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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.