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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ads dominate Wolves 5-1; Sweep of home series

The Milwaukee Admirals dominated the Chicago Wolves in a 5-1 decision that marked a sweep of the Wolves by the Admirals at the Allstate Arena this season. Pekka Rinne, the Admirals goaltender, stopped 35 Wolves shots for the win.

Chicago’s magic number to clinch a playoff berth declined to three, despite the loss, due to the Peoria Rivermen losing to the Houston Aeros.

“Milwaukee has out-shot, out-competed and out-coached us this season,” Wolves head coach John Anderson said. “They come in against us truly believing they can beat us. There’s no question they’re the best team in the division right now.”

The Wolves looked intimidated starting from the first period of play. With just five minutes into the game, Ville Koistinen brought the puck from behind the Admiral’s goal and passed through several Wolves defense men to cross the blue line. A pass over to Nolan Yonkman and Yonkman’s shot from the circle marked the first goal of the night on Wolves goaltender Fred Brathwaite. The Wolves replies about five minutes later. The play started with Admiral Pat Leahy bringing the puck across the Wolves blue line. In the right circle he passed cross ice to Kim Staal who was within the hash marks and had open net to shoot at. Brathwaite made a spectacular post to post save and Staal crashed into the boards. Jason Krog came up with the puck and passed it up ice to Darren Haydar. Haydar penetrated the Milwaukee zone at center ice and drew two defenders into him. He passed it to Brett Sterling on his left who had no defenders and put it past Rinne to tie the game. The next score occurred off of a face-off during a Wolves power play. Mark Popovic came up with the puck and brought it back into the Wolves defensive zone along the boards. Cal O’Reilly stole the puck from Popovic and was undefended when he faked Brathwaite to score. 2-1 at end of the first frame for the Admirals.

On an Admirals power play, O’Reilly brought the puck across the Wolves blue line along the boards where he ran into opposition. He passed to center ice outside the hash marks to find Jason Guerriero. Guerriero crossed into the circle and passed cross ice to find Brandon Segal off the far post. Segal, virtually undefended, one-timed it in for the score. 3-1 Admirals. Bracken Kearns seemed to do a drop pass on the next goal, but he retained the puck, penetrating the Wolves defense again, to find himself undefended for 4-1 Admirals.

Although the Wolves put up a physical fight, with Guillaume Desbiens, Andre Deveaux, Sheldon Brookbank and T. J. Reynolds receiving fighting penalties, the rest of the Wolves seemed to fold their hands. In the third period Milwaukee played with the Wolves, putting only five shots on goal. A third period empty net goal by Chris Durno confirmed the Wolves attitude as defense simply gave up on keeping up with Durno in his break-away.

Brathwaite received the loss with 19 saves. Milwaukee went two for three on power plays, while the Wolves were unable to convert any of their seven power plays.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Moose stall. Wolves win 5-2

North Division leader met West Division leader, with the West Division Chicago Wolves coming out on top 5-2 over the Manitoba Moose at the Allstate Arena Wednesday night. Chicago was aided by a sputtering Moose offense and the failure of the opposition’s league leading penalty kill to show up on the ice, as well as outstanding goal tending by Fred Brathwaite.

The Chicago win comes with just seven games left in the Chicago season. The win puts the Wolves two points behind the Moose for the West Conference title. It also comes a night after the San Antonio Rampage defeated the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, and on the night the Milwaukee Admirals lost to the Grand Rapids Griffins. Those two West Division losses help the Wolves secure their West Division first place standing. But the Wolves cannot relax yet.

The Moose, who at one point in the season won 17 of 18 games, are in a mini-slump, scoring only nine times in the last nine games. That was brought home Tuesday before the team’s loss to the Milwaukee Admirals when Coach Scott Arniel benched the team’s leading scorer, Jesse Schultz due to the winger’s “one-dimensional” play. Schultz had not scored a goal in 13 outings with the Moose. The ploy must have worked, as Schultz was back on the ice on Wednesday, with three shots on goal and a plus 1 rating.

In the first frame, a 5 on 3 power play resulted in a shot by Brad Moran that looked certain, but Brathwaite somehow stopped it and the Wolves were able to kill the penalty off. The Moose scored first on their former International Hockey League rivals, Michael Keane put a puck through the legs of Nathan Oystrick, picked it up after skating around Oystrick and shot past Brathwaite. Less than five minutes later, Chicago was given its own power play. The Chicago power play pitted one of the league’s best power play units against one of the league’s best penalty kill units. The power play ended with Jordan LaVallee popping the puck into the air, it landed on Drew MacIntyre’s skate and bounced in for the goal. End of period 1-1.

In the first minute of the second frame, Jason Krog put a shot from near the goal line that somehow found twine. 2-1 Wolves. Three minutes later Nathan Smith, just out of the penalty box, replied for the Moose with his own slap shot, making the game 2-2. With less than 90 seconds to go in the period, Brett Sterling was sprung from the sin bin. Exiting the box, he grabbed the puck on a fore check and passed it to Cory Larose. Larose threaded it through to Colin Stuart who one-timed it into the top of the net. Wolves 3-2.

In the final frame, the Moose made only five shots on goal. The Wolves Andre Deveaux was alone with the puck in front of the Moose crease. His shot went high. A penalty he drew led to another scoring opportunity. Off the resulting face-off, Jason Krog shot a blast that deflected off of defender Keane and through MacIntyre’s legs. Wolves 4-2. In the final second a Sterling shot rebounded to Darren Haydar who lit the final lamp. Final 5-2.

Brathwaite took the win with 26 saves. MacIntyre received the loss with 31 saves. Chicago’s power play was 2 for 4 on the night.

“We were sloppy,” Keane told the Winnipeg Sun, “we’re not getting the job done.”

Wolves coach John Anderson highlighted the game saying, “we played smart and didn’t make mistakes.”

The Wolves lead the West Division by three points over the Knights, with the Knights having three games in hand. Immediately behind Omaha is the Milwaukee Admirals, five points behind the Wolves. The Wolves face the Admirals on Friday night at the Milwaukee Bradley Center. The Admirals have dominated the series against the Wolves this season. A win would be a surprise and would be a key game in the season.

Wolves fans may be cheering for Iowa and Manitoba this weekend. Fourth place Iowa could firm up its place in the West, it holds its playoff spot by only two points against the Peoria Rivermen. Iowa plays Omaha Friday and Milwaukee Saturday. Manitoba plays Omaha Saturday in Nebraska.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Final regular season game between two Illinois rivals

It was the final time the two teams will face each other in the regular season. To celebrate, they decided to have a fight, then another, and another and another. There was the swinging of the stick at the ref, several misconducts, unsportsmanlike conducts, another fight and somewhere in there was a hockey game too.

The longest and best professional rivalry in the state came to an end Sunday afternoon in Rockford with a 4-2 win by the Rockford IceHogs over the Quad City Mallards. As the summary above shows, it is a rivalry that has not seen a lot of love. At the end, Rockford had a record of 39-51 against the Mallards. The early years were all Mallards, with the IceHogs one year dropping every game (2001-2) played against their Northern Illinois rivals.

The two teams could face each other again in the United Hockey League Colonial Cup series as they are number two and three in the West Division standings heading into the final month of the regular season. Still, there was a bit of bitterness in the air as the teams passed each other for what could be the final time after the brawl on ice, just two players met at center ice to talk, and possibly to reminisce about the good old days.

Next year the Rockford IceHogs move to the American Hockey League, becoming the affiliates of the Chicago Blackhawks. Their new cross state rivals will include the Chicago Wolves and the Peoria Rivermen. The Milwaukee Admirals are also within 100 miles of the team. The Mallards are remaining in the UHL, if it survives. The nearest rival will be the Bloomington, Illinois Prairie Thunder and the Chicago Hounds.

Peoria losses another by multiple: 6-1

One night after a shoot-out loss to the Peoria Rivermen in Peoria, the Chicago Wolves finished the regular season series against the Downstate team, winning 6-1 at the Allstate Arena Sunday afternoon. Peoria struggled all season against the Wolves, ending the season dropping eight games, one in a shoot-out.

Chicago got on the board early with a 1.22 score. Six different Chicago players scored goals, none by the top line. The game saw two short-handed goals and two power play goals scored. Peoria is struggling to enter the post-season, its hopes slowly fading, it faces Iowa in DesMoines next, currently posting a losing away record.

For the Wolves, every game is a must win as they have slipped to just one game in front of the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, with the Knights having three more games in hand than the Wolves to play. If Chicago slips into second place, it would likely face the Milwaukee Admirals in the playoffs round one. The Wolves have a losing record this season against the Admirals and would probably face elimination. If the Wolves hung on to first place and the Rivermen managed to take fourth place, then the Wolves would face a team it has largely owned this season in the first round.

In the game, the first goal was scored early when Niko Dimitrakos intercepted a pass along the boards. He passed the puck up to Cory Larose near the hash marks who drop it to Jordan LaVallee for the first score on Chris Beckford-Tseu. The Rivermen evened the score up a little over ten minutes later after winning a face-off, the puck was raced up the boards by Jon DiSalvatore. At the circle he snapped a pass that ricocheted off of Wolves Nathan Oystrick and into the net for a short-handed goal.

In the second period a delayed penalty saw the puck centered by Andre Deveaux to Kevin Doell who maneuvered it passed Beckford-Tseu for the game-winner.

The third period was a penalty filled, ice-covered pugilistic battle that kept the penalty time keepers on their toes. In total 53 minutes were called in the game on the Wolves, 43 of which were in the third period, and 69 minutes on the Rivermen, 55 of which were in the third period. Ignoring the minor penalties, here’s how the period went, Colin Stuart followed a penalty with a short-handed shot that bounced off of Rivermen blue liner Jamie Rivers onto the stick of Kevin Doell for an easy open net shot. Less than two minutes later Doell led a breakout into the Rivermen defensive zone. Brian Sipotz had penetrated behind the Rivermen defenses and redirected the shot past Beckford-Tseu.

The first fight of the period, shortly after that, Guillame Desbiens dropped the gloves with Ryan Ramsay. Hans Benson, Rocky Thompson and Deveaux then received penalties at 9.03 for fighting and unsportsmanlike conduct. Mark Popovic then scored off of a power play pass from Brett Sterling. Then in the last minute, Brian Fahey gave the Wolves another power play goal, after which the two teams celebrated with a fight between Deveaux, again, and Patrick Wellar and Ramsay, again.

Beckford-Tseu had 25 saves in the fight, while Michael Garnett faced a pathetic 21 shots on goal, stopping 20. As a measure of the weakness of the Peoria team, there were only four shots on the Chicago goal in the third period, Just seven in the first period. Lack of discipline and a lagging offense is crippling the Rivermen this season. Plus, the team is letting their blue line be penetrated time after time, putting their goalie under pressure to stop to many offensive attacks.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Shoot-out loss to Peoria

The Peoria Rivermen handed the Chicago Wolves a surprise 4-3 shoot-out loss Saturday night in Peoria. Chicago has owned the Downstate team this season, and the one point night was especially hard on the Wolves as it allows the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights to creep up on the Wolves in the standings.

The Rivermen scored off of the second period face-off. Cory Larose scored a late second frame short handed goal to allow Chicago to tie the game. Wolves goalie Fred Brathwaite stopped 39 shots on goal. Chris Beckfored-Tseu earned the win, no loss is awarded in shoot-outs, stopping 28 shots. It was another crowded night for the Chicago sin bin, as 12 infractions occurred penalizing nine Wolves, compared to just 9 minors against the Rivermen.

Brett Sterling scored the first goal of the game, his 51st of the season. Scrambling behind the Peoria net, Sterling poked the puck over to Darren Haydar who put it to Brian Fahey in the slot. Meantime, Sterling had worked his way over to the top of the crease where he redirected Fahey’s shot past Chris Beckford-Tseu. It was one of just five shots on goal in the first frame by Chicago. Peoria replied with less than four minutes to go in the first period. Michal Birner came up on Fred Brathwaite’s right and was screened as he flew behind the net. Turning just short of the circle he put it through Brathwaite’s pads to even the score.

In the second frame, Peoria scored off of the face-off. The puck went all the way down behind the Peoria goal, however, Patrick Wellar fired the puck into center ice where it deflected off of Mike Glumac and Charles Linglet to the uncovered Birner who quickly fired it from outside the hash marks for a score and a goal advantage.

The Rivermen made the game 3-1 13 minutes later when Ryan Ramsay picked up the puck behind the Chicago goal. He dished it out to Steve Wagner. Meantime, Jon DiSalvatore blew a tire just outside the crease and when he got up the puck was right there. He simply spun around and maneuvered it past the stunned Brathwaite. Chicago’s first line got into the action next, Jason Krog brought the puck across the Peoria blue line and passed it to Sterling, who was near the hash marks, he one-timed it over to Darren Haydar for a quick wrist shot that caught the Peoria defenders napping.

The final goal in regulation was a short-handed goal that started when Kevin Doell knocked the puck loose from DiSalvatore. The puck went slithering into neutral ice where Larose brought it across the blue line. He passed it cross ice to Andy Delmore who immediately one-timed it back to Larose. Larose had an open net from inside the hash marks and flipped it in to even the score 3-3.

Take a team sport, play for 65 minutes and then, if the game is tied, add a skills competition. To further the anxiety, note that the Wolves have had very poor results in the shoot out this season. The Saturday competition was no different as the Wolves lost the shoot-out two goals to three goals. Haydar and Larose scored on the shoot-out, as well as Rivermen Birner, Glumac and Linglet. Krog, Doell and Niko Dimitrakos missed on the shutout, as well as Rivermen Jamie Rivers and Ramsay.

Lack of discipline, defense out of position and no shots. Iowa wins

The Iowa Stars downed the Chicago Wolves 3-2 Friday night in Des Moines. The Wolves remain just two points ahead of the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights in the standings. The Knights have 13 games remaining to play, while the Wolves have just ten.

The Stars victory was earned despite not capitalizing on eight power play opportunities and giving up a penalty shot to the Wolves. Chicago had one power play light, but only put 19 shots on goal, the fewest the team has put on a goal this season.

Iowa scored first. Scott May broke away to grab a puck steaming behind the Wolves goal line. May, who just returned from a 25 game lay-up, passed it out to Star Mario Scalzo who took an off-speed shot before the Wolves defense had even set-up. Garnett was fooled completely and the game was 1-0.

Darren Haydar helped the Wolves reply less than three minutes later, crossing the blue line with Jason Krog on his left, Haydar dished a pass cross ice to Krog who fired a shot which caught Dan Ellis flat-footed to even the score.

In the second frame, the Wolves were attempting to clear a puck out of their zone. Several Wolves were out of position when the puck was turned by Mark Fistric who fired toward the net. Junior Lessard, who was off to Michael Garnett’s right, tipped it in for another easy goal. Then the Wolves first line moved quickly from near the Wolves goal line across the Iowa blue line, passing cross ice several times quickly Haydar found open space and beat Ellis to even the score again.

The third stanza once again saw Iowa serve a heaping, once again seeming to catch a sleeping Wolves defense the puck crossed the goal line, appearing to be an icing, however Iowa Konstantin Pushkarev picked it up and fired a shot that was deflected in by Francis Wathier. Chicago had an opportunity to even the score again when a penalty shot was awarded to Brett Sterling with just 2.14 left in the game. However, Ellis stayed with Sterling’s fake and had a nice save.

Beside for the defensive problems, the paltry 19 shots on goal for the game, and the 18 minutes of penalties versus just eight for Iowa, it was a barn burner for the Wolves. Garnett received the loss, stopping 29 shots on goal. Ellis received the win, stopping 17 shots, including the penalty shot.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Turnovers, disputed goal lead to 5-4 loss to Admirals

The Milwaukee Admirals stole two points from the Chicago Wolves, winning 5-4 in the Allstate Arena Saturday night. The Wolves came back from a two goal deficit to tie the game in the second period, but a disallowed goal and giveaways by the Wolves put the Admirals on top for the win.

Admiral Brandon Segal had a two goal game, while the Admirals had their fifth game in a row to earn points. After losing Alex Henry to a knee injury against the Peoria Rivermen on Friday, there was another knee injury as Admiral Kevin Klein was helped off the ice after a hit by Andre Deveaux.

The Admirals drew blood in the first period when Jason Guerriero put a puck past Fred Brathwaite at 12.18. Durno had the puck picked off by Wolves Jason Krog, but the puck was mishandled at the center and Klein came up with it, dishing it to Guerriero off the circle who put it through Brathwaite’s five-hole.

The Wolves responded off of the first line when Krog, on a power play and crossing into the Admirals zone, fired over the glove of Pekka Rinne to tie the game 1-1. The Admirals replied in the last minute of the first period on their own power play, moving the puck around the outside, it was fed to Sheldon Brookbank who powered a shot past Fred Brathwaite.

In the second period, Milwaukee scored in the first minute when Wolves Niko Dimitrakos tried to bring the puck through two Admirals just outside the crease, the puck squirted lose to Brandon Segal who blasted it home. Nine seconds later the Wolves replied, when Milwaukee, off of the face-off, bungled a pass in their defensive zone. Darren Haydar picked it up and one-timed it past Rinne to light the lamp. An other Wolves power play goal at 6.21, Dimitrakos stole the puck and passed it to Mark Popovic for a shot from the circle past Rinne.

In the final frame, Segal penetrated the Wolves zone to paste one onto the top of the net for a 4-3 lead. Following that, Krog picked a rebound out of the air with his glove in the crease. Dropping the puck he stroked the puck into the open goal, behind Rinne. However, Rinne protested that the puck had been palmed into the net, a violation of the rules, and the official, Conrad Hache, agreed, disallowing the goal. At 15.17 the Admirals earned a 5-4 lead off a Pat Leahy steal in the Wolves defensive zone. Brathwaite rebounded the shot to Kim Staal who earned the goal by putting it into the open net. It was one of just three Admiral shots on goal in the final frame. In the final minute, the Wolves pulled Brathwaite for an advantage and scored off of stolen puck when Nathan Oystrick swatted the puck in the air into the back of the net.

Rinne received the win, stopping 30 shots on goal. Brathwaite received the loss with 19 saves. The Wolves next play is in Iowa on Friday night against the Stars.

In Fort Wayne, the IceHogs lost another game to the Komets on Saturday night. They play the Flint Generals Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Big Win; Wolves 5, Omaha 4

A big win by the Chicago Wolves as they enter the final month of the regular season, 5-4 overtime over the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights last night in Omaha.

Chicago took advantage of the few power play opportunities presented in the game, taking two of five man advantages to the net. However Omaha came from behind in the third frame to light the lamp three times to just one Chicago answer, to tie the game. Then it was Nathan Oystrick, just 17 seconds into overtime who put the game away once and for all for the Wolves.

Dustin Boyd put the Knights on the board halfway into the first period when he received a pass from Brad Ference for a backhand shot past Michael Garnett. In the second period the Knights got into penalty problems leading Brett Sterling to feed pucks to Darren Haydar for two power play goals, one at 3.24 into the period and the second less than a minute later.

A series of fight penalties were assessed at 6.31 into the period as Andre Deveaux and Kevin Doell mixed it up with Bradon Prust and David Van der Gulik. Van der Gulik and Deveaux received a 10 minute misconduct as well as Doell, Prust and Van der Gulik receiving five minute fighting penalties and minor penalties for the brawl. A bench penalty was served by Knight Justin Taylor. The remainder of the period passed quietly with the Wolves up 2-1. Then, with less than a minute in the period, Sterling forced a turnover in the Knights defensive zone. He passed to Jason Krog, who returned the puck to Sterling for his third point of the night, allowing the period to expire Wolves 3-1.

In the third frame, Omaha scored at 43 seconds on a goal by Cam Cunning. Jordan Lavallee replied for the Wolves off of a wrap around rebound making it 4-2 Wolves. Then Omaha scored two additional goals, the first by Kris Chucko and the second by Carsen Germyn at 14.52, tying the game 4-4.

In the overtime period, Oystrick picked a pass from Darren Haydar, putting the puck on Knights goalie Curtis McElhinney’s glove, but it tipped off and in for the win.

Garnett received the win with 24 saves, McElhinney the loss with 39 saves. The win puts the Wolves four points ahead of the Knights, with the Knights having three games in hand. There are just 12 games left in the regular season for the Wolves, 15 for the Knights.

The Wolves face the Milwaukee Admirals at the Allstate Arena this evening.

In the UHL, the Rockford IceHogs lost Friday night to the Kalamazoo K-Wings 4-2, while the first place Fort Wayne Komets defeated the Port Huron Flags 5-2, putting the Komets two points ahead of the IceHogs in the standings. The IceHogs face the Komets tonight in Fort Wayne.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sterling Hat Trick lifts Wolves to 4-3 win over Peoria

Brett Sterling scored a hat trick in a tight win by the Chicago Wolves over the Peoria Rivermen Wednesday night at the Allstate Arena. It was the first hat trick scored this year by the team at home and the third scored against Peoria.

The goals pushed Sterling to a league leading 49 goals this season. Despite the loss, Peoria goalie Chris Beckford-Tseu gave an outstanding performance, stopping a breakaway barrage of shots by Guillaume Desbiens on a first period break away and 20 shots on goal by the Wolves in the third period alone.

Peoria jumped the Wolves first, however, when Mike Glumac passed the puck to Charles Linglet in the left circle. Linglet backhanded the shot past Wolves goalie Fred Brathwaite to put the Rivermen up 1-0. Chicago tied it in the second frame during a 5-3 advantage when Darren Haydar found Sterling in the right circle for a quick one-timer.

Peoria took the lead later in the second frame, on a delayed penalty call, Yan Stasny fed Glumac from the corner for a quick poke into the net. However with less than a minute to go in the frame, Haydar and Krog rushed the Peoria goal then pulled up for Sterling who found the back of the net.

At the 2.50 mark of the final frame, Chicago took its first lead of the game on a power play when Andy Delmore lighted the lamp on a rebound. The battle see-sawed once again when Stasny buried the puck in a crowd.

The game winner was scored with the assistance of Haydar and Brian Fahey when Sterling grabbed the puck off the rebound with just 51 seconds remaining. “The third period was quite possibly our best period of the season,” Wolves Coach John Anderson said. “If (Sterling) doesn’t win rookie of the year, something’s wrong.”

Beckford-Tseu received the loss, stopping 34 shots. Brathwaite the win, stopping 21 shots.

The game leaves the Wolves hanging on to first by three points against the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights. The Knights host the Wolves Friday in Omaha, the first away game for the Wolves since February 23.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Peoria spanked 4-2; Wolves 6 for 7 against Rivermen

A chastened Chicago Wolves continued to make the Peoria Rivermen their bitch, handing them a 4-2 drubbing Sunday afternoon at the Allstate Arena. It was the fourth straight loss on the road for the Peoria hockey club, which has had only one victory this season versus Chicago.

Chicago dominated the first frame of the game, putting 18 shots on goal, a season high for the Peoria team, while facing just 8 from the Rivermen. Chris Beckford-Tseu turned aside all the shots, and stymied two Chicago power plays in the period to keep Peoria in the game, including a disputed puck that hit the padding material just inside the net, but never completely crossed the goal line.

In the second frame, with the score tied 0-0, Peoria put 17 shots on Chicago netminder Fred Brathwaite, compared to just nine Chicago shots on goal. But it was Chicago that drew first blood as Joey Crabb earned his seventh goal of the season. Crabb took a feed off of Guillaume Desbiens, raced through the slot and shot past Beckford-Tseu. Just 65 seconds later Darren Haydar, Jason Krog and Brett Sterling created a three on one. Haydar dumped the puck to Krog who tapped it to Sterling in the circle. Sterling fired it into the pads of Beckford-Tseu. However, Sterling stayed with it and popped it in for a 2-0 lead. It was his 46th goal of the season, leading the AHL in goals scored and rookie goals scored.

Niko Dimitrakos received a pass from Jordan LaVallee for a shot past Beckford-Tseu’s glove for a 3-0 lead. However Peoria began fighting back when Cory Larose mishandled a puck in the defensive zone, it was picked up by Rivermen Charles Linglet and Yan Stasny before Michael Glumac, in the scrum, put it in, ending the period Wolves 3, Rivermen 1.

Peoria scored four minutes into the final period when Stasny put one in just under the crossbar to bring the Rivermen within one. Colin Stuart replied at 8.21 into the period to put the game away at 4-2.

Beckford-Tseu received the loss with 32 saves. Brathwaite received the win with 31 saves. The two teams tangle for the last time in the regular season Wednesday night at the Allstate.

In Fort Wayne, the Komets defeated the IceHogs 3-1, taking the lead back in the Western Division of the UHL.

A foretaste?

I find it very difficult to write about games like I saw last night at the Allstate: A superior team losing a lead and blowing it all with stupid penalties. It is lack of discipline that is killing the late-season Wolves. And to Milwaukee of all teams.

Now, don't get me wrong, Pekka Rinne is probably headed to the NHL, if he desires it, while the Wolves goalies are probably at their highest level. And, it is a measure of the lack of foresight on the Thrasher's part that the goalie situation is the way it is. It all depends on one person, Kari Lethonen. He's had a cold hand and the Thrashers are sinking.

The lack of depth in that position is pulling the Wolves down too. And just why aren't the Wolves playing with greater discipline? A talented team, playing the hard hitting Madmirals, they could have let the late hitting Mads get the calls, but went looking for them? ?!#*

The Wolves must solve this issue or be faced with an early end to the post-season. I'm sorry to admit it, but the worst case senario may well be facing the Admirals in the first round. (Kudos to you Tim Noonan on calling that one).

Over in Rockford, the winning streak came to an end in Chicago of all places. The IceHogs are tied in points with Fort Wayne and eight points off the first place overall with the Muskegon Fury. The Fury beat the Hogs Friday night, although the Kalamazoo K-Wings lost to the Hogs on Saturday.

The IceHogs visit Fort Wayne this afternoon for a big match. A win puts either team in first for the Western Division.

Wolves blow 3-0 lead. Lose to Ads 5-4

The Chicago Wolves lost a first frame 3-0 advantage to lose 6-4 to the Milwaukee Admirals Saturday night at the Allstate Arena. Admiral Chris Durno scored a hat trick and teammate Kim Staal scored two goals. Wolf Niko Dimitrakos netted two pucks in the first period of the game.

The first period was dominated by Chicago as Dimitrakos scored the first goal, followed by a power play goal by Brett Sterling and the second goal by Dimitrakos. With just 1.06 left in the period the Admirals went on the power play. Pat Leahy passed a shot to Nolan Yonkman at the point. Yonkman’s slapshot was deflected past Garnett by Chris Durno. Chicago had eight shots first period on goalie Pekka Rinne compared to just five for the Admirals on Michael Garnett.

The Wolves continued their undisciplined play into the second period, and Milwaukee continued to take advantage of it, a second power play goal by Durno in the second period and Staal’s first goal of the night evened the score up at 3-3 early in the third period.

Milwaukee goals by Bracken Kearns and Staal’s second goal, this time on the power play, put the game out of reach for the Wolves at 5-3. A Chicago goal by Kevin Doell made the score 5-4 late in the final period. Then the Wolves pulled Garnett with the puck still in the defensive zone. A behind the net pass by Mark Popovic went terribly astray and ended on the stick of Leahy who passed it to Durno in front of the crease for the empty net light.

The Wolves had 23 minutes of penalties, including one five minute major, allowing the Admirals eight man advantages, including one three man advantage that they scored on. Milwaukee was three for eight in power plays in the evening. Chicago had four power plays, scoring on one.

Rinne earned the win with 24 saves, his ninth win of the year. Garnett had the loss, though much of it can be attributed to lack of discipline on the part of his teammates. He stopped 25 shots. The Wolves hung on to first place with just one point between them and the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights. Milwaukee, in a tight race for third place held their position.

Rinne has started for the Admirals in nine of the last ten games, winning six, losing one in overtime. Milwaukee is the first team in the Western Division to force a losing series on the Wolves, who are now 2-3-1 against the Admirals. Two key Admirals were not on the ice for the game: Ramzi Abid and Rich Peverly, who were recalled by Atlanta on the fourth.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Road team takes ice. Wolves win 4-1

The Chicago Wolves dominated the Houston Aeros to win 4-1 Wednesday night at the Allstate Arena. Four Wolves lit the lamp while the team put 51 shots on the Houston net. Three other Wolves scored double points in the match. Michael Garnett looked in top form, making spectacular saves and stopping 35 Houston shots for his second straight win.

The road team took to the ice in the first period, blasting 17 shots at Houston goalie Miroslav Kopriva in a stunning exhibition of dominance. The Aeros entered the match with fire though. For the first several minutes putting Garnett and the Wolves blue line under cruel pressure. “Michael kept us in the game the first three minutes,” head coach John Anderson said. “One of the stops he made could be the save of the year. He didn’t give Houston a chance.”

The save in question was set up by a save by Garnett on the far right of the net. Aero Ryan Hamilton found the rebound with no traffic about 7’ from the goal. Wristing it into the net, Garnett’s glove appeared from nowhere to stop the shot—cold.

Kopriva also had some high points in the period, including stopping Cory Larose twice on breakaways and newcomer’s Niko Dimitrakos’ shot.

Turning the tide, the Wolves went on the offense. Although the outgunned Aeros held the Wolves off the board till the 16 minute mark, the control of the remainder of the period rested with an energized Chicago Wolves.

At that point the first line was on the ice, Darren Haydar and Jason Krog passed to Andy Delmore who put the biscuit in for the 1-0 lead. Two minutes later Mark Popovic on the power play found the back of the net with more assists from Haydar and Krog. And a minute after that Larose, also on the power play, put it in with just 55 seconds remaining in the period to make it 3-0.

The Aeros came out in the second frame with Dieter Kochan minding the iron. The Wolves in turn left something in the locker room as the period did not feature the dominance of the first frame. The teams fought back and forth as 20 minutes of penalties were called. At 11.31 past the start of the period Jordon LaVallee with Dimitrakos and Brian Sipotz assisting, fired past the glove of Kochan for a 4-0 lead.

Houston came back with just 50 seconds remaining in the period on a power play when Ben Thompson deflected a rebound by Roman Voloshenko past Garnett.

The third period was comparatively quiet until the 10.49 mark when Ryan Hamilton crossed the center line with the puck. Keeping his head down, he failed to see the oncoming Nathan Oystrick who gave him a hip check, sending Hamilton cannon balling into the offensive zone. Hamilton came up with fire in his eyes and a fight immediately ensued the most spectacular home check of the season.

The Wolves now have 13 wins at home. The record for fewest home wins is 19, established in two different seasons. Garnett received the win with 50 saves in the evening. Kopriva received the loss with 14 saves, all in the first period. Kochan had 33 saves in the second and third periods.

Houston is 0-12 in their last 12 matches in the month of March, going back to the 2006 season. It is also on a 12 game loss streak for road games. The team is in an unaccustomed last place in the Western Division.

Chicago took a three point lead in the Western Division over the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights with the win. The Knights have three games in hand on the Wolves.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

IceHogs streak to 7, 2nd place

Two more games, two more wins and the IceHogs take over first place in the Western Division and second overall. They play the Chicago Hounds tonight at the Sears Centre.

GO IceHogs!

Uninspired 3-2 win over SAR puts Wolves back in 1st

An uninspired 3-2 win over the San Antonio Rampage Sunday evening let the Chicago Wolves slip back into first place. Center Cory Larose and Rampage center Alex Leavitt each scored two goals in the Wolves win. Jason Krog was held pointless for the first outing this season, ending a 26-game streak, the third longest in Wolves franchise history.

“We’ve been struggling for the last week or so, so a win like this is baby steps for us,” Wolves coach John Anderson said. The Wolves have been in a slump, losing four in a row, including two against the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, allowing the Knights to take the lead in the West division. The team has also been on a home game slide, winning just 12 of 29 contests.

It has 11 games remaining in the Rosemont Allstate Arena, 17 games total.

Scoring started at 4.24 of the first frame when Rampage center Leavitt found the back of the goal. The Wolves took a little over three minutes to reply when Joey Crabb fed Larose on a power play to light the lamp. Later in the first frame Andy Delmore and Jordan LaVallee working the power play fed Larose in the slot for a backhander past Rampage goalie Josh Tordjman.

However, San Antonio evened the score less than 40 seconds later with Leavitt’s second goal of the night.

Things stood 2-2 through most of the second frame. Late in the period Colin Stuart made a break for the net, using a SAR blue liner to screen his shot, he shot the puck over Tordjman’s pads for the game winner at 15.21.

Michael Garnett received the win, stopping 24 SAR shots. It was the 17th win for Garnett this season. Tordjman stopped 19 shots for the loss.

The Wolves play the Houston Aeros tonight in the Allstate. The Aeros are currently five points behind the San Antonio Rampage, an unaccustomed last place for the Aeros.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Welcome Back Krog; Bulldogs double Wolves 6-3

Uggh! Another home loss for the Chicago Wolves. This time 6-3 against the North Division 2nd place team, the Hamilton Bulldogs. This makes the Wolves roughly 11-17 at home. Oh, yea, oh, yea, there have been overtime losses and shoot out losses but the operable word is losses.

With a slew of games at home to finish the season, the Wolves may be looking at a disappointing end to an exciting season.

The good news is Jason Krog is back. Why didn’t Courtney play the theme from “Welcome Back Kotter” for him on his first of two goals Saturday night? But then, I’m having a real problem with the selection of “Sweet Home Chicago” too.

Krog was the good news in an evening of hurt: two goals scored on the return of the third part of the triumvirate that dominated the Western Division through mid-December. And it was Krog, with an assist by Andy Delmore and line-mate Darren Haydar, who first drew blood. Krog played most of the past few months for the New York Rangers, having been seized off of the waiver wire by New York when Atlanta tried to send him to the Wolves.

There is a rule of thumb that players returning from the NHL take about ten games to get the NHL chip off of their shoulder. If that’s true for Krog, we are looking at an exciting month indeed. Krog’s power play goal, in the last minute of the first period, was off of a pass from Delmore. Krog buried the shot high in the net with his slap shot.

The bad news is our goalies are cold. Fred Brathwaite started the game in the pipes for Chicago. As I’ve previously discussed, he has cracked the top ten in AHL goalies during the season, but is currently a cold hand on the ice. Just 17 seconds into the second frame, Ajay Baines made a two-man breakaway on the face-off with Kyle Chipchura and sent a puck past Brathwaite with a wrister.

Less than four minutes later Hamilton scored again on Brathwaite. This time tossing the puck from side to side between Mikhail Grabovski, Matt Corey and finally Michael Lambert. It is hard to defend off such passing and no embarrassment that Brathwaite let the puck in. But, it was an indication of things to come.

Jaime Koharski should never even be mentioned in a game summary, but his poor officiating cost the Wolves at least two goals. Darren Haydar started a slew of calls against the Wolves that cost the team two goals in the middle frame. Haydar’s high sticking drew blood and a major penalty. No problem there. Then, there was a hooking call on Colin Stuart. Probably no problem there, the man was heading for the goal, Stuart spun him around. Then, a questionable slashing call on Derek MacKenzie. The Bulldogs capitalized on this extended power play, making two goals and putting themselves up 3-1.

As these penalties ended, Kevin Doell received a questionable major for high sticking, coincidentally at the same time Bulldog Jean-Phillippe Cote received an interference call. Although the Wolves turned this power play aside, the momentum of the game moved into Hamilton’s favor. A late period goal by Chicago’s Doell put the game back into question, but the damage was done.

In the final frame Bulldog Jonathan Ferland and then Lambert made the score 6-2. Koharski continued to show why his family has so little respect in hockey with a questionable call on Brett Sterling and an early end to a delayed penalty that was very questionable.

The final goal caused Chicago to call Brathwaite to the bench in favor of Michael Garnett. A final power play goal by Krog put the game at 6-3. Late period efforts by Chicago seemed more focused on having Krog score a hat trick then winning the game. Phillippe Sauve did an outstanding job for Hamilton in net, stopping 26 Chicago shots on goal for the win. Brathwaite received the loss with 21 saves. Garnett had 2 additional saves.

Hamilton has received a point in every game it has played against the Wolves this season. It was the second time this season Hamilton had doubled the score in a win against Chicago and the sixth time this season the team had lost by three or more goals. It was the team’s fourth loss in a row.

Krog picks up his string of points in games played at 26. During his time in the Thrashers and the Blue Shirts, he had just six points in 23 games played.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Second Place Chicago Wolves

The Chicago Wolves are in second place in the Western Division. It seems like it was an inevitability given the three games the Wolves dropped last weekend, two games to the second place Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights.

It is bad mojo for the Wolves to play at home this year. They have only won 11 of their 27 games played at home, taking points in four other games. The coaches don’t know what to do about it, there have even been suggestions the team stay in hotel rooms during home stretches, to work the bad mojo out.

There are 13 more games to go at home and just six on the road, till the end of the season. No one is talking about the Wolves not making the playoffs, with 77 points they are almost a lock for the post-season right now.

Tonight the Wolves play the Hamilton Bulldogs. (Good seats are still available) A third-place team in the North Division and a possible post-season opponent in the third round. That’ll be a tough game. The Bulldogs won their previous visit to Chicago this season. The Wolves won two overtime games played in Hamilton. So, in other words, the Bulldogs have won a point in every contest they’ve played against the Wolves this season.

Tomorrow San Antonio plays the Wolves. I doubted the Gretzky magic extended to the Rampage last year and earlier this year I expressed the view that Pat Conacher is not up to the task of minor league management. The facts are that the Rampage have dropped six games to the Wolves, one in overtime, with only one win to their credit, this season.

The Rampage have traditionally made their golf reservations at this point in the season, and I don’t see a reason for that to change. They are the doormat of the Western Division… Well, not so fast. The Wolves underestimated SAR the last time they played them, on February 23. And, take a look at the standings and you'll see that SAR has not only climbed out of the basement with the other cellar dwellers like the Syracuse Crunch and the Binghamton Senators, but are above the Houston Aeros in the standings. That hasn't happened in years.

The fact is that over the last ten games, the SAR have the same win/lose record as the Wolves, granted the Wolves lost two games after regulation. Add considering the bad mojo that is happening to the Wolves at the Allstate Arena and Chicago could easily drop that game.

Wear your away sweaters fellas and book a hotel room 'cause there isn't an easy win left in the West Division any more

Major league prices, minor league talent

Over on Madison Avenue, the Blackhawks have thrown in the towel for the season. Major league versus minor league arguments are a thing of the past if Denis Savard can be believed. The Chicago Sun-Times quoted him as saying, “I won’t let them play…” Savard was referring to the poor performance of veteran players such as Peter Bondra and Adrian Aucoin, although the return of Martin Havlat has seemed to have no effect on the Blackhawk season either.

If Savard can be believed, and the stats are supporting him, Bhawks fans can look forward to paying NHL prices to see the team’s prospects for the rest of the season. The Hawks have slumped to last place in their division, with the other cellar dwellers, the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets somehow overcoming the odds to pull ahead of the Hawks. While it is unlikely the Hawks will allow the Philadelphia Flyers, just 17 wins this season, to pull ahead due to the few games remaining. It looks like yet another banner year for the losers of Madison Avenue.

Trades and Clear Day roster; Stronger Wolves

Trade deadline passed, meaning the American Hockey League teams posted their Clear Day Roster. AHL trades are mainly handled by the NHL affiliate, in the case of the Chicago Wolves, the Atlanta Thrashers. Gone is Stephen Baby. Baby is a big guy, 6’ 6” and 235 points, but he never used his size effectively in Chicago. His normal position in Chicago was scratched. The international hockey database lists Baby as playing in just eight contests this year.

Gone with Baby is Kyle Wanvig. Wanvig had 21 points in 26 games. But Wanvig wasn’t happy in Chicago. He was a quality AAA player but expressed his unhappiness in Chicago and with Atlanta. The winger has played a few games in Tampa Bay since being traded.

Theses two trades occurred February 1 with Tampa Bay, who also dealt with the Chicago Blackhawks to obtain former Wolf Karl Stewart. The Wolves obtained Andy Delmore and Andre Deveaux. Delmore’s addition to the blue line was evident in the first game in Manitoba. The final judgment is good luck to Wanvig and Baby, but Delmore was a great addition to the blue line here.

The next big trade this season involved round one draft pick Braydon Coburn. Coburn continues to receive a lot of attention from Versus announcers and other pundits who have not had the opportunity to see this man up close. They think he’s the future of defense. If that is true, the future of NHL defense looks very bleak.

Atlanta called Coburn up this season, instead of true prospects such as Boris Valabik. They learned why Chicago Wolves fans really don’t like him and now he is gone. Good-bye. Wolves fans will see him again as this player is not proving his worth to the NHL. And the Phantoms come to Chicago once a season. Coburn had been playing in Chicago since February 7 following a benching in Atlanta. In return for a non-performing minor leaguer, Atlanta received Alexei Zhitnik, who has been played two games in Atlanta since the trade. Overall, a great trade.

Late in February Alex Bourret was traded by Atlanta for the New York Islanders’ Pascal Dupuis and a third-round selection in the 2007 National Hockey League Entry Draft. This was a net subtraction from the Wolves as Dupuis has been assigned to the Thrashers since the trade. Atlanta has lots of snipers and Bourret, who seems to be a pretty good player, was being eclipsed by players like Darren Haydar, Brett Sterling and Cory Larose. The trade was good for Bourret. The net effect on the Thrashers organization will be determined by that future draft pick. It seems like a good trade for Atlanta.

The final day of the trade season saw Tim Wedderburn, Jared Ross and Troy Milam traded. Wedderburn, a veteran who was loaned to the Rockford IceHogs for most of the season, and Milam were traded to the Washington Capitals for Trevor Byrne. Wedderburn only produced ten points in 40 outings with the IceHogs. Milam was a prospect who has produced 21 points in 31 outings with the Wolves. He was on the Kelly Cup finalist Gwinnett Gladiators last season, producing about a point a game in the regular season and 15 points in 17 post-season games.

In return Atlanta received the loan of Byrne. Byrne’s stats don’t look that good, especially compared to the prospect of Troy Milam. Overall, a poor trade, a veteran and a hot prospect for a cold prospect.

Jared Ross was dealt to Philadelphia for Niko Dimitrakos. Ross scored 15 points in 41 outings. In return the Wolves received a winger who has scored 28 points in 45 outings with the lackluster Phantoms. He’s also played 145 NHL games, principally with the San Jose Sharks. He was with the Sharks during their 2004 post-season run. This looks like a great trade for Chicago.

In addition to these additions and deletions, Jason Krog has returned to the Wolves off of waivers. He was part of the high scoring line of Haydar and Sterling early this season. He was seized off of waivers in December when Atlanta released him to Chicago, but he was picked up by the New York Rangers instead.

Brad Schell, among the top scorers of the ECHL, was returned to Gwinnett. If there is an injury, Chicago may see him here again. He is likely to be called up to either Chicago or Atlanta next season.

The Clear Day Roster, which is the roster the team must use through the end of the season, was released this week. Now the Clear Day Roster might seem easy enough to understand, the team can’t trade further, and it can’t move players up and down between Gwinnett and Atlanta, BARRING INJURIES. The team can also offer Professional Tryouts and bring up junior league players after those players finish their league play. So, the roster seems set in stone. It is, in fact soft. But it is an indication of what’s ahead.

Here is a list of the Clear Day Roster and their playoff experience:

 Fred Brathwaite (G)= Russian Super League post season w/ Kazan Ak-Bars
 Michael Garnett(G)= Calder Cup finals w/ Chicago Wolves
 Trevor Byrne (D)
 Joey Crabb (RW)
 Andy Delmore (D)= Stanley Cup finals w/ Philadelphia Flyers
 Guillaume Desbiens (D)= Kelly Cup finals w/ Gwinnett Gladiators
 Andre Deveaux (C)
 Niko Dimitrakos (RW)= Stanley Cup semi final w/ Sharks
 Kevin Doell (C)
 Brian Fahey (D)
 Darren Haydar (RW)= 2 Calder Cup rings plus a finals w/ Milwaukee Admirals
 Jason Krog (C)= Stanley Cup finals w/ Mighty Ducks, Swedish Elite Finals
 Cory Larose (C)= 1 Calder Cup finals w/ Chicago Wolves
 Jordan LaVallee (LW)= Memorial Cup w/ Quebec Remparts
 Derek MacKenzie (C)= 1 Calder Cup ring plus 1 finals w/ Chicago Wolves
 Nathan Oystrick (D)
 Mark Popovic (D)= 2 Calder Cup post seasons w/ Cincinnati Mighty Ducks
 Jimmy Sharrow (D)
 Brian Sipotz (D)= 1 Calder Cup finals w/ Chicago Wolves
 Brett Sterling (LW)
 Colin Stuart (LW)
 Boris Valabik (D)
 Steve Martins (Black Ace) (C)= 1 Turner Cup, 1 IHL final w/ Chicago Wolves, 1 Calder Cup post season w/ Springfield Falcons

Lot’s of great experience. The weakness of the Wolves remains in the nets. The return of Jason Krog should give the team heart.