The Chicago Wolves came off an incredible home-and-home sweep against the Milwaukee Admirals over the weekend. On Wednesday, the Wolves traveled to Grand Rapids to pay the Griffins a visit. Another win on Wednesday would mark three straight wins for the Wolves after dropping their season opener to the IceHogs almost two weeks ago.
The Wolves jumped out to a great start on the Griffins in the first period. After neither team tallied in the first few minutes, the Wolves were rewarded with a power play, the first of the contest for either side.
At the 5:20 mark, very early in the power play, C.J. Smith scored his fourth goal of the season in as many games to extend his streak. Captain Andrew Poturalski and Jack Drury picked up their fifth and third assists, respectively, of the young season. The goal appeared to be Drury's initially, it was officially credited to Smith per the AHL.
The period wore on and the Wolves were clearly the better team as the visitors greatly outplayed their hosts in Grand Rapids through the first 20 minutes. However before the period ended, the Orland Park native, David Gust, tallied his second of the season with help from Ryan Suzuki. Suzuki picked up his second apple of the season.
The Wolves entered the break leading 2-0 with a 14-8 lead in the shots on goal department as well. When I say the Wolves dominated the period, I am not kidding. It was perhaps one of the best periods the Wolves have played this season.
The Wolves and Griffins each had two power plays during the second. However, strong play as mentioned from the goalies made a huge difference. The Wolves still outshot the Griffins 12-9 in the second period, and led overall 26-17 through 40 minutes.
Despite the lack of scoring, and a nine period scoring streak snapped for the Wolves, the boys from the Windy City still played an solid period. They dictated the pace, made some quality plays, and in a few major moments, Makiniemi stood tall and bailed out his teammates.
Through 40 minutes, Makiniemi was making his case for first star honors after stopping all 17 shots he faced.
The third period proved to be the toughest for the Wolves as the Griffins' play improved mightily in the third. Although the Griffins outshot the Wolves 8-6 in the period, Eetu Makiniemi made some impressive saves. In addition, the power play came through again on their second of three opportunities in the final 20. Jack Drury, this time 100% his, tallied his first goal in the AHL sealed the deal for the Wolves.
Drury's goal was assisted by Poturalski, who earned his sixth assist of the season in just the team's fourth game. The captain has been nothing short of sensational as the passing wizard for this explosive Wolves team.
In the remaining time, the Wolves did enough, especially Maikniemi, to seal the shutout win 3-0. The performance was an impressive display, especially on the road, that should give the Wolves faithful a lot of confidence in this team's talent this season. The third period showed that and the total result is something these players should be proud of.
The Wolves looked incredible through the first 40 minutes. Their suffocating play allowed Makiniemi to see a lot of pucks cleanly as the team pressured on both sides of the ice. The third period wasn't as dominant, but the Wolves still worked hard and fought for a tough road win. Its wins like Wednesday's that lead to deep playoff runs and championships at the end of the season.
Andrew Poturalski is a dishing machine. The team's captain recorded his fifth and sixth assists of the season in only the team's fourth game. He is not only leading the boys off the ice, he's also letting his play speak for itself on the ice. In addition, C.J. Smith's hot streak of scoring in all four games to start the season is nothing short of impressive.
Jack Drury also had a banner night on Wednesday. His first career AHL goal and his third assist of the season earned the 21-year-old second star of the night honors.
The real star, and first start in the contest, of Wednesday's game was Eetu Makiniemi. Despite earning only his first shutout of the season (I know, it's early, here me out), Makiniemi has been so good that he could have had more already on the young season. The Finnish goaltender is quickly earning the starting job this season with the Wolves and potentially a stint with the Hurricanes in the not-so-distant future.
What's On Tap Next?
The Wolves travel to Milwaukee on Friday for their third date in five games with the Admirals. Puck drop on Friday night is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CDT. However, on Sunday, the Wolves are right back in Grand Rapids playing these same Griffins. Sunday will be of the matinee variety, with puck drop scheduled for 3:00 p.m. CDT.