After splitting last weekend's games against the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Wolves host the Cleveland Monsters for two games in as many nights this weekend.
The Wolves are in an interesting stretch of their season, as they have lost some of their top players. Tanner Jeannot, Jeremy Davies, and Rem Pitlick are all up with the Nashville Predators. The Wolves also lost Seth Jarvis to the WHL as their season begins, meaning many of the team's top scorers are now missing.
Two wins against Cleveland this weekend would be beneficial for the Wolves. The Wolves will be off for a full week after Saturday's game against Cleveland.
The first period began and the Wolves took control. Through the first ten minutes the Wolves paced play, outshooting the visiting Monsters 13-1. However, the game was tied at that point.
On the Monsters first shot of the game, the Monsters took the early lead. Tyler Angle scored in his AHL debut to put the visitors out front. Luckily for the Wolves, it didn't matter for long. The Wolves capitalized just 12 seconds later.
A strong rush up ice was started by Frederic Allard, as he poked the puck away from a Cleveland skater in the neutral zone. Philip Tomasino received the pass from Allard and entered the offensive zone looking to pass. Once the defender cleared, Tomasino fed Maxime Lajoie who joined the rush for a perfect tip and the Wolves tally to tie the game.
Despite the Wolves strong effort early, the Monsters took advantage of the Wolves' mistakes. A power play tally from Zach Jordan at 13:55 and an Adam Helewka goal at 17:05 gave the Monsters a 3-1 lead while being outshot 19-11 through 20 minutes.
The Wolves entered the first intermission searching for a better effort and cleaner play in the middle frame.
The Wolves began the second period the way any trailing team hoped it would. Just 19 seconds into the middle frame, the Wolves struck back, with Frederic Allard scoring his first goal in a Wolves uniform.
A tenacious Wolves forecheck by Tom Novak and Sheldon Rempal set the Wolves up for success. Philip Tomasino poked the puck up to Maxime Lajoie at the offensive blue line after the forecheck. Lajoie swung the puck over the Allard at the other side of the point, and his blast beat Monsters' net-minder Matiss Kivlenieks, inching the Wolves into this game.
After Allard's goal, the rest of the period was a back and forth affair. The Wolves committed one penalty in the period, but there was little action aside from that. Shots were 7-4 in the period in favor of the Wolves heading into the third period.
Allard was a major bright spot for the Wolves tonight. The Wolves defenseman believes his strong play so far can be attributed to the long summer of training and playing in Europe prior to the AHL season. "I think I had so much time to train this summer too and work on my weaknesses... I played 25 games [in Europe] to work on my skating and weaknesses."
Allard's hard work was rewarded tonight as the game's First Star, but the Wolves had work to do entering the third period.
The third period once again played in favor of the Wolves. Another early tally from the home team tied the game and swung some momentum back in the Wolves' favor.
Cavan Fitzgerald found David Cotton as the Wolves entered the offensive zone just before the 2:43 mark. Cotton fired a shot toward Kivlenieks but his bid was denied. However, the Cleveland net-minder allowed a rebound to his right and Ryan Suzuki pounced on the loose puck, collecting his third goal of the season.
The third period was a great opportunity for the Wolves to capitalize on Cleveland errors. The Wolves were gifted three power plays in the third stanza, but failed to capitalize. The Wolves killed their lone penalty of the third period and sent the game to extra time.
Although chances were traded, the overtime period proved to not be enough to settle this contest. Both teams had plenty of quality opportunities, but neither team could beat their opponent's goalie and end the game.
In the shootout, the Monsters shot first with Justin Scott being their first shooter. Scott beat Antoine Bibeau for the lone goal of the shootout. Kivlenieks denied Cotton, Novak, and Dominik Bokk to seal the victory for the Monsters. The Monsters beat the Wolves 4-3 despite being outplayed for most of the game.
Friday's game was one of the first times the Wolves have faced adversity all season. After dominating the first ten minutes of play, the Wolves found themselves tied with a Monsters team that dressed only ten forwards and eight defensemen due to COVID-19 issues and injuries. That said, the Wolves have been so good offensively, that the team may have become a bit complacent entering tonight's contest.
"We thought we could just play in the offensive zone all night and it was going to be easy," said Head Coach Ryan Warsofsky when asked about his team's play. "Unfortunately, we're learning if we don't play hard without the puck, if we don't play hard in our puck battles... playing in the offensive zone is not going to happen."
Coach said the message to his team was just that, don't think it's going to be easy. Coach continued to elaborate about the team's play away from the puck. The Wolves thought it would be easy and as a young team still learning to battle in the AHL, they learned that you can lose on any given night, no matter what your record is.
That said, great play from Frederic Allard, Maxime Lajoie, and Philip Tomasino tonight propelled the Wolves in a direction to keep the game close. Although they didn't get the outcome they wanted, the Wolves are still 8-1-0-1 through ten games so far. There will be plenty of opportunities for this team to improve heading into the rest of March, April, and May.
What's On Tap Next?
The Wolves will battle the Cleveland Monsters again on Saturday, March 6. Puck drop is scheduled for 3:00 PM CST. After Saturday's contest, the Wolves are off until March 13 when they travel to Des Moines, Iowa to visit the Iowa Wild.