The AHL loves their afternoon games this season, as the Wolves and IceHogs dropped the puck at 2:00 p.m. CST on Tuesday at Triphahn Ice Arena. These two teams squared off on Saturday, with the Wolves taking the first of 11 meetings, 5–4.
Major notes heading into Tuesday's game include the great play of the Wolves youth and Scott Darling making his season debut for the IceHogs after returning to the organization. He was overseas last season.
As soon as the puck dropped on Tuesday, the Wolves took control of play. They looked fast, channeling their energy they had on Friday night in their home opener. The IceHogs did not have the same jump that they had on Saturday, as they chased the game for most of the first period.
Despite the dominance from the Wolves, the Wolves could not crack Scott Darling in the first half of the period. The Lemont, IL native stood tall for the IceHogs, keeping them in the game despite being clearly outplayed. Early action in the period came via the penalty box, as both teams had two penalties each in the period. However, only the Wolves took advantage of the extra man.
At the 15:59 mark of the period, red-hot Seth Jarvis scored his third goal in as many games, giving the home team the late period lead. The play was set up by Philip Tomasino and Joey Keane, who picked up their third and second assists of the season, respectively. Jarvis scored on a slick drag move on the power play.
The IceHogs found some late pressure on a power play of their own, but could not beat Jeremy Helvig before the horn sounded. With 30 seconds remaining on their power play, the IceHogs entered the intermission trailing the Wolves.
The middle frame began with a Wolves penalty kill. However, that would not be their only time down a man. The Wolves had two retaliation penalties in the first half of the period. However, the biggest penalty occurred when Maxime Lajoie stepped into Evan Barratt, sending him down to the ice in some discomfort. Andrei Altybarmakyan took exception and traded a few blows with Lajoie. Lajoie received a two-minute kneeing penalty, five-minute fighting penalty, and 10-minute game misconduct. Altybarmakyan received a two-minute instigating penalty, a five-minute fighting penalty, and a 10-minute misconduct penalty. Due to the game misconduct for Lajoie, the Wolves were down to five defensemen for the remainder of the contest.
The IceHogs took advantage of the major penalty. D.J. Busdeker scored on a Helvig rebound to tie the game at one goal apiece. It was Busdeker's first of the season and his career.
The IceHogs outplayed the Wolves mightely in the second period, mostly due to the amount of power play time they had. However, late in the period the Wolves flipped the momentum. Ryan Suzuki fed Phlip Tomasino with a pass that started a two-on-one for the Wolves. Tomasino skated to the slot and fired a shot past Darling, retaking the lead for the home team. It was Tomasino's first professional goal. Joey Keane also picked up his second assist of the day, with Suzuki picking up the primary assist.
The Wolves weren't done. Two minutes after Tomasino's marker, Rem Pitlick found the back of the net shorthanded. During a Josh Healey hooking penalty, Rockford defenseman Chad Krys fell at the offensive blue line, leading to a Pitlick breakaway in on Darling. Pitlick used the same move that he did on Saturday against the IceHogs and buried his second goal of the season.
A late Keane shot nearly made this a 4–1 game, but he missed wide. The Wolves took a two-goal cushion into the second intermission in Hoffman Estates.
The third period proved to be a much better period for the Wolves. However, penalties still forced the Wolves to kill their eigth and ninth penalties of the game. The IceHogs had their fair share of penalties too, making for a bit of a sloppy game all around.
The Wolves got the scoring going in the third at the 8:35 mark. Tanner Jeannot and Jeremy Davies assisted on Philip Tomasino's second goal of the game and his young professional career. Tomasino tipped the Davies shot past Darling to give the Wolves a 4–1 lead.
The tip occurred in the mid slot, making for a difficult save by Darling. However, the IceHogs were able to get one back, as Chris Wilkie scored his first AHL goal shorthanded to cut into the Wolves lead. The shorthanded tally was assisted by Dylan McLaughlin at the 10:44 mark of the period.
Despite Rockford clawing to get back in this game, the Wolves were able to put it away late. Tanner Jeannot started a rush that saw Stelio Mattheos leading the rush. Mattheos brought the puck toward the slot after realizing he and Pitlick were in two-on-one. Although he looked to get himself in trouble, Mattheos got the pass to Pitlick who finished top shelf, giving the Wolves the 5–2 lead.
The Wolves held on with a late power play of their own to kill the clock. The Wolves start the year 3-0 after beating the IceHogs twice in the last four days.
Wolves – Ron Luce
Tuesday's game showed much better energy from the Wolves than Saturday's game. The Wolves came out flat on Saturday against the IceHogs, having to claw their way back into the game to ultimately win. On Tuesday however, the Wolves pressured early and looked dominant in the first period and at times in the second and third periods as well. "We didn't have a good start in Rockford", said Coach Ryan Warsofsky. "That was a big key for us tonight."
However, the Wolves were their own worst enemy, committing nine penalties, giving the IceHogs a lot of man advantage time. "Little lapse in our game, we were killing a lot, but we got back to our game", Coach Warsofsky added about Tuesday's game. It's easy to say that the Wolves could have won this game by a lot more if not for being on the penalty kill as often as they were.
However, bright spots that continue to shine include the youngsters such as Seth Jarvis and Philip Tomasino. Both players picked up goals today, with Tomasino adding two. They continue to pace the team in scoring and are showing that although they normally would be in juniors, they belong in the pro ranks. Rem Pitlick's two-goal game was also a nice sight. If he gets going, after having a 20-goal season in 2019-20, the Wolves will have incredible depth for the course of the season.
IceHogs – Josh Barlog
In what turned out to be quite the physical contest between these two clubs, the IceHogs capitalized on just one of their nine power play chances. This is something that Head Coach Derek King will likely take note of as the team gets ready to take on the Iowa Wild on Saturday. Not to discredit the penalty killers of Chicago, but Rockford failed to compliment their hot start that they had on Saturday. While it's also likely a product of playing back-to-backs against the same team, the man advantage having its struggles can really sway the outcome of the game.
Scott Darling had a rough day between the pipes. Although he made a sweet post-to-post save with his left pad, the former NHLer couldn't shut down the Wolves' offensive attack. One thing fans love to see, though, is teammates sticking up for one another.
After Evan Barratt took quite the hit, Andrei Altybarmakyan came in swinging to aid the rookie. This early in the season, with so many new faces, this is the type of action that builds team chemistry quickly.
To finalize, there are a few Cool and Tough Awards to give out. Those belong to Barratt for taking that hit and bouncing back onto the ice surface, and D.J. Busdeker and Chris Wilkie for netting their first AHL goals. Losing the first two games of the season obviously doesn't feel good, so these next few days will give the club a chance to regroup before Saturday's matchup with Iowa.
The Wolves return to action on Thursday, February 11 at 2:00 p.m. CST as they host the Grand Rapids Griffins at the Triphahn Ice Arena in Hoffman Estates, IL. As for Rockford, the IceHogs do not play again until Saturday, February 13 at 6:00 p.m. CST when they travel to Iowa to face the Wild.
On Tap Sports Net has Rockford IceHogs and Chicago Wolves coverage all season. Be sure to follow along with On Tap Sports Net as the AHL season continues.