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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Iowa within four points of ending Wolves post season hopes

Poor discipline may have ended the Wolves hopes for a playoff berth last night as the Iowa Stars rolled 4-1 past the Wolves. With the loss, the Stars will end the Wolves playoff hopes with any combination of four points, meaning they could do it themselves with a combination of two wins, one today and another on Tuesday against the Wolves.

The Wolves spent 28 minutes in the penalty box Saturday, versus only 18 for Iowa. Two of Iowa’s goals occurred on power plays, the final goal an empty netter. Now, I’ve continued to believe that a good team can overcome bad officiating. And this game was no exception. Wolves discipline melted in the heat of the competition. Yet you have to wonder at calls like the one by Referee Gord Dwyer at 2.56 in the second period. Nicklas Grossman was called at that point for tripping. His victim, Ramzi Abid was also given two minutes, for diving.

WHAT? Stuff like this is what causes fans to question a referees impartiality and objectivity. Take a class in logic ref… Yikes.

Wolves shot 36 on Michael Smith, who was not named a star of the game. I see it more frequently at the Allstate than in other Midwest venues, no matter the score, at least one Wolf will get a star. Okay, not always. But, I’m confused about this stuff. Michael Smith let some soft stuff dribble through and he was very lucky. I sit pretty close to the west goal, where he defended for two frames. Stuff was getting by him and it would bounce the wrong way (the right way if you were Michael Smith) and miss the goal.

But that stuff happened to Kari Lehtonen last year too. I think Smith deserved one of the stars of the game. Bottom line, stars of the game should have meaning.

By the way, in Omaha, Knights Warren Peters and Kam Cunning were named stars, despite the drubbing the Knights received.

The other contender for the last playoff spot is Omaha. They were defeated at home 5-1 by Peoria. It happened in Omaha too. This game, which was officiated by Steve Kozari, ended with the Knights receiving 35 minutes to the 26 assessed the Rivermen. The Knights are now three points out of fourth place with both teams having five games left. Any combination of seven Stars points ends Omaha’s hopes for post-season play.

Peoria on the other hand is in the interesting situation of being closer to edging the Aeros from second than the Wolves are of making the playoffs. The Aeros, high-flying heroes of Eastern sports pundits who watch (the Eastern Conference of) the AHL, has been in a tail spin. Bad timing going into the playoffs. The Rivermen are just three points from catching the Aeros, although the Aeros have a game in hand against the Rivermen. To end that, and retain home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, the Aeros must gain five points in their last five games.

The Rockford Ice Hogs visited the Quad City Mallards on Friday. The Mallards won the game 2-1 in a shoot-out, but it was enough to give the Hogs 100 points for the season. The Hogs have had a tough time lately. They are another team that is probably secretly hoping for an early golf season for the Wolves. Bob Nardela and Billy Tibbetts currently play for the Wolves. A source close to Nardella says Nardella has received offers to play for Italy in the post-season, and may not return to Rockford for the playoffs. However, Tibbetts indicated to me, when we met him during an injury time-off a few weeks back, he plans to play in Rockford if the Wolves season ends.

The Mallards themselves have been musing about the idea of moving into the AHL. There has been some open talk between the UHL management, which is based in Fort Wayne and the management of the Mallards, in the newspapers, about this. Here is a Quad City article on the move. If I ever locate the link containing the extended discussion with Richard Brosal, a UHL commissioner and owner of the Fort Wayne Komets, I’ll add it here. Let’s sum up Brosal’s comments with the idea that it’s a bad idea financially for the Mallards to move.

On Friday April 4, there was some blood spilled in the Mallards front office as the pro-UHL supporters overcame the pro-AHL supporters. The story, carried in the Quad City Times here , follows the battle to control the Mallards between President Paul O’Dacre and Vice President Tim Taylor. It isn’t completely accurate to say Taylor was heading the pro-UHL side, however, O’Dacre and two others are out and Taylor has indicated the team is committed to the UHL for another year.

The AHL is not gone yet though. VSG said it is still considering options to sell the team. In the meantime, the team is refurbishing the Mark so the rink meets AHL standards. (Thanks to Dave Wolf of the AHLGriffins.com for the link).

Time to turn around and also note Dave’s excellent rant on the San Jose Sharks and the mistreatment of Cleveland Barons fans, here. Looking at the mess Cincinnati made of rejoining the AHL, I have to wonder if something like that is felt by former fans of the Mighty Ducks, Cyclones and Bees.

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