E-Mail Subscriptions to the Blog

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Lack of discipline dooms Knights. 3-1 Win for Wolves

Adrenalin. What a rush. It was all adrenalin last night as the Chicago Wolves defeated the Omaha ak-Sar-ben Knights 3-1. The recent surge in Wolves fortunes has been nothing short of a sports miracle. Before it started, and even yesterday morning, I’d pretty much written-off the Wolves chances for post-season play. They are currently three points behind the Knights and the Iowa Stars with six games left on the Wolves schedule, seven games each for the Stars and Knights.

That means that it is still a difficult road for the Wolves, but it is very possible the Wolves will win enough games and the Stars and the Knights lose enough games, so the Wolves end the season in fourth place, good enough to join post-season play.

The game last night was key for both teams. The Wolves needed two points and had to shut the Knights out of any points, i.e., a shoot-out win or over-time win for the Wolves would have been nearly as bad as a loss for them, as they would only have gained a point in the standings on the Knights.

While the Knights, as you can tell from the commentary in the first paragraph, wanted a win, it was the season on the line for the Wolves. The Knights would have come away happy even if the Wolves gained a point on them, provided the Knights won at least a point.

The crowd in the Allstate was a small 4626, probably about half of those were season ticket holders, and many knew the game was key to the team’s post-season hopes. As a season ticket holder, it was a game that makes you look around, as it starts, to absorb the people you’ve sat with and known over the past season and the campaigns before.

The Wolves have had five seven-game winning streaks in their history, prior to last night. A win would make this the fourth longest winning streak in the franchise history. The last time the team had a streak like this was in 2004.

If it ended after this remarkable streak, the letdown would be as devastating as the game two loss in the Allstate to the Phantoms in 2005.

The most remarkable moment in the game was the game-winning goal, by Ramzi Abid, at 18.14 in the third period. Leading up to that moment, the Knights had the Wolves at a numerical disadvantage for much of the third period, Brandon Coburn, Mark Popovic and Karl Stewart each taking penalties. Stewart’s was a five-minute major and game misconduct. Bad enough to lose Stewart, however, the Wolves didn’t put anyone in the sin bin immediately, hoping for a whistle before the penalty expired. Unfortunately, the penalty expired and no one was in the box—the Wolves had to wait for the whistle for their fifth man to join them.

Penalties are where it’s all at this season in hockey. The number of goals scored during power plays is up something like 50 percent over last year, while all goals are up about a third. Seeing any game go into the third period with just one notch for both teams, and the second goal of the game wasn’t scored till Knight Brandon Prust fired a goal in at 16.34 in the third, is rarity, a throwback to previous seasons.

The Wolves had suffered greatly at the hands of the Knights during penalty kills this season. It was a nerve-wracking third period. Of course there were the long moments of Knight power plays. And Prust’s goal took the air out of the building as fast as a pin lets the air out of a balloon. The crowd was chanting ref you suck following the major called on Stewart, the Wolves having put guys in the sin bin for nine minutes in the third, and no responding penalties assessed against the Knights.

Prust scores… silence from the crowd.

It was a significant turn in events for the team from the emotional high following the major against Stewart. Where was the ref as Michael Garnett shoved a Knight out of the crease and when Billy Tibbetts was held?

Remarkably, the ref was there, calling interference on Warren Peters at 18.14, the same time as Abid’s goal. The Knights started to implode. Discipline, required to bring a successful season to a close and roll into a winning post-season, it all evaporated at 18.14 for the Knights.

Thirty-two seconds later, 18.46, another goal by Kip Miller made it 3-1. The Knights on the bench exploded in a fit, a tirade, trading a man in the sin bin. The tension physically marked when Francis Lessard and Brandon Prust began trading blows behind the Knights goal with 21 seconds left in the match.

The match ended with the Wolves holding the puck behind their own goal: the crowd standing for much of the last two minutes. This was play-off level hockey. I wish the people in Omaha, who haven’t supported their team sufficiently, had seen this level of play. WOW!

I’m sitting now in Rockford, not my home, just a business trip. Thinking about the Rockford Ice Hogs as they enter the post-season. Two key members of that team are in Chicago: Tibbetts and 2006 Olympian Bob Nardella. I’d been expecting to spend some of my bread here, and in Peoria, Grand Rapids and Milwaukee, instead of the Allstate, during the playoff push.

The Hogs need Tibbetts and Nardella to successfully conclude their remarkable season. And while I wish them well, I want Tibbetts and Nardella to stay in Chicago as long as necessary for the Wolves in the post-season.

No comments: