Following one of the most impressive streaks in professional hockey this season, the Chicago Wolves entered the weekend ready for three games in four days. The first two games of the weekend were a back-to-back with the Iowa Wild in Des Moines. Following those games, the Wolves ventured to Rockford for a matinee tilt with the IceHogs on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Despite the recent success the Wolves have experienced, Friday and Saturday did not go well. Chicago dropped both games on the road. However, Sunday's day off proved to be beneficial, as the Wolves downed the IceHogs 5-3 and outshot Rockford by 27 shots, the seventh-most in franchise history.
Friday, January 14: Wolves 3, Wild 4
Entering the weekend, the Wolves were fresh off a 4-0 shutout win over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday last week. With players returning from Carolina and the team getting healthier, optimism was high as the team ventured to Iowa. However, Friday's game favored the home team as the Wild downed the Wolves 4-3 at home.
The Wolves opened the scoring with under 10 seconds left in the first period. Defenseman Max Lajoie tallied his second goal of the season to give the visitors the lead. However, a trio of Wild goals in the middle frame opened the game up for the home team, including the first tally of the season for PTO signee and NHL legend Eric Staal. Despite the onslaught, the Wolves got one back before the period closed thanks to C.J. Smith.
In the third, both teams tallied shorthanded goals. Andrew Potrualski tallied his 17th goal of the season to tie the game at the 4:42 mark of the period. However, a shorthanded tally from Nick Swaney, which was assisted by Staal, proved to be the game winner for Iowa.
It was a disappointing loss, but the Wolves picked it up late in the game to give themselves a chance. 15 of their 32 shots were fired at goalie Zane McIntyre in the final frame, but the goalie stood tall and stopped 14 of those bids.
Saturday, January 15: Wolves 2, Wild 3 (OT)
Following the narrow loss on Friday, the Wolves found themselves down in the second period. Neither team was able to tally in the opening frame.
Kyle Rau scored his ninth goal of the season at 8:43 to give Iowa the lead, which they held entering the third period. However, a pair of Wolves goals from Stefan Noesen and David Gust in the third frame gave the Wolves hope. Despite the pair of goals in 1:26, the Wild tied the game nearly 30 seconds after the Gust goal.
The teams entered overtime, but the home team ultimately reigned victorious. 1:16 into OT, Eric Staal once again haunted the Wolves, tallying his third point of the two-game set and gave the Wild the two-game sweep.
Saturday's game was just as even as Friday's. Despite the losses, the Wolves kept up with the Wild and ensured their pair of victories did not come easily.
Monday, January 17: Wolves 5, IceHogs 3
Monday's game proved to be a different narrative than the prior two games for the Wolves. On Monday, Chicago opened the scoring first, as Noesen tallied his 17th of the season. However, the IceHogs got one back before the end of the first period as defenseman Ryan Stanton tied the game.
The second period was an electric factory. IceHogs' phenom and Blackhawks top prospect Lukas Reichel opened the second period scoring 25 seconds in. Rockford held on to a lead until a pair of Wolves goals in 1:07 gave the visitors the lead. The IceHogs answered 40 seconds later, and the game was tied halfway through the period.
Despite the score, the Wolves dominated the period. 21 second period shots ensured Chicago left the period with the lead. Gust and Noesen tallied before the end of the period to give the Wolves a 5-3 lead. The third period saw no scoring, and the Wolves dominated in the 5-3 win.
The Wolves outshot Rockford 45-18 in Monday's win. Once again, this team is showing that when they're clicking, they're one of the toughest teams to beat in the AHL. The Wolves now sit in second in the league standings, but a 24-6-2-1 record is impressive. Chicago is rolling and despite this weekend's slight hiccup, the Wolves are one of the teams to beat this season.
What's On Tap Next?
The Wolves have a pair of games in Manitoba this weekend against the Moose. Both Saturday and Sunday's games will be of the matinee variety, starting at 2:00 p.m. CST. However, following the road swing, the Wolves are back home for three games in four days at Allstate Arena beginning on Wednesday, January 26 vs. Texas.