From the Wolves Den: Weekly recap and weekend preview

  

As the AHL season rages on, the Chicago Wolves continue to play very good hockey heading into the home stretch. This past week, the Wolves paid a visit to the Milwaukee Admirals at Panther Arena on Wednesday. Despite the strong effort, the Wolves lost in the shootout to the league’s best team. This weekend, the Wolves will have a pair of home games, hosting the Admirals on Saturday and the in-state rival Rockford IceHogs on Sunday at Allstate Arena.

Recap: Wolves lose at Milwaukee

Wednesday’s game was quite a test for the Wolves. The Wolves rolled into Panther Arena riding high, winning three straight games after losing their first two contest of the new year. The Admirals were more than ready for the task, entering Wednesday’s game as the best team in the AHL with 60 points.

Despite any possible intimidation from the Admirals, the Wolves struck early on Wednesday. The first-ever Vegas Golden Knights player, Reid Duke, ripped a wrist shot over Connor Ingram’s shoulder to give the visitors the early 1-0 lead.

The Admirals were resilient. At the 8:36 mark of the first period, Mathieu Olivier tied the game after a Steve Santini shot was blocked in front and the carom found Olivier in open space. Olivier capitalized on his chance and the Admirals were in business.

Wolves at Admirals

Wolves forward Valentin Zykov looked to get in front of Admirals goalie Connor Ingram on Wednesday in order to create an opportunity for the Wolves. Photo: Milwaukee Admirals

The Wolves found success scoring early in the period on Wednesday. Just as they did in the first period, the Wolves scored in the first minute of play in the middle frame. 57 seconds into the period, Lucas Elvenes tallied his eighth goal of the campaign on the power play. Curtis McKenzie’s pass to Brandon Pirri created the initial bid that Ingram stopped, but Elvenes was able to bury the rebound and give the visitors the lead once again.

Everyone loves old friends, until they come back and ruin your party. At the 10:40 mark of the middle frame, former Chicago Wolves forward Daniel Carr tied the game to knot the score at 2–2. Carr was last season’s AHL Most Valuable Player while with the Wolves.

Both the third period and overtime did not yield any additional scoring for the two teams. Wednesday’s contest required a shootout to determine who received the second point.

Both goalies were excellent all game. Oscar Dansk made 22 saves on 24 shots and Milwaukee’s Connor Ingram recorded 28 saves on 30 Wolves’ shots. That pattern continued into the shootout as only one shooter for either team tallied. Milwaukee’s Rem Pitlick scored on the first shot for either team of the shootout and that was all it took for the Admirals to capture their 28th win of the season.

It is encouraging that the Wolves hung in with the league’s best team. Not only did they force extra time, they took the game as deep as they could but were unfortunately unable to tally a goal in the shootout. The key for the Wolves will be to translate that energy from Wednesday into this weekend’s two contests as they host the Admirals and rival Rockford on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Weekend preview

After the disappointing loss on Wednesday, the Wolves will enjoy some home cooking this weekend, hosting two central division rivals at Allstate Arena.

On Saturday, the Milwaukee Admirals come to town for some Saturday night hockey in Rosemont. The Wolves will look to enact revenge on the Admirals after giving them an incredible fight on Wednesday in their own building. This time, the Wolves will have the home ice advantage and behind a strong Saturday night crowd at Allstate Arena, the Wolves will look to capture a critical two points. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CST.

On Sunday, the Wolves welcome the Chicago Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, to town for a Sunday matinee. Every game within the division is important, especially when the IceHogs are looking up at the Wolves in the standings. Two points for Rockford keeps them within striking distance of the third place slot and a win for the Wolves would mean another step toward catching the second-place Iowa Wild. Puck drop is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. CST.

The key for the Wolves all season has been their excellent goaltending. Despite his record, Chicago-native Garrett Sparks has been sensational this year, posting a 2.55 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. Dansk’s record better reflects his performance. Along with his 13 wins, Dansk has posted a 2.59 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. Assuming each goalie sees action this weekend, they will be critical in any Wolves’ success.

This Saturday is the Wolves’ annual Teddy Bear Toss game. If you are attending the game Saturday, be sure to bring a stuffed animal and chuck it onto the ice when the Wolves score their first goal.

Both games this weekend will be televised on My 50 Chicago. Tune in to see the Wolves take on two division rivals as the standings start to take shape in preparation for the AHL Playoffs. Better yet, the Wolves can be viewed in person for some good family fun this weekend in Rosemont.

Ahead of Saturday’s contest, the Wolves re-called forward Jermaine Loewen from loan to the Fort Wayne Comets and signed Cam Maclise to a PTO contract.

More after the weekend. Until then, see you at the Wolves Den.

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