The Wolves received incredible goaltending from Carolina Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek on Thursday. Mrazek made a rehab start with the Wolves to test his injured catching hand, which kept him out of game action for eight weeks. After Mrazek’s 43-save performance, the Wolves looked to pick up their 14th win of the 2021 season on Saturday against the IceHogs.
Entering Saturday, the Wolves had a stranglehold of the Central Division. A win against their in-state rival would widen that lead as they enter the final six-week stretch of the spring.
The opening frame started slowly for both teams, as neither team recorded a shot on net until the 4:20 mark of the period. Anthony Richard’s shot on net started the action off right. However, it was the IceHogs who struck first.
At the 7:33 mark of the first period, Dylan McLaughlin picked off an errant pass by defenseman Max Lajoie in the Wolves’ zone. Without hesitation, McLaughlin fired it past Devin Cooley for his fourth goal of the season and the IceHogs had life.
The ‘Hogs lead didn’t last long. At the 13:38 mark of the period, Sean Malone set up Dominik Bokk in the mid-slot and the AHL rookie fired home his fifth goal of the season with a wicked snipe.
Both teams entered the first intermission with plenty of chances, but the Wolves held the shot lead, 9-8, after 20 minutes. When Chicago and Rockford get together, it is usually a chippy game. However, neither team committed a penalty in the opening frame.
The Wolves never seem to panic if they’re down or tied early in a game. Time and time again fans have watched the Wolves will their way back into games. In similar fashion, it was the Wolves who opened the second period scoring thanks to David Cotton’s sixth goal of the season.
After a Ryan Suzuki face-off loss, the Wolves pressured the IceHogs and re-gained possession. Suzuki found the puck on his stick and, in a way, left the puck for Cotton who was coming back from behind the net. Cotton turned around and sniped ‘Hogs goalie Cale Morris to give the Wolves their first lead of the evening.
After Cotton’s marker, both teams exchanged scoring chances via a plethora of consecutive shots. After the series of shots alternated, the IceHogs tied the game.
An IceHogs’ two-on-one led to forward Josiah Slavin’s second goal in as many AHL games. The Colorado College product tapped home a nice pass from fellow forward D.J. Busdecker to even the score at two goals apiece. Nicolas Beaudin deserves some credit for a great stretch pass while catching the Wolves in a change.
The Wolves stole the lead back near the end of the period. Tanner Jeannot continued his career year by tallying his ninth goal of the season on the power play. Jeannot cleaned up a rebound off a David Warsofsky shot to take the lead back for the Wolves.
An extension of Jeannot’s seven-game scoring streak meant a 3-2 Wolves lead entering the second intermission. The Wolves and IceHogs were once again playing a tight game, nearly matching each other’s shot totals again as the Wolves outshot the visitors 13-11 in the second.
The third period featured a lot of action, but not a lot of scoring. Both sides had plenty of shots on the opposing goaltenders. The IceHogs finally outshot the Wolves 14-13 in the third, but Devin Cooley stood tall in the period, ending the game with a diving, soccer-like save to keep the IceHogs scoreless for the third period.
The Wolves added their fourth goal of the game via a Cole Smith empty net marker. The goal was Smith’s second of the season, icing the game for the Wolves. The Wolves improved to 14-2-0-1 on the season with Saturday’s victory over the IceHogs. Devin Cooley, Sean Malone, David Warsofsky, and Tanner Jeannot all had great games for the home team.
The Wolves played well enough on Saturday to pick up their 14th win of the season. That said, head coach Ryan Warsofsky believes the Wolves still have a lot to improve on this season. “[We] did some really good things, did some things that we’ve talked about throughout the week. We also made some big-time mistakes that need to be corrected. Again, result was good, but a lot of teaching to be done.”
The Wolves certainly shouldn’t be all doom and gloom. Multi-point efforts from David Warsofsky and Sean Malone, as well as Tanner Jeannot’s extended scoring streak, propelled the Wolves to a much needed victory. But, the Wolves should never be satisfied, especially with Ryan Warsofsky as their head coach. He has consistently said all year that the team needs to play well more consistently if these guys want to get a look at the NHL level.
The Wolves have certainly benefited from great goaltending all season as well, no matter who has been in net. Warsofsky believes the Wolves need to play better in front of their net-minders so they “don’t see so many chances.”
One player that stood out on Saturday night was Dominik Bokk. His six shots on net paced the team and he scored a well needed goal for his development. Coach Warsofsky spoke to how important it is for him to get going down the stretch.
“It’s really important”, said Warsofsky regarding Bokk getting hot. “He’s been really good the last few weeks. [He] didn’t have the greatest game on Thursday, but for him to bounce back the way he did [says a lot]… him and I talked this morning about how he needs to be consistent. To play in the National Hockey League you need to be consistent and he gets that.”
Bokk has been perhaps the most underwhelming of the young rookies at least on the scoresheet. However, his quality play is getting noticed by the coaching staff and he’ll have to keep that up for the Wolves to continue dominating their schedule.
Tanner Jeannot may be the organization’s favorite player. He has done everything for the Wolves, bringing a scoring touch, while being physical and playing any role he’s asked to by the coaching staff. Coach Warsofsky shared some nice thoughts about the big forward.
“He’s a throwback, old school hockey player. He does all the little things right, he’s a true 200-foot player, he can take face-offs… he does it all.” Coach believes if he continues to work on his game, he’ll be in the NHL in no time.
Overall, the Wolves are only getting better, which is scary considering their dominance so far this season. If the Wolves can clean their game up and have a more consistent effort, they may not lose again the rest of the season. This team is that good.
What’s On Tap Next?
The Wolves head to Rockford on Wednesday, April 7 to take on the same IceHogs team they faced on Saturday. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 PM CDT from BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford, IL.