After shutting out the Griffins on Wednesday night last week, the Chicago Wolves ventured to Milwaukee then back to Grand Rapids to conclude their three-game road trip. After winning 3-0 on Wednesday, the Wolves won 4-2 and 6-3 on Friday and Sunday over the Admirals and Griffins, respectively.
In addition, Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski was named AHL Player of the Week thanks to his incredible efforts. Poturalski's nine points (four goals, five assists) in three games propelled the Wolves to a three-game sweep on the road. Both games showcased incredible effort from the Wolves, so much so that they look like the favorites to win the Central Division once again.
Friday's Comeback Win
Friday's game showed incredible resilience from the 2021-22 Wolves. In fact, entering the third period on Friday, the Wolves trailed by a goal just north of the Illinois/Wisconsin border. However, it was the Wolves who struck first.
Just 4:43 into the first period, the Wolves took the lead on Stefan Noesen's second tally of the campaign. C.J. Smith and Andrew Poturalski continued their impressive seasons with their second and seventh respective assists of the season.
However, the Admirals struck back. The Wolves took the only penalty of the first period. The penalty for too many men on the ice ultimately cost the Wolves early. On the impending power play, Milwaukee forward Grant Mishmash tallied his first goal of the season at 17:30 in the first period. Both teams entered intermission with one goal apiece.
Mishmash tallied his second of the season in the middle frame to give the Admirals the lead entering the final 20 minutes. However, Poturalski's second goal of the season on the power play and first goals for Spencer Smallman and Cavan Fitzgerald brought the Wolves in front. Alex Lyon stood tall stopping 22 of 24 pucks faced to help the Wolves pull off the 4-2 win.
Sunday's matinee featured a much different affair for the Wolves. In fact, it felt a bit similar to Wednesday's game against the Griffins. The Wolves were the better team and it showed on the scoreboard by the end of the game. The Wolves never trailed in Sunday's game en route to their 6-3 win.
In the first period, a lone tally from Poturalski late in the period gave the Wolves the lead entering the break. The middle frame was a bit of a different story however, as both teams potted a pair of goals.
To start the second period scoring, Wolves' defenseman Joey Keane tallied his first goal as a member of the Wolves to extend their lead to two. However, goals from Jonathan Berggren and Riley Barber tied the game and gave the Griffins life. However, Jalen Chatfield found the back of the net with under a minute remaining in the frame to put the Wolves out in front for good.
The Griffins managed one goal in the third period courtesy of Barber once again, but the Wolves dominated and put the game out of reach. C.J. Smith's fourth of the season, along with a pair of goals from Poturalski, gave the Wolves their fifth straight win. Poturalski's fifth goal of the season was his third of the game, resulting in his first career hat trick as a pro hockey player.
After watching Wednesday's game start to end, and checking in over the course of the weekend with the other two games, I can confidently say the Wolves set the tone for their 2021-22 season. A three-game sweep on their first real road trip is a perfect way to begin this season. In fact, after their downer of a loss on Opening Night, the Wolves have yet to lose a game.
Two players in particular that are really grasping the attention of Wolves fans are Andrew Poturalski and C.J. Smith. Potrualski is off to an insane 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in just six games already, and Smith is sitting at 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in the same number of contests. Currently, the duo pace the AHL in scoring. If this road trip is any indication of their potential dominance, these two may not look back the rest of the season on the scoring leaderboard.
After the pandemic-shortened 2021 season was highlighted by the Predators organization and a quartet of Carolina youngsters, its a pair of AHL veterans currently leading the Wolves to early success. Ryan Suzuki is off to a nice start this season and we'll likely see Jamieson Rees at some point too. However, Seth Jarvis just debuted with the Hurricanes over the weekend, tallying his first career point. If the Wolves faithful get to see Jarvis live in a Wolves uniform, it'll be after the WHL season. That said, there is a possibility he never returns to Portland either.
Nonetheless, the Wolves are off to a great start. A 5-1 record is a perfect way to start the first "normal" hockey season in nearly a calendar year and a half. Now that Wolves fans can return to the building, they can be proud having a team that looks like an early contender for the Calder Cup. After all, the last time the Calder Cup was handed out, Wolves' head coach Ryan Warsofsky was an assistant with the Cup winners, the Charlotte Checkers.
What's On Tap Next?
The Wolves are back in action at the Allstate Arena this weekend. The Wolves host the Manitoba Moose and Admirals on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Saturday's game will be an evening affair, while Sunday will be of the matinee variety. Puck drop on both days is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CDT and 3:00 p.m. CST, respectively. Don't forget to turn those clocks back Wolves fans.