Over the weekend, the Chicago Wolves enjoyed back-to-back games at Allstate Arena for the first time this season. However, after nearly an entire week without game action, the Wolves came out flat on Saturday against the Manitoba Moose. The visitors took the contest 5-1 and handed the Wolves only their second loss of the season. However, with the debut on the team’s new ‘Storm’ jerseys on Sunday, the Wolves rebounded and defeated the Milwaukee Admirals for the fourth time this season.
Now, the Central Division leading Wolves prepare for their first three-in-three of the young season this weekend.
Saturday – Moose 5, Wolves 1
The Wolves entered Saturday with one of the best records in the AHL, sporting a lone loss to the IceHogs to open the season. However, it appears the Wolves were not prepared for the Moose on Saturday, as the visitors took control in the opening frame and never looked back.
Three first period goals from the Moose ultimately sealed the fate of the game. Firsts of the season from Kristian Vesalainen and Nicholas Jones gave the Moose a 2-0 lead halfway through the period. However, the Moose added to the lead at 12:02 with Jonathan Kovacevic’s third of the season to enter the first intermission leading 3-0.
Just over a minute into the second period, the Wolves struck back. Defenseman Jalen Chatfield tallied his third goal of the young season to cut the deficit to two. However, Jimmy Oligny’s first goal of the season six seconds before the end of the period gave the Moose all the momentum they needed.
Cole Maier added an empty-net goal in the third to seal the win for Manitoba. The Wolves were outplayed at home, but a perfect opportunity presented itself on Sunday against their Wisconsin rival.
Sunday – Wolves 4, Admirals 2
On Sunday, the Wolves once again started slow. The Admirals jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first seven minutes of the game with goals from Matt Luff and Cole Smith at 5:19 and 6:05, respectively. The two power play tallies forced the Wolves to dig their way out of the deficit. Following the second goal, forward Kyle Marino dropped the gloves with Mathieu Olivier, perhaps sparking the Wolves going forward.
At the 11:32 mark in the period, Artyom Serikov tallied his first North American goal. Off the face-off, the defenseman took the puck and fired it toward the net. The puck had eyes and beat Admirals goaltender Devin Cooley for his first career goal in just his second game.
The Wolves didn’t look back. Max Lajoie joined the fun with his first of the season around two and a half minutes later to tie the game. The goal was enough for the Wolves to draw even before the first intermission.
There was no scoring for either side in the middle frame, but the Wolves put the contest out of reach in the third. At the 3:25 mark of the third period, Chatfield scored for the second time over the weekend, giving the Wolves the lead for good. David Gust‘s third of the season with the empty net sealed the win and a well needed comeback after Saturday’s loss.
The Wolves didn’t disappoint in their new ‘Storm’ jerseys, as the Wolves are now a perfect 1-0-0 while wearing them.
The AHL season is a grind. Due to the schedule structure favoring more games on weekends, its very easy for teams to be underprepared entering a contest. The Wolves last played on Sunday, October 31 before taking the ice on Saturday. That long time off is sometimes harmful to the flow of a team who is on a run. It proved to be the case for the Wolves in their second loss of the season to the Moose.
However, with less than 24 hours between puck drops, the Wolves rebounded nicely on Sunday. Once again, the Wolves found a way to comeback and defeat their division rivals. Sunday’s win was the fourth of the season already against the Admirals. Now, these two teams won’t see each other until a home-and-home in mid-December.
One positive to the weekend as a whole was the defensive scoring. When the blue line gets involved offensively, teams tend to go far in the playoffs. Every team needs depth scoring, and when the forwards aren’t getting the job done, the defensemen sometimes need to pick up the slack. Two goals from Chatfield, along with Serikov’s first in North America and Lajoie’s first of the season, proved to be necessities over the weekend. The team failed to see their top line score at all, with only C.J. Smith picking up an assist on Chatfield’s game-winner on Sunday.
Another round of applause is also due for Eetu Maikniemi. The Finnish goalie played both games of the back-to-back due to Antti Raanta’s injury in Carolina. With the injury, Alex Lyon, who was scheduled to start Saturday, sat in case of a call-up. He was called up following the game as Beck Warm also returned to Chicago because of the situation. Although Makiniemi split the weekend, stopping 25 of 27 shots on Sunday after playing Saturday is impressive for the Vaanta, Finland native.
What’s On Tap Next?
This weekend, the Wolves play their first three-in-three of the season. On Friday, the Wolves travel to Rockford to take on the IceHogs at 7:00 p.m. CST. Following their road game, the team returns for two home games on Saturday and Sunday against the Toronto Marlies. This weekend is the only time the Wolves welcome the Marlies to Allstate Arena this season, with Chicago traveling to Canada in mid-March for another series with Toronto. Saturday and Sunday’s games are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. CST, respectively.
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