors. The Wolves played two games before entering the AHL All-Star break. Players are off until Fri[To continue reading full article, click here: From the Wolves Den: Busy Wolves weekend and news]

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