After a disappointing weekend for the Chicago Wolves, the team was back in action following their first three-in-three of the season. On Wednesday, the Wolves ventured to Grand Rapids, Michigan to play a morning game with the Griffins.
As the AHL likes to do, teams will play 11:00 a.m. local time games to encourage school groups to attend. The Wolves host three mid-week day games this season, but this was their first played in the 2021-22 campaign.
A win for the Wolves would be monumental entering the weekend home-and-home with the Rockford IceHogs. The Wolves entered Wednesday searching for their third win against the Griffins this season.
From the drop of the puck, the Wolves looked ready for the morning’s Central Division tilt. On occasion, teams will take longer to get going during a daytime game, but the start time didn’t phase Chicago. The Wolves were the better team from the start, peppering Calvin Pickard with 15 shots in the opening period.
On the other end, the Griffins weren’t totally out of it, despite the early display of dominance from the Wolves. With 11 shots of their own, in addition to a late power play chance, the Griffins kept it close. Despite two penalties of their own, their penalty kill and Pickard held strong and kept the Wolves scoreless.
Both teams entered the first intermission deadlocked at zero. The teams both showed good life, but failed to beat the opposing goaltender.
The Wolves once again came out flying to begin the middle frame. Just 52 seconds into the period, Jamieson Rees, on a slick feed from Jack Drury, tallied his first goal of the 2021-22 season. Drury capitalized on a takeaway, dishing the puck behind him to Rees who picked his spot and fired home the feed.
Although the Wolves tallied early, and added 19 shots in the middle frame, Pickard and the Griffins kept the game within one entering the second intermission. Each team had a power play of their own, but both teams’ penalty kills came up strong in the middle 20 minutes.
The Wolves entered the intermission with a 34-23 shot advantage through two periods. Pickard saw a full game worth of shots in just two periods, but held his ground and provided stability for the home team.
In the third, the Wolves held the Griffins without a shot until the second half of the frame. However, on the first shot of the third for the Griffins, Brett McKenzie tallied his first of the season on a beautiful play to tie the game at one.
13 shots from Chicago in the period were not enough in comparison to the Griffins’ four shots. Although both teams once again drew a penalty each, neither side was able to capitalize with the extra man.
The goaltending continued to be strong for both sides. Calvin Pickard stopped 47 pucks through 60 minutes and Alex Lyon, recently returned to the Wolves from Carolina, stopped 26 of 27. Overtime was required to determine which team came away with the second point in the contest.
As the pattern for the entire game, the Wolves once again came out of the break flying, looking to end the contest quickly after the late marker in overtime against the Marlies on Sunday. The lone shot of overtime, 31 seconds in, found the back of the net. On what might be one of the prettiest goals of the AHL season thus far, Andrew Poturalski tallied his seventh goal of the season to win the game, 2-1, for Chicago.
The Wolves captain took the puck himself from the defensive zone and advanced all the way into the Griffins’ zone. Once entering, Poturalski took on all three Grand Rapids defenders, showed off his excellent hands, and finished the chance to put the game away. Last season’s AHL points leader currently sits fourth in the league standings for points.
On the overtime winner, Stefan Noesen tallied his seventh assist of the season, breaking into double-digit points for the campaign. The team’s top line, featuring Poturalski, Noesen, and C.J. Smith, has been dynamic all season long.
Wednesday’s game was an incredibly executed road performance for the Wolves. The team dominated the pace of play, poured more shots on the opposing goalie than the Griffins did on Lyon, and ultimately came away with two points. The only reason the score wasn’t more heavily in the Wolves’ favor is due to the play of Calvin Pickard. The Griffins goalie was sensational between the pipes for the home squad.
The top line for the Wolves continues to be dynamite throughout the first 12 games of the season. In Wednesday’s contest alone, the top line (Poturalski, Smith, Noesen) combined for 20 shots on goal of the team’s 48 total shots. Its safe to say that the top line dominated once again. The line in particular has had a lot of fun against the Griffins this season, with Smith and Poturalski having big games against the Griffins on Halloween.
In addition, the return of Jamieson Rees has really helped balance the team’s offensive threat. Early in the season, most of the offense came from the top line and only the top line. However, that has changed with Maxim Letunov and Rees getting hot. Letunov lost a four-game point streak on Wednesday.
What’s On Tap Next?
The Wolves will head to Rockford for another road tilt with the IceHogs on Friday. Then, both teams will travel to Allstate Arena for the second half of a home-and-home between the two Illinois rivals. Puck drop for both games is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CST.
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