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Friday, December 28, 2007

Kwiatkowski hat trick in 4-3 win over MAds

Milwaukee—A hat trick by Joel Kwiatkowski allowed the Chicago Wolves to hold on and win, 4-3 win over the Milwaukee Admirals at the Bradley Center Friday night. It was the 23rd win this season by the Wolves.

Kwiatkowski scored his eighth, ninth and tenth goal of the season on Nashville Predators prospect Pekka Rinne in a matter of just nine minutes of the second period to lead the Wolves from a 2-1 deficit to a 4-2 lead.

The defenseman was backing up the Wolves first line of Darren Haydar, Jason Krog and Brett Sterling. All three goals were power play goals. The Wolves went three for seven on the power play against what Coach John Anderson called the best penalty kill in the American Hockey League.

“The guys played well, especially against the third period final onslaught,” Anderson said, “and the power play worked well tonight.”

The Wolves penalty kill worked well too, breaking the Admirals power play in six of seven attempts including a 5:3 in the second period. But a third period fight in front of the Milwaukee goal almost turned the tide on the Wolves as Scott Lehman was given a minor and a game misconduct, Chad Painchaud was given a major and Jesse Schultz was given a minor, allowing the Admirals to go on the power play. [Edit: originally this sentence had stated that Lehman had received a major and a game misconduct. A tip of the hat to Milwaukee Admirals fan and eagle eye Steve (CreedFeed) Caponetto for spotting the error.]

The Wolves started the penalty kill disorganized and only leading by a single point. However, a key save by Ondrej Pavelec that was cleared to the Milwaukee end of the ice revived the team and it was able to hold on.

But other problems plague the Admirals. The Milwaukee set play for power plays of bringing two men forward on the goalies right as the puck man moves through them to behind the net and attempts to drop pass it in the slot seemed too complicated. Plus, Rinne still seems to be having problems with the upper glove portion of the net.

Further, this is a team known for finishing its checks. Many of the same players are on the ice. But the physical play has left town.

Anderson, who received a penalty at the end of the game said he was upset that the referee, Chris Ciamaga did not call Nolan Yonkman during the third period fight. “No penalties were called on Milwaukee in the third period,” Anderson said, “I don’t mind the calls, it’s the missed calls that bother me.” [Milwaukee player Kelsey Wilson received a minor and a major due to the fight in the third period.]

Chicago 1 3 0 -- 4
Milwaukee 1 1 1 -- 3

First Period---1, Milwaukee, Santorelli 8 (Langfeld, O'Reilly), 11:40 pp; 2, Chicago, LaVallee 9 (Martins, Crabb), 19:39. Penalties---Sterling, Chicago (hooking), 0:18; Sulzer, Milwaukee (holding), 2:12; Peverley, Milwaukee (slashing), 5:40; Niskala, Milwaukee (hooking), 9:12; Pilar, Chicago (holding), 10:16.

Second Period---3, Milwaukee, Peverly 7 (Sulzer, Vigilante), 1:59; 4, Chicago, Kwiatkowski 8 (Pilar, Haydar), 7:40 pp; 5, Chicago, Kwiatkowski 9 (Krog, Haydar), 10:12 pp; 6, Chicago, Kwiatkowski 10 (Haydar, Krog), 16:40 pp. Penalties---Fahey, Chicago (fighting), 2:33; Wilson, Milwaukee (fighting), 2:33; Peverely, Milwaukee (tripping), 6:35; Yonkman, Milwaukee (roughing), 9:29; Fahey, Chicago (holding the stick), 10:58; Kwiatkowski, Chicago (hooking), 12:11; Thuresson, Milwaukee (tripping), 14:53; Bench, Milwaukee (too many men), 18:14; Fahey, Chicago (tripping), 19:44.

Third Period---7, Milwaukee, Langfeld 5 (Niskala, O'Reilly), 4:11. Penalties---Lehman, Chicago (roughing, game misconduct), 8:19; Painchaud, Chicago (fighting), 8:19; Schultz, Chicago (roughing), 8:19; Wilson, Milwaukee (roughing, fighting), 8:19; Fahey, Chicago (cross-checking), 19:09; Bench, Chicago (game misconduct), 20:00.

Shots on goal---Chicago: 9-9-11--29. Milwaukee: 7-9-15--31. Power plays---Chicago: 3-7. Milwaukee: 1-7. Goalies--Chicago, Pavelec (28-31). Milwaukee, Rinne (25-29). A---6,504. Referee---Chris Ciamaga. Linesmen---Chris Allman and Roger Behling.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gordie Howe hat trick in up and down night; 4-3 OT win over Hogs

Chicago—Chicago Wolves defenseman Nathan Oystrick was credited with a Gordie Howe hat trick in a 4-3 overtime win over the Rockford IceHogs Thursday night at the Allstate Arena. Oystrick had a hot and cold performance that threatened to sink the Wolves at one point.

Rockford, with seven players called up by the Chicago Blackhawks, more than meets the definition of a decimated team. Five of the team’s six top point producers were not on the ice Thursday. The team captain, Jim Fahey, and a leading blue liner, Prestin Ryan, sat the game out. And winger Kris Verteeg was a scratch.

The IceHogs depended on a number of players who were just signed to professional tryouts, not even calling up their own players from the Blackhawks ECHL affiliate.

Yet, the IceHogs, behind Corey Crawford’s 35 saves, forced the Wolves into overtime, nearly stealing the game due to defensive blunders. Although the Wolves dominated the first period, putting ten shots on goal compared to just five for the Hogs, second period power plays by the Wolves seemed to break the game open.

The Wolves scored on three of seven power play opportunities. Finally winning the game on a power play in the overtime period. A Wolves 5:3 led to two goals in the second period. However, the Hogs answered late in the period, putting the score at 2-1 Wolves.

Then, as Oystrick made a behind the net pass, it was picked off by Derek Nesbitt in the slot, playing on a professional tryout, for a quick Rockford goal, his first in the American Hockey League; and, a tie score at the end of the second frame.

Whether Oystrick would have been credited with an unofficial Gordie Howe hat trick at that point was rendered mute in the third period as he assisted the Wolves to go ahead again. Then, the Wolves held the Hogs till a goal by Danny Richmond forced the game into overtime with under four minutes to play. It was the second time in the game a Rockford player had scored their first goal in the AHL.

An overtime penalty against Gavin Morgan gave Chicago a 4:3 advantage. Chicago put its first line out along with blue liner Joel Kwiatkowski in an effort to win. Brett Sterling, sitting on the goal, received a pass from Jason Krog for the game-winning goal.

"We should have put this game away in regulation, but it's a positive that we still found a way to win,” Sterling said.

The Hogs lead the Wolves by three points in the Western Division, with the Wolves having four games in hand against the Hogs.

Rockford 0 2 1 0 -- 3
Chicago 0 2 1 1 -- 4

First Period---None. Penalties---Hobson, Rockford (kneeing), 2:06; Brouwer, Rockford (hooking), 8:15; Domish, Rockford (hooking) 13:04; Deveaux, Chicago (charging), 17:35.

Second Period---1, Chicago, Martins 11 (Schultz, Little), 8:19; 2, Chicago, Oystrick 6 (Krog, Sterling), 9:52; 3, Rockford, Skille 8 (Richmond, Brouwer), 16:42 pp; 4, Rockford, Nesbitt 1 (unassisted), 17:42. Penalties---Richmond, Rockford (fighting), 3:30; LaVallee, Chicago (fighting), 3:30; Morgan, Rockford (slashing), 6:50; Fraser, Rockford (fighting), 11:24; Oystrick, Chicago (fighting), 11:24; Sterling, Chicago (tripping), 14:38; Kwiatkowski, Chicago (high-sticking), 15:08; Fahey, Chicago (hooking), 18:45.

Third Period---5, Chicago, Krog 13 (Oystrick, Haydar), 12:12; 6, Rockford, Richmond 1 (Fraser, Nesbitt), 16:10. Penalties---Stokes, Rockford (tripping), 6:47.

Overtime---7, Chicago, Sterling 19 (Krog, Haydar), 4:06 pp. Penalties---Morgan, Chicago (hooking), 2:34.

Shots on goal---Rockford: 5-15-7-3--30. Chicago: 10-10-14-5--39. Power plays---Rockford: 1-4. Chicago: 3-7. Goalies---Rockford, Crawford (35-39), Chicago, Pavelec (27-30). A---8,131. Referee---Jamie Koharski. Linesmen---Peter Chichy and Al Stensland. notched an assist on the tally to complete the Gordie Howe Hat Trick (goal, assist and fighting major). - tied the game at three apiece with 3:50 remaining in regulation.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wolves back on track; Beat Peoria 7-4, Iowa 10-2

The Chicago Wolves overpowered the Peoria Rivermen 7-4 at the Allstate Arena Wednesday night as Darren Haydar joined fellow Atlanta Thrashers prospects Jason Krog and Brett Sterling in a relaunch of the 2007 first line. The line was responsible for six of the Wolves goals on Wednesday, with Krog scoring five points in the contest.

The game marked the return of Haydar, the Wolves Captain, from the Thrashers. The 2007 MVP joined a line that was already familiar to him. On a line with Sterling and Krog, he posted a franchise record number of consecutive goals in the previous season. Although Krog did not play in Atlanta this season, he played 23 games in the NHL last season.

Sterling played ten games in Atlanta this season. Other Wolves who have returned from Atlanta this season are Ondrej Pavelec, the top goalie prospect for the Thrashers, who played seven games; and Bryan Little, who played 29 games. Kari Lehtonen was assigned to the Wolves by Atlanta for a brief three game conditioning assignment following an early season injury.

Upheaval in the goaltender ranks may have led to the Wolves to drop three games earlier this month, culminating in a 4-3 loss against the league leading first-place Providence Bruins. However Pavelec who only lost one of the three games, got his feet under him and came back to keep the Wolves in a game against the Rochester Americans on the 13th in a 5-3 win in Rosemont, breaking the losing streak.

An unexcited Wolves turned around the next day and lost 4-1 to the Peoria Rivermen with Robert Gherson in net. Then, with Pavelec back in net, pounded the Iowa Stars 10-2, with Kevin Doell putting up a hat trick the next night.

That loss may have been enough for the Wolves to slip out of first place. Although the Chicagoans have two games in hand on the first place team and remain just two points behind in the standings.

It is the on and off nature of the Wolves this month that leaves fans wondering what is next. Wednesday’s game was no different, with the Wolves out playing the Rivermen, but unable to put the game away until late in the third period. Defensive faux pas are putting to much pressure on Pavelec, while the lines are juggled to handle the numerous veterans and top prospects being sent down by Atlanta, leading to big scoring games and still, close games.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

SLUMP! The Wolves drop three in a row

The Chicago Wolves dropped the third game in a row, and only their sixth loss this season in a 4-3 thriller in Providence, R.I. Friday. The Bruins, ranked first in the American Hockey League, and the Wolves, ranked second, were tied 1-1 through nearly 49 minutes of play when the Bruins broke the game open with three unanswered goals in a 2:13 span.

Although the Wolves put the game back into question with a goal in the last minute, the announcers in Providence were already chirping about the big win.

The chemistry that the Wolves have had through the first quarter of the season was disrupted by the return of Atlanta Thrasher goalie prospect Ondrej Pavelec, the departure of Atlanta Thrasher goalie Kari Lehtonen and the suspension of goalie Fred Brathwaite over a one-week period.

Brathwaite, who took the Wolves to the Calder Cup semi-finals in the 2007 season, was reported by the Daily Herald’s Scott Powers, to be suspended by the Atlanta Thrashers for not making the trip with the team. Cheveldayoff told the Daily Herald that it was his understanding that Brathwaite had accepted an offer to play in the Russian Super League.

The Atlanta Thrasher site, “Do the Thrashers have large talons?” said that foreign papers had confirmed that Brathwaite had broken his NHL contract to return to the Russian league that he had played in for two seasons. Brathwaite, and a number of other Canadian players, had been recruited by the Kazan Ak-bars to play in a bid to win the Russian league championship in 2004 and 2005.

The Russian league is currently the only major league in the world without an agreement with the NHL regarding honoring player contracts. “Do the Thrashers have large talons?” says other leagues are considering terminating their agreements with the NHL, raising the possibility of a worldwide bidding war for players.

Brathwaite had started recently in the Iowa Stars’ 3-2 comeback win over the Wolves December 1st. His 2.5 goals against average and 10-2 record ranked him 14th in the AHL among goalies on Saturday morning.

In addition to the one goal loss Friday against Providence and the one-goal loss against the Stars last Saturday, the Wolves lost a one-goal game, 3-2, versus the Syracuse Crunch at home on Tuesday.

The Syracuse Crunch loss featured Pavelec’s return to net for the Wolves. Pavelec had spent most of October and part of November in net with the Atlanta Thrashers following the injury to lead goalie Lehtonen. While in Atlanta, Pavelec had 3-3 record with a GAA of 3.11. With the departure of Brathwaite, Pavelec is cleared to be the chief net-minder for the Wolves.

Pavelec also lost the game against the Bruins Friday.

Despite the losses, the Wolves retained first place in the Western Conference and second place overall.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sterling's hat trick lifts Wolves over Rivermen in 17th win of year

Brett Sterling scored a hat trick and the game winning goal to give the Chicago Wolves a 4-3 overtime win over the Peoria Rivermen in play Thursday at the Allstate Arena. In addition, Atlanta Thrasher teammate Kari Lehtonen stopped 30 Rivermen shots on goal.

The game gives the Wolves 17 wins in the first 20 games, positioning the team for one of the best seasons the franchise has ever enjoyed. The team currently leads the American Hockey League with 35 points.

But all eyes were on the NHL teammates playing in Wolves colors, Lehtonen, assigned to the Wolves from the Atlanta Thrashers on a three game conditioning assignment picked up his second win of the year. His play, not as brilliant as on Tuesday, was on enough to beat out the Rivermen who were led by Kelly Cup winning goalie Chris Beckford-Tseu.

The game demonstrated the team aspect of the sport as Lehtonen pushed back a Rivermen overtime man advantage, but it required the brilliance of Sterling’s play to finally seal the victory for the Wolves.

Since being assigned to the Wolves by the Thrashers, Sterling has led the team in scoring, notching 11 goals and 18 points in just 12 games. Sterling’s totals have pushed the 2007 Rookie of the Year into 31st scoring place in the American League, despite playing only about 60 percent of the games of the other leaders.

Peoria is one of just three teams to have defeated the Wolves this season, the others being Milwaukee in an overtime win and San Antonio. Tied at the end of the first period, following goals by both teams separated by just seconds, Peoria took a one goal lead in the second period on a power play goal by Jean-Guy Trudel.

In the third period, Chicago came from behind to take the lead from Peoria on unanswered goals by Sterling and Steve Martins. However, Julian Talbot tied the game for the Rivermen with 20 seconds remaining in the game when Peoria pulled their goalie for a man advantage.

In the overtime period, Peoria was awarded a power play following a trip by Brian Sipotz at the team benches. The Rivermen were unable to convert the advantage, however. The final goal by Sterling was a feed from college teammate Joey Crabb and Karel Pilar to the near circle. Sterling’s previous hat trick was March 14, also at home in a 4-3 win against the Peoria Rivermen.

Peoria 1 1 1 0 -- 3
Chicago 1 0 2 1 -- 4

First Period---1, Chicago, Sterling 9 (Krog, Schultz), 6:14; 2, Peoria, Stastny 3 (Porter, DuPont), 6:22. Penalties---DuPont, Peoria (cross-checking), 16:11; Woywitka, Peoria (holding), 18:37.

Second Period---3, Peoria, Trudel 5 (Glumac, Drazenovic), 13:57 pp. Penalties--- MacKenzie, Peoria (holding), 7:59; Valabik, Chicago (interference), 13:15; Painchaud, Chicago (holding), 17:21; Drazenovic, Peoria (tripping), 18:47.

Third Period---4, Chicago, Sterling 10 (unassisted), 4:05; 5, Chicago, Martins 8 (unassisted), 8:03; 6, Peoria, Talbot 9 (Glenn, DuPont), 19:40. Penalties---Martins, Chicago (hooking), 11:13.

Overtime---7, Chicago, Sterling 11 (Crabb, Pilar), 4:31. Penalties---Sipotz, Chicago (tripping), 2:56.

Shots on goal---Peoria: 9-11-13--33. Chicago: 6-11-7-2--26. Power plays---Peoria: 1-4. Chicago: 0-4. Goalies---Peoria, Beckford-Tseu (22-26). Chicago, Lehtonen (30-33). A---3,405. Referee---Chris Ciamaga. Linesmen---Justin Lyle and Chris Allman.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lehtonen gets 1st win of season; Wolves crush QC

Kari Lehtonen received a fevered welcome from the Chicago Wolves fans at the Allstate Arena Tuesday night in his first appearance here in Chicago colors since the Calder Cup finals during the lockout.

Assigned by the Atlanta Thrashers to the Wolves on a conditioning assignment, I’d forgotten some of the little things that Lehtonen did during a game. The way he caressed the goal posts after a dinger, the way he snapped his mask into place without touching it when returning to the crease from a timeout and the way he would acknowledge some of the fans he recognized from his days here, three years ago.

He seems home here, or at least at ease in the Chicago nets, pointing, with the ease and knowledge of a veteran NHL player where the puck is going to appear next, to the benefit of the Wolves and the visiting Quad City Flames players.

He made some exceptional saves, including a butterfly save in the end of the first period, and defended the goal from a QC assault that saw them regularly leading in shots on goal. But it looked so easy.

In contrast, Matt Keetley, the 21 year-old Alberta native in goal for the Flames, looked desperate to stop everything, and he made it look hard too.

Lehtonen was in net here last in 2005. His defense led the Chicagoans to march through the West to meet Antero Niittymaki and the Philadelphia Phantoms in the finals of the Calder Cup. Niittymaki, a player I understand was always a little older than Lehtonen in their native Finland, with a more physical team in front of him, matched Lehtonen once again that June.

Tuesday, in the Allstate, Lehtonen looked totally in control. A final call on Chicago seems staged by the referee, who explained it first to Steve Martins and then to Lehtonen. Yards away and behind the glass, I wonder what Chris Ciamaga is saying to Lehtonen. The body language seems to say, “you’re an NHL goalie. Let them have a chance at breaking the shutout…”

And after 59 minutes 51 seconds of shutout behind him, Lehtonen finally lets a goal in and allows the Flames to light the scoreboard.

It is so empty and meaningless. The night belongs to Lehtonen; the hamburgler is back.

Quad City 0 0 1 -- 1
Chicago 1 1 2 -- 4

First Period---1, Chicago, Giroux 7 (Martins, Lehtonen), 6:08 pp. Penalties---Peters, Quad City (hooking), 0:57; Maki, Quad City (interference), 4:21; Pardy, Quad City (hooking), 6:08; Sterling, Chicago (interference), 6:40; Pelech, Quad City (holding), 11:38; Sipotz, Chicago (hooking), 15:49.

Second Period---2, Chicago, Giroux 8 (Martins, LaVallee), 19:01. Penalties---Kwiatkowski, Chicago (double-minor hooking), 4:29; Martins, Chicago (high-sticking), 7:59; Prust, Quad City (hooking), 11:53; Kwiatkowski, Chicago (tripping), 16:31.

Third Period---3, Chicago, Kwiatkowski 4 (Krog, Sterling), 1:32 pp; 4, Chicago, Krog 9 (Schultz, Sterling), 4:46; 5, Quad City, Pardy 2 (Ramholt, Stevenson), 19:50 pp. Penalties---Peters, Quad City (tripping), 0:13; Prust, Quad City (hooking), 7:26; Krischuk, Quad City (holding), 13:47; Giroux, Chicago (roughing), 19:03; Cunning, Quad City (fighting), 19:59; Valabik, Chicago (fighting), 19:59.

Shots on goal---Quad City: 13-8-7--28. Chicago: 8-7-14--29. Power plays---Quad City: 1-7. Chicago: 2-8. Goalies---Quad City, Keetley (25-29). Chicago, Lehtonen (27-28). A---4,734. Referee---Chris Ciamaga. Linesmen---Justin Lyle and Bryan Pancich.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Wolves on top of AHL; Lehtonen to Chicago for 3 games

While the strange Canadian virus that led me to take ten days off was in full bloom, the Chicago Wolves continued their victory march. A quick reload:

· November 16th, Wolves 7 at Iowa 5 in the final game of the circus road trip. Stephan Tobias is unable to hold an early 2-0 lead as the second period sees the Wolves start firing five consecutive goals. Fred Brathwaite gets the win.
· November 17th, Wolves 4, Houston Aeros 0. The last two seasons have seen the once mighty Aeros shot down time after time. They actually lost the last season to the San Antonio Rampage. This season is no better for the Aeros. The Wolves put more than 20 percent of the shots past Barry Brust. Everything seems to work for the Wolves as Robert Gherson picks up his second win of the year.
· November 18th, Wolves 0, San Antonio Rampage 4. New Rampage coach Greg Ireland continues to make the Rampage a tough team. They are in second place in the Western Division, immediately behind the Wolves and have been tough all season. As the month comes to a close, the Rampage face a schedule where they spend more than a month at home or in the state of Texas, the so-called rodeo home stand. Granted Ireland is a great coach, but who would have believed he could turn this situation around so- completely. The loss here goes to Gherson. It is just the first regulation loss and second loss of any type for Chicago.
· November 21st, Wolves 2 at Peoria Rivermen 1. Chris Beckford-Tseu may have been considered for the St. Louis Blues at one point, but he seems to have lost something since his Kelly Cup victory two seasons ago. Gherson wins this game. Brathwaite isn’t even dressed for this one as the Atlanta organization sends Craig Kowalski up from Gwinnett.
· November 23rd, Wolves 3, Peoria Rivermen 7. The Rivermen ain’t gonna be the Wolves bitch no more. This game marks the first Peoria regulation victory over the Wolves since, umm…. Well it was at least the 2006 season. A victory for Beckford-Tseu and a loss for Gherson. It also marks only the second regulation loss of the year for the Wolves.
· November 24th, Rockford 3, Chicago 8. A drubbing as the Rockford IceHogs only play about 15 minutes of the game and the Wolves deck ‘em. The game is won by Brathwaite.

In the hockey news, Kari Lehtonen is expected to start for the Wolves in their game on Tuesday, November 27th, against the Quad Cities Flames. Lehtonen, the backbone of the Atlanta Thrashers net minders, was injured prior to Atlanta Coach Bob Hartley being let go. He is expected to be in Chicago for a three game conditioning schedule. The other games in the line-up are versus Peoria at home on November 29 and December 1st at home versus Iowa.

There were two pieces about Hartley’s rocky relationships with his goalies that I’ve read recently. It is hard to discuss Kari Lehtonen’s relationship with Hartley, being so remote from Atlanta hockey.

However, here is a link to the PowerPlayPost Show that contains an interview with Billy Gardner, the Wolves television color analyst. LINK TO PPPSHOW MP3 Gardner explains in the interview that Hartley had told Brathwaite that if Hartley had had his way, Brathwaite would never start in goal.

It is widely assumed that all goalies are head cases, although in the few interactions I’ve had with Brathwaite, he seemed to be among the most collected and mature hockey players I’ve met.

Yet, here is the coach of Atlanta basically blowing off Brathwaite, according to Gardner. Am I reading too much into this? A year in which Brathwaite has had spectacular success in the American Hockey League? Is this the source of the funk noticed in Brathwaite last January?

Don Waddell, it is being said in the Atlanta blogs, is allowing the Thrashers to play to their brilliance. And, I believe that one of the beautiful things about hockey is the inspired play of the geniuses of the game. They seem to see the play develop, to react to it and anticipate it. A great player may need to see things in X’s and O’s, a genius imagines it as it develops.

Hartley’s style, his X’s and O’s, it is said, bore down on Lehtonen. And, it seems as though it also constrained the greatness of Ilya Kovalchuk and the Thrasher’s organization. Up and down the organization, it seems that freeing the organization of Hartley has freed the minds and playing skill of the players. Brathwaite playing well could be a giant “fuck you” to Hartley. Or, it could be Brathwaite finally playing to his potential. Or both.

Hartley’s termination has become a model for the NHL, if it worked in Atlanta, why not in Washington? Why hasn’t it worked better in Chicago? Let’s take Washington first. If pressed at the end of the 2007 season, I would have said three coaches had generally been among the best in the AHL every season: Bruce Boudreau, Claude Noel and John Anderson.

Now, in part, that shows a Western Division bias, because I see John Anderson a lot and also because I saw Claude Noel a lot.

In any case, of those three, only Anderson is still working in the AHL. That could be blindness on my part. But Anderson has a real chance of moving up; perhaps as the duties of being a GM take more time from Waddell and he uses his assistant, who will, in turn, perhaps, need his own assistant.

Looking over the AHL now, Anderson is still among the top-tier coaches. Randy Cunneyworth of the Rochester Americans and Don Lever of the Hamilton Bulldogs, all Western Conference, would fill out my list of top AHL coaches today.

And the B’hawks? Well, they are playing a better game than last season. But, I’m not a fan of Coach Denis Savard. I wish him well, but don’t see the ‘Hawks doing that much better than if they had gone outside the organization last season in a search for a new coach. But that wasn’t the way of the organ-I-zation last season. Under Rocky Wirtz, things may be different now.

When I think about a great coach, I consider what I do and have done for years. Currently done for fun, I have written professionally. I think an editor for a writer can be like a coach for a professional athlete. Some editor’s work is destructive, some is constructive. What is the difference? A good editor makes everything easier to write and easier to read. Their efforts don’t create problems, they resolve them.

Whatever Waddell has done in Atlanta, the players have reacted with wins. Right now, tonight as I write this, I can anticipate the Thrashers in the Stanley Cup finals. Hartley—destructive. Waddell- constructive. Pat Conacher- destructive. Greg Ireland- constructive. John Anderson, Claude Noel and Bruce Boudreau- constructive. Don Lever and Randy Cunneyworth- constructive.

Savard too has a winning team on the ice. But, I don’t think Savard has the skill to get the Blackhawk players to play to the level they need to play at to win the Stanley Cup. Maybe they will be in the playoffs, but tonight as I write these words, I don’t see a Blackhawk playing beyond the second round. Savard has a place in hockey management. But, I don’t see it being behind a bench. Constructive, but not nearly as much as some of his fellow coaches.

Anyway, that’s the ruminations after taking off for a week. We are very behind on photos from the Western New York/ Hamilton road trip and the last few days of hockey. Bear with us. We will post pictures of Lehtonen and current games first.

From Jane and I, best wishes to our readers for the holidays.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

1840 Miles to Hockey

Grand Rapids, MI--- It is Tuesday at about 2:30 AM in New Market, ON. The 400 runs a few feet from the motel with a car every few minutes headed either to Barrie or Toronto. I'm under the weather from some ailment, perhaps flue and the next game is at noon, today, hundreds of miles to the west.

All the google maps and trip tiks are saying I could leave here at 7 AM and just make the game. But there is that flue to contend with and also the Blue Water Bridge to cross.

I pack and leave.

The road through Toronto is quiet, almost like the ETR-407. The road to London is filled with giant trucks. I'm playing the PPPShow on the MP3 and counting the number of tires on the trucks as I pass them: 34? I count the next truck.

And so I pass the miles. I take a single stop, outside of Sarnia, in case the bridge is full and the line long to enter Michigan, I'll be able to relax and not be looking for bushes. But, while the truck line is several kilometers, I'm able to drive up to the gate for passenger cars without incident and with only one car in front.

"Nationality?" US Citizen.

"What are you doing?" I just want to go home.

"Where's that?" Chicago

"Are you bringing anything in?" No

"What were you doing in Canada?" Visiting friends, watching some hockey.

"How long were you there?" About 24 hours.

"Have a nice day."

The car is on fumes when I pull off of the interstate to stop at the Speedway at the foot of the bridge. Gas in Canada is $1.01 a liter, compared to about $3.15 a gallon in the US. I've been trying to do the math in my head, but the best I can do is figure that it is still cheaper in the US.

I've burned through three or four bottles of water, two bottles of Starbucks Vanilla Frapacinno, half a bag of cheese cubes, a half a bag of bagel crisps, an unknown quantity of prezels and a banana since leaving New Market. I'm still sick and now I'm hungry too.

It is 7 AM.

It appears that I'm about three hours from Grand Rapids. I'm still sick too and use the Big Boy near Flint to recharge for the final drive. The Big Boy was a staple for me when I got out of college. I haven't seen one since moving from Colorado, outside of the south and Michigan. But I repeat myself.

It is Tuesday and that means if I can move out of Grand Rapids and on to Chicago, I'll finish this trip with an evening of HNIC.

I don't pick anything fancy. My stomach is delicate, but not sensitive. Some bacon, it's bad for me, but I love it. Some scrambled eggs and some potatoes. Some coffee.

A fellow rolls into the restaurant and sits across the aisle. I can smell him from my seat. He is ripe. He is sitting with about half a dozen local women, who have all squeezed to the end of their long table, giving him all of his end.

I'm fotunate, I can leave him and his stench behind. I wonder how many gifts of soap he'll receive for the holiday? He won't take the hint.

The drive continues, hour six, seven, eight. Now, I'm about thirty miles east of Grand Rapids. I now am desperate to rest at the game. I'll sleep in the car after the game, right in the lot. That hour or so will refresh me enough to make it home tonight.

But, I get lost in downtown Grand Rapids, following a school bus to a building that I at first think is the Van An. I begin moving again, but need to find my way. Finally, finding a street that sweeps me behind the Van Am. But now, I'm discovering that because most of the lots here are used during the day for business parking, they are full.

Why am I doing this? Oh yeah. I want to rest before pushing on to Chicago and a noon hockey game is rather unusual.

It is in fact education day for the Griffins. 5400 school children are in the upper bowl of the Van Am. A school teacher offers me tickets for $10, but I point out that I'd like to be able to hear at the end of the game.

And, it is loud. And the pitch is higher than normal. But they aren't the only ones taking the day off. Around me I hear business being discussed. The guys sitting next to me admit they are playing hookey too.

On the ice, a perfect recrods goes against a weak record in a game which is likely to be ugly. The Griffins are perfect, 0-5 at home. And their opponents, the former Western Division regular season champions, the Quad Cities Flames, have among the worst records in the league. Who will win? I'm one of the fortunate few here tonight, with nothing invested in this game.

There is less of using the game as an education experience than I expected. There are no explanations of the calls. There are no interviews with the players about line changes or the game. This could be more than it is. But as the weak explanation goes, it is what it is.

The second period sees the two teams finally begin to score, with the game winner put up by the effort of Ian Croft. Croft, the referee, fails to call a tripping immediately in front of the Grand Rapids goal and seconds later, the go-ahead goal is scored by Adam Pardy.

2025 Miles-- Chicago-- I'm exhausted. Home after a final leg that I can hardley remember. The bags are everywhere and I head to bed. Lulled to sleep by HNIC's telecast of a game between the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens.

The road trip ends here for me. The Wolves, home for a few days, though, continue to Des Moines on Friday for a game against the Iowa Stars.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wolves win 11th game; Success on the road

ROCHESTER, NY--- The Wolves came from behind to force overtime against the Rochester Americans in action here tonight, and, after holding on in a penalty kill during overtime, came back to win the game in a shootout, 2-1.

Robert Gherson played the role of net minder tonight, giving Fred Brathwaite a break after he played nine games straight. Gherson, who earned one of the stars of the game, last played in the ECHL for the Columbia Inferno. Picked up as a free agent to replace Andrej Pavelec who is in Atlanta and Dan Turple, who was sent back to Gwinnett, Gherson was an unknown for a team that has largely stuck together since last season.

He quickly raised questions about his play when an early offensive attack ended with a goal by Tanner Glass off a Dylan Hunter rebound. However, Gherson composed himself and stopped 24 shots on goal, a 5:3 power play and two different power plays in the overtime period.

Facing Gherson, on the other end of the ice was Amerks goalie David Shantz. Shantz also came up from the ECHL to help the Amerks as they’ve also had callups. It was his third game of the year. Shantz held the Wolves off, keeping them scoreless through 59 minutes of hockey, including nine power play opportunities.

However in the last minute of play, Chicago received a power play opportunity, pulled Gherson to make it an empty net 6:4 advantage, which allowed Steve Martins to score the tying goal.

In the overtime, Boris Valabik, springing from the penalty box, was fed the puck, but was unable to handle it on the breakaway against Shantz. The Wolves missed a second chance to put the game away before the shootout when a cross-ice feed to Brent Sterling, who had an open net, went poorly.

During the shootout, Gherson raised the hopes of the local crowd, missing a high shot by Marc- Andre Gragnani. However, it was the last successful shot by the Americans, as the Wolves Jason Krog evened the score and then Kevin Doell put the winner in past Shantz.

Chicago 0 0 1 0 (1) -- 2
Rochester 1 0 0 0 -- 1 Shootout

First Period---1, Rochester, Glass 2 (Globke, Hunter), 6:40. Penalties---Crabb, Chicago (fighting), 2:39; Kaleta, Rochester (fighting), 2:39; Glass, Rochester (roughing), 12:27; Henry, Rochester (roughing, hooking), 16:24; Martins, Chicago (roughing), 18:05; Card, Rochester (roughing), 18:05; Weber, Rochester (cross-checking, unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:15.

Second Period---None. Penalties---Giroux, Chicago (hooking), 0:43; Kwiatkowski, Chicago (roughing), 2:33; Bench, Rochester (too many men), 7:05; Lojek, Rochester (hooking), 8:59; Martins, Chicago (unsportsmanlike conduct), 10:51; Stewart, Rochester (Slashing), 12:26; Weber, Rochester (hooking), 19:44.

Third Period---2, Chicago, Martins 4 (Giroux, Krog), 19:01 pp. Penalties---MacDonald, Rochester (holding), 18:20; Valabik, Chicago (tripping), 19:18.

Overtime---None. Penalties---Bench, Chicago (too many men), 4:26.

Shootout---Chicago 2 (Krog G, Schultz NG, Sterling NG, Doell G); Rochester 1 (Gragnani G, Mancari NG, MacDonald NG, Zagrapan NG, Glass NG).

Shots on goal---Chicago: 15-9-14-2-1--40. Rochester: 5-11-8-1--25. Power plays---Chicago: 1-10. Rochester: 0-5. Goalies--Chicago, Gherson (24-25). Rochester, Shantz (39-40). A---5,985. Referee---Dean Morton. Linesmen---Tim Kotyra and Peter Feola.

1,000 miles to hockey; Wolves take 3 more games

I’ve had to cancel the first leg of my trip, from Chicago to Moline, IL as the traffic on the expressways leaving the city are too much to make the 7 PM game time. So, let’s set it up as a Wolves victory, 2-1 over the Quad City Flames, the second win by the Wolves over the Flames this season.

In addition to that news is the addition to the team of Brent Sterling. Sterling was sent down from Atlanta apparently due to a lack of production. Rookie of the year while playing with the Wolves in the 2007 season, and American Hockey League scoring champion, the key question is whether he will produce back on the Wolves or merely mess up the lines. This first night, in Moline, Sterling is credited with a single shot on goal and no points or assists.

Windsor, Ontario, November 8, 300 miles from Chicago--- The St. Michael’s Major’s set up a wall in the Windsor Arena as Anthony Grieco, 18, stopped forty shots on goal in a 3-2 overtime win against the home team Windsor Spitfires here.

The Spitfires offensive play was frustrated by an inability to penetrate Grieco, who played for the University of North Dakota last year, but did not receive ice time there. This year, he is putting up a 93.6 percent save percentage.

Syracuse, New York, November 9, 800 miles from Chicago--- I noticed, as I entered the rink in Windsor the number of banners hanging from the ceiling. It is a sign of the quality of the team if it has a lot of banners. The Spitfires had three. Syracuse, as established and well known a hockey team as any in the American league, has just two. And neither is for the Calder Cup.

A banner hangs in the rafters for a 1954 NBA championship.

The crowd is smaller than I expect and not nearly as knowledgeable about hockey as I’d hoped. Several college-aged kids drop down in seats next to me, beer spilling on the floor, and attempt to taunt the Wolves.

The building was described on-line at Wolfkeeper as a bandbox, and the Onondaga County War Memorial does not disappoint there. Somewhat larger than the auditoriums I see at the Chicago Public Schools, I think that it might comfortably fit inside the footprint of the auditorium at Lane Tech High School.

But, within 7:50 of the first period, former Wolves captain Derek Mackenzie has scored a goal, a second goal has been potted and the Wolves are trying to kill their third 5:3 power play, led by Sterling. I’m thinking of whether Sterling will force me to lead with a piece on how former NHL players return to the AHL with a chip on the shoulder.

Behind 2-0, Fred Brathwaite, who has had to deflect too many rebounds in the first eight minutes, and has had to let two in—the scorers never seem to be able to count all the shots on goal correctly—begins to stand firm and with him, the Wolves too.

As the Wolves begin to turn the tide on the Crunch, scoring a goal first through the efforts of Andre Deveaux. Jaimie Koharski demonstrates to the crowd how wrong a referee can be. Brathwaite gets into a battle in front of the net and ends up on his belly, with the puck slipping out and out of his grasp. But Koharski can’t see it because Koharski is on the other side of Brathwaite. And, Koharski doesn’t skate up to take a closer look, whistling the play stopped.

Watching this, as the crowd explodes into “ref you suck,” you have to pause and wonder what would have happened to this game if the Crunch had been able to take another goal in the first period? The puck was just sitting there, steaming. All it needed for the fireworks was a Crunch player who wanted to be a hero.

By the end of the first frame, the Wolves have recovered the two goals and tied the game. The scoring is over for the Crunch as the scoring machine that consists of the various Wolves lines begins to bear on the hapless Crunch goalie, Adam Monro. The singing, the dancing and the spilling beer are all pointless now. The Crunch seemed doomed to fail tonight as Sterling redeems himself with two goals, making up for the two 5:3 situations he helped create. And Alexandre Giroux puts two in also. In fact, it is obvious as the game wears on that Giroux and perhaps Sterling too, is trying desperately to score a hat-trick tonight. And it is with frustration that they see the final penalty of the game against the Wolves by Scott Lehman prematurely ending their efforts.

The final is a 5-2 Wolves victory, with Lindsey Cramer of the Syracuse Post Standard saying the next morning, “Chicago is a deep, fierce, offensive team, a pseudo-NHL team in Wolves clothing. Chicago was cool even in the face of its early hole, pressuring the Crunch into defensive mistakes and make its comeback more a matter of time than talent.”

Hamilton, ON, November 10, 1,000 miles from Chicago— The Copps Coliseum has been the home to some great moments in Brathwaite’s career, a Memorial Cup win in juniors and last year’s 1-0 shutout of the Bulldogs during the Calder Cup semi-finals come immediately to mind.

Brathwaite seems home in the older building, drawing strength from it and a crowd that is appreciative of hockey and his place in its history. In the wings, stands a young goalie, just 24 years old, Gherson looks like he would be more at home playing for the Windsor Spitfires than the Wolves or the Atlanta Thrashers.

Brathwaite is in net again tonight, the second of three games in a row for the Wolves on the road trip. Along with the Toronto Marlies, the Wolves remain undefeated in regulation play in the AHL.

The Bulldogs owned the Wolves throughout last season, earning a point in every matchup with the Chicago team in the regular season and allowing them only one victory in the semi-final.

But, the Bulldogs aren’t the same team now that won the Calder Cup in June. And the Wolves jump to a 2-0 lead in the first frame of the period as Sterling potts his third and fourth goal of the season, which for him is just three AHL games.

The Bulldogs reply with three goals, bringing the Niagara Peninsula team ahead 3-2 at the end of two frames, including a very physical goal that starts as a wrap-around against Brathwaite that is hammered in by Janni Lahti.

The Wolves reply in the third frame with their second and third lines each adding a goal and then holding on as the Bulldogs attempt to bring the game into extra time for the win.

The smog fills the hollows and gathers around the lamp posts as we head back to the border. We do not return to Hamilton again in the regular season. The fans express their frustration at losing. Losing a game against the Wolves. Losing a franchise despite the deposit of an extraordinary number of season tickets for the Predators.

We express our hope to return here again in May. And, the answer to our questions about Sterling seem satisfied. He is here to play.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Stories under consideration as top local hockey stories of 2007

Top local hockey stories of the year

Here is the link to last year’s list: LINK and also here: LINK

1 Bill Wirtz dead at age 77
2 Rocky Wirtz assumes head of Chicago Blackhawks
3 Dale Pulford reassigned by Rocky Wirtz
4 Chicago Blackhawks affiliate with Rockford IceHogs
5 Rockford IceHogs defeat Kalamazoo K-Wings in seven game final to win Colonial Cup
6 Darren Haydar ends his point streak at 39 games
7 Darren Haydar named regular season AHL MVP
8 Brent Sterling named AHL Rookie of the year
9 Chicago Hounds quit the Sears Centre; will not play in 2008
10 Atlanta Thrashers fire Coach Bob Hartley; Don Waddell takes the reins
11 Rockford approves multi-million renovation of MetroCentre, acquisition of IceHogs
12 Blackhawks fail to make playoffs for fifth consecutive year [This sentence originally said tenth consecutive year]
13 Wolves fall to Bulldogs in fifth game of Western Conference finals
14 United Hockey League falls to six teams
15 Wolves sweep Admirals in Western Division quarter finals
16 United Hockey League assumes name of International Hockey League
17 Quad City Mallards affiliate with the Calgary Flames
18 Nashville Predators unravel financially. Milwaukee loses Coach Claude Noel

Rockford loses home opener in SO

Rockford, Ill.--- The Rockford IceHogs started their home play, after a road trip of nine games, losing a shootout to the San Antonio Rampage 3-2. Despite the loss, the IceHogs are well positioned in the Western Division, with their entire home stand in front of them and almost a quarter of the road games complete, the team had 14 points on Sunday morning, with a 63.6 percent win ratio.

The sell out crowd at the Rockford MetroCentre was greeted to an opening video noting the history of Rockford sports championships, drawing a roar of crowd approval on the Colonial Cup victory of the IceHogs in the United Hockey League last season. Then the video announced: “that was then—this is now!” leading into a segment of Chicago Blackhawks legacy.

After several minutes of Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and other ‘Hawks greats, the theme of the season was announced: “the road to Chicago starts in Rockford.” As the Indianhead logo was stitched together on the new jumbotron, a rock band started to play and the crowd saw their IceHogs and the Hawks become joined on screen with quick shots of Rockford players and Blackhawks.

Then the band came on for a video, playing in their IceHog sweaters.

An opening ceremony with American Hockey League President Dave Andrews and members of the Blackhawk front office came on ice followed by a moving rendition of the National Anthem played by a six-year-old.

But game on. The MetroCentre has lost the aisle that separated the lower bowl and the upper bowl to “luxury boxes.” Really, placed between row M and N, these represent a wide table height counter and office chairs placed in the old aisle. The concourse of the MetroCentre is that much more crowded now, and a sell-out crowd of just 6,500 people demonstrates the age and lack of amenities in the building.

Still, the Rockford crowd is among the best in hockey, and they did not allow that to dampen their spirits. The game featured two of the heavy weights in the AHL: the Rampage’s Peter Vandermeer and Rockford’s Colin Fraser. It was a disappointment to me that these two did not have a go at each other in the game, although Fraser did pick a fight with the Rampage’s Cam Paddock late in the second period.

The two teams seemed evenly matched in the first period, with San Antonio registering ten shots to just five for the IceHogs, and both teams coming out of the period tied 1-1 after a power play goal for the Hogs by Troy Brouwer, assisted by Cam Barker and Evan Brophy, and an answering score for San Antonio by Enver Lisin.

The second frame saw the Hogs keep the puck in the Rampage end for much of the period. Late in the period, the Rampage put pressure on the Hogs goalie, Corey Crawford. A breakout by the Hogs saw David Aebischer go post to post to stop Rockford rebounds before finally giving up the 2-1 goal by Kris Versteeg, assisted by Jack Skille and Brophey at 17.48.

San Antonio returned to the Hogs zone immediately after this, and after a collision involving Dustin Byfuglien, Byfuglien gets into a dance in front of the Hogs net. In jumps Vandermeer, a third man in! But it is Byfuglien, Vandermeer and another Hog, Jordan Hendry who get sent to the sin bin, all with minors. Apparently Nigel Pelletier, the referee, was not looking.

With the second frame ended, the Hogs are now up 2-1 in a tightly matched game. Mid-way through the period, Chris Durno gets sent to the box for two minutes, giving the IceHogs one of their five power plays of the night. But the puck is stolen, fed across the Rampage blue line by Freddy Meyer to the racing Bill Thomas who fakes Crawford out for a short handed goal, tieing the game at 2-2.

Two other important penalties take place, both against Rockford. At 19.15 Bryan Bickell is called for interference, giving the Rampage the power play for 1:15 of the overtime. Then, after that expires, Skille is called for hooking at 3.10 of the OT, giving the Rampage another 1:50 of power play in the OT.

Despite this, the Rampage are unable to convert their opportunities. In the shootout, Joel Perraul and Keith Yandle scored for San Antonio and Versteeg for the Hogs, allowing the Rampage to win. Crawford stopped 28 shots on goal. Aebischer received the win, stopping 15 shots on goal.

Hogs Squeels— Dustin Byfuglien was the first Hog called up since the home opener. He is the second Hog to move down I-90. The Hogs are averaging more than 30 minutes of penalties per game, more than any other team in the AHL.

Wolves 7, Flames 1; Wolves 7th season win

The Chicago Wolves remain one of just two teams in the American Hockey League undefeated in regulation play as they burned the Quad City Flames 7-1 in a game, Friday night in Moline, Ill. Jesse Schultz scored a hat trick, Jason Krog scored three assists and Joey Crabb and Steve Martins scored two assists each in the win.

The game marked the return to the Quad Cities of Coach John Anderson. In his final season with the Quad City Mallards, Anderson took the team to its first of three Colonial Cup wins. He has coached the Wolves since then, and he has taken them to two Turner Cup wins and a Calder Cup win in the International Hockey League and the AHL respectively.

The Mallards organization became the current Quad Cities Flames this season when the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights decamped for Moline’s iWireless Center at the end of the 2007 season.

The Wolves went up 1-0 in the first minute as Jordan LaVallee and Martins assisted Schultz with the first goal. A second power play goal by LaVallee occurred just three minutes later, assisted by Krog and Brian Fahey. Then the Wolves potted a second power play goal by Nathan Oystrick, the d-man’s first of the year, assisted by Krog and Crabb, less than three minutes later. At the end of twenty minutes, the Wolves were up 3-0.

The first period saw four of the five minor penalties against the Flames. The Flames gave the Wolves a total of four power play opportunities and the Wolves took advantage of two of them. The Wolves are good for 20.6 percent of their power play opportunities, fourth in the league, and 86.7 percent of their penalty kills, eighth in the league.

The Flames, 27th in the league in penalty kills, became a more disciplined team in the second frame, going through the rest of the game with just one penalty. The Wolves added to the score with a goal by Andre Deveaux, assisted by Kevin Doell and Boris Valabik before the Flames answered with their only goal of the night, Cam Cunning’s power play goal at 16.12, assisted by Derek Couture and Tim Ramholt.

Entering the final period, the Wolves led the Flames 4-1. LaVallee, assisted by Krog and Crabb scored at 10.31. Then Schultz potted his second of the night at 17.44, assisted by Martins and Brian Sipotz and then scored his hat trick unassisted at 17.56.

Despite his hat trick, Schultz was not named one of the three stars of the game. Although he was named one of the three stars of the night on the AHL website. Fred Brathwaite picked up his fifth win of the year and the third consecutive one-goal win of the season. He stopped a season high 37 shots on goal. Kevin Lalande received the loss, stopping 23 shots.

The Wolves continue their circus road trip with another game against the Quad Cities Flames in the iWireless Center of Moline Wednesday, November 7 at 7:00 P.M.

Chicago 3 1 3 -- 7
Quad City 0 1 0 -- 1

First Period---1, Chicago, Schultz 4 (LaVallee, Martins), 0:54; 2, Chicago, LaVallee 4 (Krog, Fahey), 3:55 pp; 3, Chicago, Oystrick 1 (Krog, Crabb), 6:43 pp; Penalties---Prust, Quad City (roughing), 2:31; Germyn,
Quad City (hooking), 6:29; Deveaux, Chicago (interference), 12:08; Germyn, Quad City (holding), 18:06; Pelech, Quad City (roughing), 19:58.

Second Period---4, Chicago, Deveaux 2 (Doell, Valabik), 10:32; 5, Quad City, Cunning (Couture, Ramholt), 16:12 pp. Penalties---Fahey, Chicago (tripping), 14:25.

Third Period---6, Chicago, LaVallee 5 (Krog, Crabb), 10:31; 7, Chicago, Schultz 5 (Martins, Sipotz), 17:44; 8, Chicago, Schultz 6 (unassisted), 17:56. Penalties---Sipotz, Chicago (high-sticking), 0:17; Anderson, Chicago (high-sticking), 2:18; Doell, Chicago (slashing), 10:35; Deveaux, Chicago (roughing), 17:02; Chucko, Quad City (roughing), 17:02.
Shots on goal---Chicago: 12-10-8--30. Quad City: 6-18-14--38.
Power plays---Chicago: 2-4. Quad City: 1-5.
Goalies--Chicago, Brathwaite (37-38). Quad City,
Lalande (23-30).
Referee---Jeff Smith. Linesmen---Craig Kneale
and Bryan Pancich.

Wolves notes-- Fred Brathwaite is ranked fifth by the AHL among goalies. Jesse Schultz is ranked fifth in goals. The team's ranking in the standing is second place in the Western Division with a 93.8 percent win ratio, trailing the San Antonio Rampage who have a 66.7 percent win ratio. Placement in the AHL is determined by game points, and the Rampage have played 12 games this season, compared to just eight for the Wolves. Only two other teams have played as few games as the Wolves: the Hershey Bears and the Worcester Sharks. The other team with a perfect regulation season record is the Toronto Marlies. [This sentence originally said regular. Whoops!]

[Late edit: WTF, Ondrej Pavelec gets his first NHL start, stopping 30 shots on goal in Tampa Bay, receives the win, but isn't noted as a star of the game? These things, the stars of the game, are next to useless.]

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Wolves lose 1-0 in OT to Milwaukee Ads

Milwaukee--- The Milwaukee Admirals knocked the Chicago Wolves from their perfect season with a 1-0 overtime victory at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee Saturday night. It was a back and forth game of passionless hockey broken by two goalies backstopping occasional breakaways by both teams.

The Wolves were unable to connect on four separate breakaways during several power plays, starting in the first period. And, it was the Wolves who blew an early chance to win the game when they failed to capitalize on a 5:3 opportunity in the second period. The Admirals survived the power play in part due to a called penalty on the Wolves, which eased the pressure on them.

Just 16 minutes of penalties were called in the entire game, a relatively quiet affair for a Wolves versus Admirals match, and quiet for the season too. Pekka Rinne, the Nashville goalie prospect who has started the season in Milwaukee, slapped down 28 Chicago shots on goal and kept the team in play. Fred Brathwaite was also doing good work in his crease. His key moment was a penalty shot called against Chicago in one of Milwaukee’s few breakaways. Andreas Thuresson, however, had no flourish in his stick and Chicago net minder Brathwaite had him cold.

Brathwaite stopped 24 Admiral shots through the overtime period when a 2:1 breakaway developed with Matt Ellison feathering a pass to Jason Guerriero. Guerriero held the puck till after Brathwaite committed, then passed back to Ellison who put it behind Brathwaite, high and off the right post for the 1-0 win.

The loss puts the Wolves and the Admirals tied in first place. It was the first loss of the season for the Wolves.

The Wolves continue their road trip with a game against the Quad City Flames at the I Wireless Center (the former Mark of the Quad Cities), Friday, November 2 at 7 P.M.

Chicago 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Milwaukee 0 0 0 1 -- 1

First Period---None. Penalties---Maki, Milwaukee (interference), 3:44; Crabb, Chicago (hooking), 6:33.

Second Period---None. Penalties---Niskala, Milwaukee (tripping), 1:51; Franson, Milwaukee (tripping), 2:39; Kwiatkowski, Chicago (hooking), 3:33; Giroux, Chicago (tripping), 9:24.

Third Period---None. Penalties---Thuresson, Milwaukee (hooking), 9:25; Kwiatkowski, Chicago (hooking), 13:27.

Overtime---1, Milwaukee, Ellison 4 (Guerriero), 2:49. Penalties---None.

Shots on goal---Chicago: 9-13-5-1--28. Milwaukee: 10-7-6-1--24. Power plays---Chicago: 0-4. Milwaukee: 0-4. Goalies--Chicago, Brathwaite (23-24). Milwaukee, Rinne (28-28). A---4,394. Referee---Jamie Koharski. Linesmen---Dan Dineen and Roger Behling.

Blueland musings-- The Atlanta Thrashers have had their shot at teams that are lackluster this season: the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Nashville Predators and now the Chicago Blackhawks. It took a visit to the "revived" Blackhawks for the Thrashers to show life since their win against the Blueshirts. How am I supposed to feel about this? Great for the Thrashers, but terrible as a Chicago sports fan. At least my doomsday senario of lining the players up in the parking lot with their suit cases, with Waddell telling them which bus (the Wolves or the Thrashers) won't come to pass.

Then, of course, there is the goal scored by Darren Haydar in the Chicago game...

The afternoon of hockey started with the Boston v Philadelphia game playing in the background. It was hard to move, watching Patrice Bergeron motionless on the ice of Boston Gardens. This is not the Bertuzzi hit on Moore by any means. Randy Jones, to my knowledge, has never had a major penalty called on him before.

Jones will be called to answer for the hit, a hit that is illegal in many youth leagues. That part of the story will continue to develop. Bergeron needs our prayers now, however. Justice, served by the league or by the Boston Bruins, can wait.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Chicago perfect 6-0 with 4-1 win over Rampage

The Chicago Wolves went 6-0 for the season, defeating the San Antonio Rampage 4-1 at the AllState Arena Friday night. Wolves Center Alexandre Giroux potted two goals in a span of just 2:15 early in the first period to push the Wolves to their win.

Steve Martins and Joel Kwiatkowski each earned three points in the game, with a goal and two assists each. Fred Brathwaite, the Wolves goalie, meanwhile, stopped 30 Rampage shots on goal and backstopped a defense that shut down nine power plays, including two 5:3 power plays in the second frame.

San Antonio could not find any traction in their effort against the Wolves and although they largely kept up with the Wolves in the shots on goal, they could not find the back of the net.

Lack of discipline early in the first period created a series of three power plays for the Wolves in the first half of the first frame. Giroux potted his first puck during a power play and returned to the ice shortly to pot a second.

And, still the Rampage penalties continued to mount, with Kwiatkowski taking advantage of a power play to make the score 3-0 Wolves. Despite a television timeout just a whistle away, Rampage coach Greg Ireland called his guys together to try to regroup after the Kwiatkowski goal. Whatever Ireland said must have worked, in part, as the Wolves finally stopped lighting Rampage goalie David Aebischer like a Christmas tree, but continued to take penalties too.

After scoring a goal with less than three minutes in the period, and putting the game back in play, Rampage wing Peter Vandermeer started chasing Jordan LaValle. A line brawl ensued, but one in which most of the Wolves skated away from the roughing. Karel Pilar, who was on the ice when the brawl started, skated to the bench before realizing it. His return to the ice from the bench violated the rule prohibiting leaving the bench in a brawl and he was given a game misconduct. LaVallee, despite refusing to fight, was given two minutes in the sin bin.

However three San Antonio players were given time in the bin giving the Wolves an advantage through the end of the frame and into the next period too.

Starting the second period with the score 3-1 Wolves, it appeared as though San Antonio would repeat the first period’s lack of discipline: Steve Martins scored a goal in the period shortly after a power play expired. However, it was the Wolves who began visiting the sin bin in the second half of the frame. First Kwiatkowski was called for tripping. Then, about 17 seconds later, Nathan Oystrick was called for hooking.

When the Wolves had killed that penalty, they were given a penalty for too many men on the ice. About a minute later Kevin Doell was called for hooking, another 5:3 penalty kill. Rampage Center Joel Perrault had a terrific slap shot that caught Brathwaite on the wrong side of the net. Brathwaite sprawled on the ice as the referee looked through the back of the net.

As Perrault celebrated, Brathwaite opened his glove to reveal the puck inside. Replays showed clearly he never crossed the goal line. No goal!

As the period bell sounded, the pressure became too much for the Rampage. Josh Grafton and Andre Deveaux started to dance in the Wolves right circle. A full line dance started, with Wolves pairing up with Rampage players for a Texas two-step. When it was all straightened out Grafton and Deveaux were each given 10-minute misconducts to start the next period. Despite the two 5:3 San Antonio advantages, the score was now 4-1 Wolves.

Vandermeer made himself known again in the third period first with a high sticking call at 5:40 that, along with a penalty on a fellow player, created a 5:3. And then, at 11:21 into the period he charged Boris Valabik, striking him in the face with his gloves still on. This is a violation not only of the rules but also of the Code. His actions did put Valabik in the sin bin for five minutes, but generated two minors on himself for instigating and high-sticking, a game misconduct for instigating and a major for fighting. That put the Wolves on a 5:3 again for two minutes.

The Wolves could not score on either power play attempt.

In total there were 114 minutes of penalties called, Vandermeer receiving 33 minutes of the total. Brathwaite, who had brought the crowd to its feet several times, stopped 30 shots and received the win. Aebischer stopped 34 shots and received the loss.

“There were so many penalties that it was hard to get a rhythm out there,” Coach John Anderson said. Anderson said he was happy with the team’s efforts. The Wolves are the last team in the American Hockey League with a perfect record. It will be tested tonight at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee against the Milwaukee Admirals on the start of a season high seven-game road trip.

San Antonio 1 0 0 -- 1
Chicago 3 1 0 -- 4

First Period---1, Chicago, Giroux 2 (Kwiatkowski, Martins), 4:24 pp; 2, Chicago, Giroux 3 (Crabb, Martins), 6:39; 3, Chicago, Kwiatkowski 2 (Pilar), 7:48 pp; 4, San Antonio, DiSalvatore 2 (Helmer, Spina), 17:13. Penalties---Crabb, Chicago (tripping), 0:15; Yandle, San Antonio (hooking), 1:48; Bell, San Antonio (cross-checking), 3:27; Gratton, San Antonio (roughing), 7:25; Schultz, Chicago (highsticking), 8:38; Doell, Chicago (hooking), 10:38; Kwiatkowski, Chicago (hooking), 11:53; Yandle, San Antonio (holding), 18:48; Gratton, San Antonio (double-minor roughing), 18:48; Vandermeer, San Antonio (crosschecking, misconduct), 18:48; LaVallee, Chicago (roughing), 18:48; Pilar, Chicago (game misconduct), 18:48.

Second Period---5, Chicago, Martins 3 (Kwiatkowski, Crabb), 7:31. Penalties---DiSalvatore, San Antonio (closing hand on puck), 2:32; Durno, San Antonio (tripping), 5:28; Deveaux, Chicago (interference), 8:19; Helmer, San Antonio (holding), 10:49; Kwiatkowski, Chicago (tripping), 12:17; Oystrick, Chicago (hooking), 12:34; Bench, Chicago (too many men), 14:51; Doell, Chicago (hooking), 15:54; Gratton, San Antonio (misconduct), 20:00; Deveaux, Chicago (misconduct), 20:00.

Third Period---None. Penalties---Thomas, San Antonio (hooking), 5:40; Vandermeer, San Antonio (high-sticking), 5:40; Vandermeer, San Antonio (high-sticking, cross-checking, instigating, fighting, misconduct), 11:21; Valabik, Chicago (fighting), 11:21; Meyer, San Antonio (roughing), 15:14; Paddock, San Antonio (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:34; Giroux, Chicago (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:34.

Shots on goal---San Antonio: 13-9-9--31. Chicago: 12-12-14--38. Power plays---San Antonio: 0-9. Chicago: 2-14. Goalies---San Antonio, Aebischer (34-38). Chicago, Brathwaite (30-31). A---4,313. Referee---Chris Ciamaga. Linesmen---Al Stensland and Roger Behling.

Sightings-- Atlanta General Manager Don Waddell was seen leaving the AllState, accompanied to his car by Chicago Wolves General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. The Atlanta Thrashers also had a number of former Wolves players in the stands and on the concourse. They play the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday night at the United Center.

Several things come immediately to mind, first a meeting between Waddell and Cheveldayoff was expected when the schedules were announced. Second, Waddell is expected to interview John Anderson this weekend for the Atlanta coaching job. Third, if the Atlanta Thrashers cannot win tomorrow against the Blackhawks, or worse, get stomped, there are going to be some big changes in the line-up in Atlanta and in Chicago. (What a great time for it, everyone will be packed as both teams are on road trips. Line them all up and assign them to either the Chicago bus or the Atlanta bus). And finally, why hasn't anyone mentioned Cheveldayoff as a coaching candidate?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wolves make it 5; Defeat San Antonio 4-3 in Shootout

Make it five. The Chicago Wolves are perfect, still, this season, defeating the San Antonio Rampage at the AllState Arena in Rosemont in a shootout by a score of 4-3 Wednesday night. That leaves the Wolves with five consecutive victories this season, one of just two American Hockey League teams with a perfect record.

It was a hard fought victory as the Rampage, now coached by Greg Ireland, jumped to a lead late in the first period when Joey Tenute snuck the puck past Fred Brathwaite. It was the first time this season that an opposing team had scored the first goal against the Wolves.

The Wolves answered in the second period on the power play with a goal by Jordan LaVallee but a seesaw battle started as San Antonio winger Enver Lisin scored a go-ahead goal about two minutes later on their own power play.

In the third frame the Wolves Andre Deveaux was charged with goal tender interference after he collided with Rampage net minder David LeNeveu during a scoring attempt. When the Rampage weren’t able to capitalize on this, the Wolves were able to tie the game once more when defender Brian Sipotz scored his first goal of the year.

The Wolves went back on the defense just moments later as first blue liner Boris Valabik and then center Steve Martins were called for hooking, giving San Antonio a 5:3 advantage on the ice. Bill Thomas was able to take advantage of this, putting the Rampage in the lead again, with 2:23 remaining on the clock.

Wolves Coach John Anderson pulled Brathwaite from the net, putting a man advantage on the ice for the Wolves. They were able to tie with just 28 seconds remaining to play on a goal by Alexandre Giroux.

Both teams struggled to score in the sudden death overtime period with both Brathwaite and LeNeveu making outstanding stops. The shootout was the first this season for the Wolves. The Rampage LeNeveu had lost a shootout against the Houston Aeros last week.

Chicago took the lead in the shootout round with a goal scored by Jesse Schultz. However Keith Yandle tied the shootout and then Rampage center Joel Perrault put the Rampage ahead. Wolves winger Tomas Pospisil tied the teams again as the shootout headed into sudden death.

Ireland sent Matt Murley back for a second try on Brathwaite, which was deflected. Jason Krog, on his second shootout attempt put it past LeNeveu for the win.

“It’s a great feeling to score my first goal in such a big win,” Giroux said, “when you come to a new team you find yourself pressing a bit more to make that impact.” Giroux was awarded three points in the event, including the goal. The win was ninth consecutive win for the Wolves over the Rampage and also marks the 17th time the Wolves have gained at least a point against the Texans.

Chicago and San Antonio play again on Friday at the AllState Arena in a 7:30 P.M. game.

San Antonio 1 1 1 0 (0) -- 3
Chicago 0 1 2 0 (1) -- 4 Shootout

First Period---1, San Antonio, Tenute 4 (DiSalvatore, Roche), 17:41. Penalties---Martins, Chicago (hooking), 5:35; Murley, San Antonio (interference), 9:29; Gratton, San Antonio (cross-checking), 13:40; Meyer, San Antonio (hooking), 13:53; Martins, Chicago (hooking), 18:11.

Second Period---2, Chicago, LaVallee 3 (Kwiatkowski, Giroux), 15:34 pp; 3, San Antonio Lisin 3 (Tenute, DiSalvatore), 17:26 pp. Penalties---Thomas, San Antonio (hooking), 4:55; Oystrick, Chicago (tripping), 8:32; Meyer, San Antonio (roughing), 15:08; Stuart, Chicago (cross-checking), 16:07.

Third Period---4, Chicago, Sipotz 1 (Giroux, Pospisil), 10:55; 5, San Antonio, Thomas 3 (Tenute, Yandle), 17:37 pp; 6, Chicago, Giroux 1 (Krog, Oystrick), 19:32. Penalties---Deveaux, (goaltender interference), 1:31; Lisin, San Antonio (tripping), 3:07; Valabik, Chicago (hooking), 14:24; Martins, Chicago (hooking), 15:43.

Overtime---None. Penalties---None.

Shootout---San Antonio 2 (Roche, NG; Bell, NG; Murley, NG; Yandle, G; Perrault, G; Murley, NG). Chicago 3 (Krog, NG; Schultz, G; Giroux, NG; Doell, NG; Pospisil, G; Krog, G).

Shots on goal---San Antonio: 9-9-8-1-0--27. Chicago: 6-14-14-2-1-37. Power plays---San Antonio: 2-7. Chicago: 1-6. Goalies---San Antonio, LeNeveu (33-36). Chicago, Brathwaite (24-27). A---2,926. Referee---Chris Ciamaga. Linesmen---Bryan Pancich and Aaron Mills.

[Late edit: the Pavelec tour of the NHL continues with a Tuesday shootout win by the Atlanta Thrashers over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Although Pavelec was not in goal for the game, one of the four regulation goals was assisted by the Wolves line.

It is difficult to make a case for ever returning Darren Haydar under these conditions. Fortunately, the Chicago Wolves are winning without Haydar. Now if they take Krog...

There is another hockey team in Chicago. Tuesday, at the Chicago United Center they dropped one 4-7 against the Columbus Blue Jackets with three of the four goals scored by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

It is very hard to make the case this year that the Blackhawks are Chicago's second minor league hockey team. Still, losing against the Blue Jackets, even one coached by Ken Hitchcock, must be galling to the Chicagoans.

Of course regular Chicagoans don't know about this yet because the team is still not broadcasting its home games. Rocky Wirtz has made moves to turn this around. However with television schedules set far in advance, the first game is not scheduled to occur till November 11.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pavelec on tour Day 3: Tampa Bay

Ondrej Pavelec remains up with the Atlanta Thrashers for his third day since call-up. He was lit by the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday in a 4-2 loss that saw him stop 24 shots on goal. The Thrashers are winless on the road so far. They have been outscored 21-4 on the road.

One of the two goals scored Saturday in Florida was by Brett Sterling. [Correction: this entry gives the very strong impression that Pavelec played all 60 minutes. In fact he played only the last 20 minutes of the game, giving up a power play goal and stopping five shots on goal.]

Four in a row; Wolves 4, Rivermen 2

In their best start in franchise history, the Chicago Wolves are now 4-0, defeating the Peoria Rivermen 4-2 at the Carver Arena Sunday in Peoria, Ill. The Wolves are now one of only two teams, the other is the Worcester Sharks, that have a perfect record this season.

The first Wolves goal of the period, a power play, was passed into the Rivermen zone by Nathan Oystick. Picked up by Steve Martins on the near circle, it was passed across ice to Jesse Schultz, the former Manitoba Moose, who beat Riverman goalie Jason Bacashihua to score.

The second goal of the first period was scored on a delayed penalty call as Andre Deveaux jammed the puck past Bacashihua from near the paint. The penalty created one of four power play opportunities in the first period for the Wolves in a period that saw no calls against the Wolves by referee Shaun Davis.

However, the Rivermen answered the Wolves goals before the end of the period as Julian Talbot battled almost from his own zone to behind the Wolves net with the puck against Karel Pilar and Joey Crabb and others. There the Wolves finally managed to poke it free, unfortunately right onto the stick of Julian Talbot who potted it for the score from between the far circle and the paint.

The score was 2-1, Chicago, at the end of the first period. The second period saw Fred Brathwaite hold the Chicago team in the game with a number of saves. Peoria received three 5:3 opportunities in the period amid five penalties against the Wolves. They dominated the period, putting 14 shots on goal versus just 7 for the Wolves. However, the Rivermen special teams failed in this period, and all night, with no power play goals against the Wolves. With a scoreless period, the game moved to its final 20 minutes with the Wolves holding on to their one point lead.

Talbot evened the score mid-way through the final frame on a two-man breakaway. From the near circle, Talbot found Brathwaite’s five hole to even the score. However, just 30 seconds passed before Joey Crabb battled against Trent Whitfield against the far boards for the puck. Popping it loose to Schultz, he one-timed it from the far circle for the game winning goal. In the closing seconds, Deveaux stripped the puck from Jeff Woywitka and passed cross ice to Colin Stuart. Stuart made the easy empty net for a 4-2 win.

Brathwaite received the win, stopping 28 shots. Bacashihua received the loss, stopping 18 shots.

Chicago 2 0 2 -- 4
Peoria 1 0 1 -- 2

First Period---1, Chicago, Schultz 2 (Martins, Oystrick), 11:25 pp; 2, Chicago, Deveaux 1 (Stuart, Doell), 13:10 extra man; 3, Peoria, Talbot 2 (Kariya, Linglet), 18:37. Penalties---Hellstrom, Peoria (interference), 2:14; Porter, Peoria (tripping), 6:46; Whitfield, Peoria (roughing), 10:44; Birner, Peoria (holding), 19:52.

Second Period---None. Penalties---DuPont, Peoria (hooking), 4:35; Fahey, Chicago (hooking), 6:25; Valabik, Chicago (roughing), 7:29; Kwiatkowski, Chicago (holding), 11:28; Anderson, Chicago (hooking), 13:16; Sipotz, Chicago (tripping), 13:48.

Third Period---4, Peoria, Talbot 3 (DuPont), 10:47; 5, Chicago, Schultz 3 (Crabb), 11:17; 6, Chicago, Stuart 1 (Deveaux), 19:52 en. Penalties---Porter, Peoria (elbowing), 3:07; Polak, Peoria (holding), 4:48; Fahey, Chicago (hooking) 8:01; Doell, Chicago (slashing), 19:54; Deveaux, Chicago (double minor roughing), 19:54; Benson, Peoria (double minor roughing).

Shots on goal---Chicago: 9-7-6--22. Peoria: 9-14-7--30. Power plays---Chicago: 1-7. Peoria: 0-7. Goalies--Chicago, Brathwaite (28-30). Peoria, Bacashihua (18-21). A---3,360. Referee---Shaun Davis. Linesmen---Chris Allman and Bryan Pancich.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

3rd in a row; Wolves overcome IceHogs

Make it three in a row for the Chicago Wolves. An overtime victory over the Rockford IceHogs at the Allstate Arena Friday continued the Wolves unbroken string. The game was notable due not only to the call-ups by the Atlanta Thrashers of Wolves rookie goalie Ondrej Pavelec, but also of American Hockey League MVP Darren Haydar.

Following the pre-game fireworks, Joel Kwiatkowski shot the puck past Corey Crawford for the first Wolves goal just past the four minute mark, followed in about a minute by Jordan LaVallee’s successful breakaway. However, the Wolves fireworks were silenced as Rockford went on the offence, pounding Wolves goalie Fred Brathwaite with fourteen shots, going 3 for 5 on the power play and gaining a 4-2 lead at the close of the frame.

The smaller IceHogs team refused to stand down when challenged, creating a total of 50 combined minutes of penalties in the first frame, including bouts between Evan Brophy and Andre Deveaux, a line brawl that put a number of players in the sin bin, including Martin St. Pierre, Troy Brouwer and Kevin Doell and finally a fight between Colin Fraser and Nathan Oystrick. This doesn’t even include several roughing penalties, including between Brophy and Kwiatkowski near the end of the period. That occurred when Kwiatkowski rushed into the paint after a loose puck that was smothered by Corey Crawford. Kwiatkowski pulled short of Crawford, but bumped him despite that. Brophy rushed into the paint and began roughing Kwiatkowski.

Despite the two early Wolves goals, the IceHogs ruled the first period, out shooting the Wolves 14 to 6 and outscoring them 4-2.

The second frame was marked by outstanding goal tending by both goalies, but particularly Brathwaite. Following a Power Play goal by Steve Martins at the eight-minute mark, Chicago was called for too many men on the ice. Whether it was skill or luck, Brathwaite turned aside a shot that sailed through the crease, keeping Chicago in the game. It is the big hit, the big save and the well timed fight that sometimes turns games around, and so it was on Friday, for the Wolves tied the game on another power play goal by Jordan LaVallee shortly after Brathwaite’s save.

The two unanswered Wolves goals and the lack of shooting on the part of the IceHogs were visible manifestations of the Wolves domination of the second frame which ended with the score tied 4-4. The third frame was marked by a lack of discipline on the part of the IceHogs. But the Wolves were unable to gain any traction with it.

Looking at the goal sheet, it may seem as though both teams had equal penalties. However the IceHogs penalties disrupted their play more, broke their momentum to a greater extent. Plus, the Wolves “got better as the game went on,” according to Wolves Coach John Anderson. Veteran Steve Martins had an outstanding game, often leading the Wolves on their charge across the IceHogs defensive line.

On the IceHogs Prestin Ryan was outstanding on the blue line and team captain Jim Fahey was punishing to any Chicagoan who dared to stand in front of the net.

But it was the goalies that stood out, Rockford turning away nine shots on goal in the period, and stopping three power plays, Chicago turning away five shots and three power plays. Plus the IceHogs speed deviled the Wolves, as the IceHogs broke away with the puck, making repeated surprise attacks on Brathwaite. In one, Brathwaite came out, nearly to the far circle, challenging the attacking IceHogs captain, Fahey. Sprawled on the ice, Brathwaite managed to poke the puck from Fahey’s grasp, an empty net yawning behind him, nearly 30 feet away.

Then, in another of the physical events that mark the turn of a game, Jordan LaVallee splattered Fahey against the glass. And Oystrick took a roughing call that created a 5:3 for the IceHogs. The older Martins threw himself in front of the puck, breaking up the power play and a goal against the Wolves was called back due to high-sticking. Finally the penalty kill ended when Brathwaite made a glove save on a Fahey slap shot from the blue line.

The wheels turned. The IceHogs had lost their best shot at winning in regulation. Now, it was the Wolves on the attack as the game neared its end, penalties were called on the IceHogs allowing a 5:3 for the Wolves in the closing seconds. But the third frame ended with the score still tied.

In overtime, the Wolves continued their 5:3 attacks. Oystrick broke up a breakaway with a beautiful hip check into the boards. The puck bounced loose. Matt Anderson of the Wolves, LaVallee, then Jesse Schultz and Karel Pilar all attack the IceHogs net. Still, Crawford held on and stopped all the Wolves attacks.

Then St. Pierre made a cross check. Now, it was a Wolves advantage again. With a 1:08 left, the Wolves go on the final attack. They had a man advantage through the end of overtime. Crawford and the IceHogs attempted to clear the puck after a shot. Kwiatkowski barely kept the puck in. He passed it to Deveaux on the far circle who shot. Crawford deflected it. Then Martins rebounds, again Crawford stops the puck. And finally, on the rebound again, Jason Krog puts it in the net, past Crawford with just 25 seconds on the clock.

Brathwaite got the win, giving up four goals on 23 shots. Crawford received a loss on five goals on 33 shots. The final score was 5-4 Wolves, an overtime win.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Atlanta terminates Bob Hartley; Musical chairs starts

Less than three hours after musing on Wolves Coach John Anderson getting his chance in Atlanta because Bob Hartley couldn't survive another loss, the Atlanta Thrashers announced Hartley was terminated due to the six losses chronicled earlier.

My thoughts on the next Atlanta coach are that we'll probably see Atlanta Assistant Coach Steve Weeks, Atlanta Assistant Coach Brad McCrimmon or Wolves Coach John Anderson get the nod. Chances are that John Anderson flew down to Atlanta this morning to meet Don Waddell.

I don't think they'll use Gwinnett Gladiators Coach Jeff Pyle.

It is very likely an opening will occur as a result of whatever choice they make (and they could reach outside the organization for the next coach). And, as a result, Anderson will land in Atlanta.

Then the next question is whether Jeff Pyle moves up to Chicago or Wolves Assistant Coach Todd Nelson moves up in Chicago. In either case, I think we'll see Jeff land in Chicago. Then, an opening occurs in Gwinnett. If Pyle moves up, do they fill it with Cam Brown or Todd Nelson? It's musical chairs time...

Although John Anderson has been critisized for some coaching decisions made in campaigns, Anderson has worked extensively behind the bench with professionals and brought the Chicago Wolves three championships and a finals match during his tenure here and brought the Quad City Mallards to the United Hockey League championship during his time there.

The best assessment of his current value to Atlanta was noted by Tim Noonan in a post on Wolfkeeper this morning:

(Atlanta is) a team with a pretty solid group tenured NHL’ers (Kozlov, Hollik, White, Rucchin), some guys who have the talent to put up big numbers (Hossa, Kovy), and some guys he’s worked with for a handful of seasons (Exelby, Sterling, Popovic, Kari).

This isn’t too different from the type of teams he was used to working with in the IHL days. He’s clearly better working with older players, and maybe a “players coach” would be the right thing for Atlanta.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thrashers record sixth straight loss

Atlanta lost its sixth straight game this season tonight, 4-0 versus the Philadelphia Flyers. It was the seventh straight loss by Atlanta against the Philadelphia team. Atlanta has failed to put any points on the board so far this season. It is the only NHL team this season with no wins or points.

This is a terrible start for the new season in Atlanta. Kari Lehtonen sat most of the game as the Thrashers started goalie Johan Hedberg. Hedberg had a great first period, but then the Flyers caught fire with goals from former Phanthoms players Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.

Daniel Briere, who was acquired over the summer, is contributing too, to a rejuvenated Philly team. Plus, a nod to Martin Biron for the excellent game, getting the shut out.

Marian Hossa, returning from injury did not contribute greatly in this effort. It is time for Wolves fans to worry as the pressure will be mounting in Atlanta to start putting points on the board. And that could mean a shake-up in the Thrashers organization.

[Wednesday morning, the Atlanta Thrashers announced that Coach Bob Hartley was terminated. Any bets on whether the next coach in Atlanta will be current Assistant Coach Steve Weeks, Assistant Coach Brad McCrimmon or Wolves Coach John Anderson?]

[Correction: 10/17/07 This post originally referred to five straight losses by the Thrashers. That was based on an NHL table that had not yet been updated.]

Monday, October 15, 2007

Wolves win 2 in home and away openers

The Chicago Wolves are 2-0 in the American Hockey League standings following wins in Houston on October 6th and Rosemont on Saturday. Jason Krog and Brian Fahey lead the Wolves in scoring so far with two goals each, while Jesse Schultz leads the team with four points.

Steve Martins is showing early promise this season with three points. Dressed for just 49 games last season, Martins production of just 39 points was a disappointment following the 80-point season in Binghamton the previous season. The movement of Darren Haydar to the Atlanta Thrashers created a hole in the first line. It appears to be filled by Tomas Pospisil. Haydar may stick in Atlanta this time, as he has posted two points, including a goal, all against the New Jersey Devils.

Ondrej Pavelec has started both Chicago games, stopping 43 shots in the two games and earning a 1.49 goal against average and stopping 93.3 percent of shots. The special teams unit is 3 for 16 on the power play, 18.75 percent, and 15 for 17 on the penalty kill, 88.24 percent.

Boris Valabik leads the team in penalty minutes, currently earning about 10 ½ penalty minutes per game. Fourteen of the 21 penalty minutes occurred in a single incident in the Milwaukee game on Saturday when Valabik incurred a tripping minor, an unsportsmanlike conduct minor and a ten minute penalty for abusing on-ice officials.

The Houston Aeros were the first to fall to the Wolves in a 4-2 decision at the Toyota Center October 6. The Wolves took a 3-0 lead at the end of the first frame on two power play goals. They turned back an Aeros counter attack in the second and third period to pot a final goal in the third frame for the win.

Saturday, the Milwaukee Admirals lost to the Wolves in the Wolves opener. The Wolves Andre Giroux was allowed a penalty shot mid-way through the second period on a break away attempt. However Krog scored the first goal, less than a minute later.

Milwaukee tied the game about two and half minutes later as Antti Pihlstrom scored his first goal of the season on a power play. Admiral Nolan Yonkman was given a tripping penalty at the close of the third period, leading to a two minute Wolves power play in the overtime period. Brian Fahey found the back of the net for the game winner 2-1 victory.

The next Wolves home game is against the Rockford IceHogs, the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, Friday at 7.30 PM.

A tip of the hat to some other sites

The beginning of the season leads me to think of the many great resources I use to prepare the blog. Most readers will be familiar with the AHL website at www.theahl.com. Many, too, will know of the International Hockey Database, carrying statistics on many players. My other links are at this address: http://ciachort.blogspot.com/search/label/LINKS. I update them as I learn of new resources.

I’m very active on www.wolfkeeper.org as I Lov this game. Although there are other discussion groups out there that welcome fans from many teams, Wolfkeeper, run by Vlad Len, is an uncensored discussion of issues and is probably well know by intense fans of the Wolves and also of the Blackhawks.

No blog entry could be complete without mentioning the new site founded by my wife, lover and soul mate (don’t you just hate when people say that?) Jane Rickard at powderhornhockey.blogspot.com. Jane shoots many of the photos you see on this site with her new toy, a Canon something or other Rebel. Her view of hockey as art has already brought many people to her site. Check it out.

BTW, my camera, the beloved Fuji FinePix, died in a run-in with Shamu at Seaworld this fall. I’m back to shooting with a couple of poor “backup cameras.” Backup, as in backup the car over them.

And, of course, I spend a LOT of time in the car. How to pass the time? I listen to the only podcast that covers the whole AHL, the Power Play Post Show, run by Bob Howard and Jason Wilcox. Centered in that mecca of hockey, Binghamton, NY, this is a great fan show as the two friends bicker about the AHL and NHL. It has the sound and quality of two very well informed fans and I adore it. However, as they move from Bingo, I’ve noticed they are not as well informed, especially about the Western Division. So what! This is a hoot of a show and has great guests.

The puck has dropped; Wolves tougher on D

Chicago’s 2007-8 hockey season has started with games Saturday for both the Chicago Blackhawks, winning an overtime game against the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Wolves at home, winning an overtime game against the Milwaukee Admirals.

The key story of the new season is the passing of Bill Wirtz, the controversial owner of the Blackhawks. This week saw the Hawks give Bob Pulford a “promotion” within the Wirtz-held companies. Fans critical of the management of the Hawks cheered the move, seeing Rocky Wirtz taking quick control of the long mismanaged team.

The Hawks made news too in the areas minor leagues as their American Hockey League affiliation moved from Norfolk, Va. to Rockford, Ill. The team, the once and future Rockford IceHogs, has struggled off the pad, with a 1-1 record, looking rather powerless against the Quad City Flames a week ago Saturday. Yet it is a team with great promise for promoting fierce rivalries and strong playoff possibilities.

The AHL Western Conference has had a significant tinkering over the summer, and a quick run through of the changes is in order. The Western Division had consisted of the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, affiliated with the Calgary Flames; the Chicago Wolves, affiliated with the Atlanta Thrashers; the Milwaukee Admirals, affiliated with the Nashville Predators; the Iowa Stars who were affiliated with the Dallas Stars; the Peoria Rivermen, affiliated with the St. Louis Blues; the San Antonio Rampage, affiliated with the Phoenix Coyotes; and the Houston Aeros, affiliated with the Minnesota Wild. The teams finished the regular season in the order of that list, with the Peoria Rivermen just edged out of gaining a wild card seed into the North Division, over the Grand Rapids Griffins.

The Rockford team joins this crowd. The former Norfolk Admirals have made the playoffs each of the last five years in the Eastern Division. That division featured a very tight race for first among three tough teams, including the Admirals. The Hawks, who have by-passed the AHL with two of their top prospects, Jonathan Toews and Mike Kane, still have a powerful team on the ice. Figure that this team will be in the playoffs again in the Western Division.

The Milwaukee Admirals have lost a number of key players as the Nashville organization has gone through a fire sale. The biggest loss, however, was Coach Claude Noel to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Many people, including this writer, expected Pekka Rinne, their goalie, to be a sure thing in the NHL this season. However, he is back in net in Milwaukee instead. Figure on a weaker Admiral team probably not making the playoffs this season.

The San Antonio Rampage has finally let the lackluster Pat Conacher go. The team was a graveyard of prospect hopes, as the organization above seemed to crush their interest in winning. With the former Grand Rapids Griffins coach, Greg Ireland, now in control, figure on the Rampage to be competitive for the final playoff spot for the first time.

The Quad City Flames are basically the same as the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights from the previous season, with new local ownership in Moline. This team has played together for three years, without a lot of personnel changes. They won the Western Division last season. They will be competing for a playoff spot.

Peoria has just missed making it to the playoffs for two seasons. Their playoff hopes were for two seasons. Now with another team in the Western Division, teams will be under even greater pressure to perform. Peoria now joins four other teams in Northern Illinois and one, the Rockford, feeding players to another NHL team in its parents division. Expect them to compete for a playoff spot too.

The Wolves--- they are back with a better blue line and maybe a better scoring line too. Plus, with Fred Brathwaite and the Atlanta prospect Ondrej Pavelec in goal, the final line of defense should be even tougher. It was the weakness of the Atlanta system last season that it depended on the health of one person: Kari Lehtonen. Now, with a prospect being developed and good people to back Lehtonen in both Blueland and Chicago, both the Wolves and Atlanta should be in better position for their playoff runs. The Wolves will be playing for one of the four playoff spots again this season.

Brathwaite, considered a key player in the playoff run last spring, is a well respected veteran player whose game-three shutout of the Calder-Cup winning Hamilton Bulldogs was a highlight of the 2007 season, is probably near the end of his playing career. From a come from behind victory in the Memorial Cup to the NHL and the Russian Super League, Brathwaite has seen a great deal. His charge, 20 year-old Pavelec, will be in his first professional season. The Czech native is being groomed to play in Atlanta.

Darren Haydar, the regular season AHL MVP, and line-mate Jason Krog are returning to the Wolves. Together with Brent Sterling and sometime linemate Jordan LaVallee, their line made up the highest scoring line in the AHL last season. Krog, who played in Atlanta and for the New York Rangers last season, played with great heart in the 2007 playoffs. While Haydar, formerly a Milwaukee Admiral winger, has not been able to stick to the Atlanta line-up. Called to Atlanta this week following a minor injury to Ilya Kovalchuk, he now wears the C for the Wolves. Expect him to return within 30 days to Chicago. [10/16/07 Correction: it was Atlanta Thrasher Marian Hossa, who suffered a groin injury, not Ilya Kovalchuk. Darren Haydar was brought in to cover the opening in Atlanta this week. Haydar continues to play in Atlanta, although Hossa has returned from injury.]

In a development league, like the AHL, the blue line is always a place for turmoil. One of the best things to have happened to the Wolves blue line in 2007 was the loss of Atlanta’s number one draft pick, Braydon Coburn. Whatever magic Coburn had, was not evident in either Atlanta or Chicago last season. The blue line notably improved when he was traded.

Today’s blue line has big and short-tempered Boris Valabik, Nathan Oystrick and Brian Sipotz anchoring it. Newcomer Chad Denny has a wicked slap shot while Scott Lehman, Karel Pilar, prospect Grant Lewis and Brian Fahey have all shown great promise. It is the best blue line in many years on the team and starts stronger than the blue line that competed for the Western Conference title last season.

The outlook, another high scoring season with a better defense backing it. It should be a deadly combination for Wolves foes. The next home game is Friday, October 19 at the Allstate Arena against the Rockford IceHogs.