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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Seven Up. Longest away streak continues

A 10-5 victory over the Peoria Rivermen on Saturday night continued the Chicago Wolves circus road trip. The victory marked the largest goal accumulation in an away game by the team in its history and the seventh straight road win this season, making this the best start the team has had in its history.

Jason Krog led the scoring with seven points, including a hat trick, which put him in the lead for AHL scorers over teammate Darren Haydar, and was a season high for league scorers. Krog’s total was one point shy of matching the club record for points in a single contest.

Krog now has 25 points, having scored a point in each game the Wolves have played this year. Haydar is second in the league with 21 points, also having scored a point in each game played. Haydar scored three points, including a goal on Saturday. Rookie teammate Brett Sterling also cracked the top-ten scorers in the league. He is tied for seventh with six others with 14 points. Sterling received five points in the contest, including two goals.

The match didn’t start as a kick-butt game. The Wolves sputtered in the first period till Rivermen Center Joel Perrault collided with Wolves goalie Michael Garnett at 13.56. The Garnett who challenged Perrault, left the crease to freeze a puck. When Perrault could not stop in time, the unlucky Garnett went flying backwards due to the force of the collision.

Garnett returned to the crease, but Perrault was given a five-minute major penalty. The Wolves, whose power play has struggled to fire pushed aside a highly rated Rivermen penalty kill to drop three pucks in the net before the end of the penalty. The period ended with a fourth goal, removing whatever oxygen was left in the Rivermen building for the moment.

The start of the second period found a new goalie in the net for the Rivermen, as Marek Schwarz was benched in favor of Jason Bacashihua. Four minutes and half minutes later, Garnett was kneed by Rivermen Michael Glumac. Garnett was pulled from the net on suspicion of a concussion and Dave Caruso was put in.

Caruso, a rookie out of Ohio State University, registered 31 saves on 34 shots to lead the ECHL Gwinnett Gladiators to an 8-3 victory against the South Carolina Stingrays, his second pro win. Signed to the Gladiators he has backed the excellent Dan Turple there. Duly impressed, the Rivermen welcomed the rookie with a goal within a minute. With two unanswered Rivermen goals in less than six minutes the Rivermen were a threat again. At 10.38 Sterling finally replied, popping a power play goal in, followed 26 seconds later by another goal. Three more goals rained down on the Peoria team within 3.16, ending the second frame, Wolves 9, Peoria 3.

In the final frame, the Wolves used a new rule, suiting their third goalie, Fred Brathwaite. However, Wolves coach John Anderson decided to leave Caruso in, despite the three goals. Caruso contained the Rivermen to two more goals in the third, Krog netted his hat trick in the 3rd frame, leaving Chicago with a 10-5 win.

The entire Atlanta organization is doing well this year. Gwinnett, which went to the Kelly Cup finals last season, is currently in first place in the South Division, ECHL, and tied for first in the ECHL, with 12 points. Curtis Ryser is taking Caruso’s place on the bench while Caruso is in Chicago. Ryser last played in 2002-3 for a junior team in New York.
Don Waddell, the Thrashers General Manager, was in the Peoria crowd last night, watching the mayhem. Waddell was a former Riverman.

Waddell guaranteed a playoff to Atlanta fans last season. The Thrashers have never made it to the playoffs in their history. This year, Waddell refused to guarantee a playoff and the Thrashers are in first place in the Eastern Conference, Southeast Division. They are in second place overall in the NHL to Anaheim. The Blackhawks, by reference, are in second to last place, above Philadelphia and tied with Phoenix.

Krog and Haydar are not the only former college teammates on the ice. Sterling and Joey Crabb played together at Colorado College until last season.

The Rivermen penalty kill has fallen markedly since mid-month, when it led the league at 94.3 percent. It is now ranked 14th at 82.1 percent.
Usually a team’s power play is best at home, not as good away. The Wolves away game streak is reversing this. The team has a power play ranking of 9th in the AHL away, but only 21st at home.

The Wolves continue their circus road trip Thursday with a game against bottom ranked Syracuse Crunch in Syracuse, NY, followed by a Sunday game in Rochester, NY against the top ranked Amerks.

Last night was really do or die for the Chicago Hounds. Fortunately, they did put on a hockey game, losing to the new Bloomington (IL) Prairie Thunder 3-2. Fans unlucky enough to be at Friday’s non-game should save their tickets as the Sears Centre has promised tickets, food and parking for it’s screw-up.

The Prairie Thunder had their arena ready months ago. Called the Pepsi Center, my visit there showcased a beautiful new facility in the heart of the Twin Cities. Parking is probably going to be an issue, but from my observations, everyone will have their own seat and the glass will be in place at game time.

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