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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Chicago, Rockford remain locked in division battle

Grand Rapids, MI—The Chicago Wolves took two points this weekend in matches, winning one of two matches and putting greater pressure on the division leading Rockford IceHogs. However, it was an IceHogs win over the Wolves on Friday night in Rockford, which prevented the Wolves from going into the lead of the division.

Tudor Floru again had a disportionate influence in a 4-3 Rockford win over the Wolves Friday night, awarding 78 minutes of penalties in the match. Rockford laid 41 shots on Wolves goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. A scoreless first period was followed by six goals in the second period of play and left the IceHogs in control of the game going into the final period.

The Hogs dominated the offensive effort of the game out shooting the Wolves in each period of play. Nevertheless the Wolves managed to put 30 shots on Chicago Blackhawk prospect net minder Corey Crawford. The two teams, which have been locked in a battle for first place in the division through the first half of the season, remain just points apart, with the Wolves having an edge in games to be played and the Hogs having an edge in points.

The Hogs failed to gain traction on the Wolves defense during a 5:3 early in the second frame, but then, on a second 5:3 were able to score twice in 12 seconds, giving them a 2-0 lead. However, the middle frame saw four more goals, as the game momentum zigged and zagged with the Chicagoans evening up the score, then the Hogs again taking a two-goal advantage. That advantage was threatened by a Chicago 5:3 power play in the final two minutes of the game, but the IceHogs held onto the lead into the final 20 minutes of play.

Wolves blue liner Nathan Oystrick scored early in the third period, bringing the game to 4-3. However, Rockford held out for the win. Ryan Stokes, who scored a goal in the game, told the Rockford Register Star’s Matt Trowbridge, “You have to establish yourself on your own ice. Getting a win here is always big.”

From Rockford, the Wolves traveled to Grand Rapids to face old International Hockey League foe the Grand Rapids Griffins Saturday at the Van Andel Arena. The Griffins have struggled at home, particularly in the early part of the season. A disappointing on-ice officiating by Jaime Koharski too, marked this game.

Koharski called six unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on players in the match, creating as many power play opportunities. Fortunately, none of these was converted by either team into a goal. Instead it was a game dominated by the a lack of defense on the side of the Griffins, who gave up an empty net goal, a short handed goal and four different scoring opportunities to the Wolves in the final 24 minutes of play.

Griffins players were out of position, were beaten to the rebound, were outskated and just didn’t look well versed in playing the puck in a defensive way in the final frame of the game. From a 3-2 lead, following a successful penalty shot, the Griffins seemed unable to keep up with the Wolves assault and pressure. Only the veteran goal tender for the Griffins, Jimmy Howard, was able to keep the Griffins in the game.

From the view of the Wolves, it was probably one of the best defensive performances on ice this season, despite the three goals given up. The Wolves outshot the Griffins with 20 shots alone in the final period of play and a decisive win of 5-3.

Pavelec stopped 29 shots in the win.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Four point weekend; writer turns to TV for excitement

The hot and cold Wolves continued their version of a slump over the weekend, taking the Quad City Flames in a come-from-behind 3-2 win in Moline on Friday night, a 5-2 win against the Manchester Monarchs at the Allstate Arena on Saturday and a 5-2 loss against the Grand Rapids Griffins at the Allstate on Sunday afternoon.

None of the opposition was the gritty type that the Wolves will face in the playoffs during the spring, and yet the words come-from-behind has a nice ring of never say die winners and also how did this happen with an opponent like this?

The Flames as you may know, are one of the punching bags of the Western Division. A team with a promising affiliate and past that is simply not jelling this season. On the ice, the young team of two seasons ago are strangers, unable to connect to each other, winning only 19 of the first 44 games played.

That equates to a winning season of 51 percent under the strange accounting of hockey. But it is a losing season nonetheless. And the Flames will be golfing in mid-April if things don’t change soon.

So, how did the Wolves allow them to get a 2-0 lead in the second period of their game? It could be the flu, which seems to have affected every person in the country except Eli Manning. Could be the call-ups to Atlanta.

But here is god’s own truth. I watched a football game on Sunday and did not go to the Wolves v Griffins game. And I missed Jimmy Howard in goal. The Wolves might be winning, but they are boring as hell out there.

It was a great football game too. Normally, these flag tossing, rules crunching, beer-guzzling marathons of big truck ads leave me comatose. But, the fourth quarter tie, the men fighting each other and the terrible conditions on field, the two missed field goal attempts and then the over-time attempt that finally finished the game.

This was a real sports event. WOW! I haven’t been so pumped since the January 1st Sabres game.

So what is going on at the Allstate? Two victories in three days. Coming off the weekend with four points. The stats say the IceHogs have a three-point lead and the Wolves have three games in hand.

And that is the story. To get interested in this team this year you have to recognize how great the stats are. The on-ice play is draining. It is not there. When the second season starts, and the Wolves are almost certain of making it to the second season, there may not be enough heart and soul to take the team far.

The team that finally takes home the Calder Cup wins because it has a bigger heart, not a fatter stack of stats.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

4-0 loss ends 4 game streak; MAds Henry gets 4 pts.

Ondrej Pavelec was shelled out of the net and the Milwaukee Admirals recorded a shutout against the Chicago Wolves, 4-0 at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont Wednesday. The loss ended a four game winning streak by the Wolves.

Pekka Rinne stopped 22 shots in the blanking and four different Admirals scored on a Chicago team that didn’t seem to be aware of the game. First, Andreas Thuresson out skated Scott Lehman in the first period and placed a beautiful shot past Pavelec. In the second period Janne Niskala faked Pavelec down, then wrapped around the net to score. Finally, Kelsey Wilson and Josh Langfeld settled two more goals into the Chicago twine in a period of a little over two minutes of the final frame.

Captain Alex Henry recorded points on each of the Milwaukee goals. The fourth goal caused Chicago to pull Pavelec in favor of Robert Gherson. Gherson stopped all 12 shots he faced.

It was the second shutout of the Wolves by the Admirals this season. In October the Admirals recorded a 1-0 overtime win over the Wolves. It was also the first win in Chicago by the Admirals this season.

Milwaukee 1 1 2 -- 4
Chicago 0 0 0 -- 0

First Period---1, Milwaukee, Thuresson 3 (Henry, Guerriero), 9:41. Penalties---Desbiens, Chicago (hooking), 2:38; Niskala, Milwaukee (holding), 5:18; Santorelli, Milwaukee (hooking), 13:24; Pihlstrom, Milwaukee (high sticking), 19:31.

Second Period---2, Milwaukee, Niskala 10 (Santorelli, Henry), 4:37. Penalties---Wilson, Milwaukee (diving), 3:50; Pilar, Chicago (tripping), 3:50; Langfeld, Milwaukee (hooking), 4:48; Maki, Milwaukee (fighting), 8:57; Oystrick, Chicago (fighting), 8:57; Painchaud, Chicago (tripping), 15:40; Langfeld, Milwaukee (tripping), 18:13.

Third Period---3, Milwaukee, Wilson 4 (Henry, Thuresson), 2:50; 4, Milwaukee, Langfeld 11 (Guerriero, Henry), 4:57. Penalties---Lehman, Chicago (hooking), 10:08; Deveaux, Chicago (hooking), 19:53.

Shots on goal---Milwaukee: 14-13-18--45. Chicago: 6-12-4--22. Power plays---Milwaukee: 0-4. Chicago: 0-5. Goalies---Milwaukee, Rinne (22-22). Chicago, Pavelec (29-33) replaced by Gherson (12-12) at 44:52. A---5,327. Referee---Kyle Rehman. Linesmen---Bryan Pancich and Chris Allman.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

3 Up, 3 Down. Top Western teams, goalies meet in 2 contests

The American Hockey League’s North and West division leading teams, the Toronto Marlies and the Chicago Wolves, met at the Allstate Arena Saturday night leading to the third straight loss for the Marlies against West Division teams, a season high, and the third straight win last week for the Chicago Wolves.

With a 2-1 lead entering the second frame, it appeared that the battle of the two leading Western Conference teams would be won by the superior defense of the Marlies over the superior offense of the Wolves. Then, three unanswered second period Wolves goals in under five minutes reversed the fortunes of the Wolves. Bryan Little had a goal and three assists in the win. Toronto had entered the game trailing the Wolves by a point in the Western Conference. However its Western swing is earning it no respect, with losses so far in Milwaukee, Rockford and now Chicago.

“Our line played really well tonight, it seemed that every shift the bounces were going our way,” Little said. “A game like tonight gives me a lot of confidence… it all seemed to change tonight.”

With nearly half the season behind it, the Wolves are winning 75 percent of their games and have the second best power play in the AHL. They are in second place overall in the league, trailing only the Providence Bruins, who are in a bit of a slump, but are winning 78.2 percent of their games overall.

In Milwaukee, the Rockford IceHogs made their first visit to the Bradley Center this season, pulling out a 3-2, come from behind win over the Milwaukee Admirals in a shootout. Milwaukee’s Antii Pihlstrom opened the scoring with a short-handed goal. Hogs goalie Corey Crawford faced Ads goalie Pekka Rinne in the bout. Both goalies are listed as top winners, with 17 notches each. However, Rinne is also listed as topping the losing column with 14 losses this season.

The Admirals stifled the Hogs offence through two and half periods. Troy Brouwer brought the Hogs within one at the 11:26 mark of the third period. Then, pulling the goalie, the Hogs were able to send the game into overtime with a goal by Derek Nesbitt. Martin St. Pierre received two assists in the game. He has received points in every Hogs goal this weekend.

Despite a 4:3 power play in the overtime period, the Hogs were unable to convert their strength to a goal and had to win the game in a shootout.

The Wolves host the Milwaukee Admirals in a game Wednesday.

Toronto 2 1 1 -- 4
Chicago 1 3 1 -- 5

First Period---1, Chicago, Giroux 11 (Oystrick, Little), 11:28; 2, Toronto, Newbury 13 (Oreskovic), 11:47; 3, Toronto, Mitchell 12 (Williams, Earl), 13:12. Penalties---Foster, Toronto (holding), 7:47; Sterling, Chicago (hooking), 7:56; Haydar, Chicago (interference), 8:41; Mitchell, Toronto (holding), 9:26; Mitchell, Toronto (cross-checking), 15:59; Battaglia, Toronto (interference), 19:55.

Second Period---4, Chicago, Little 4 (Crabb, Lehman), 2:29; 5, Chicago, Schultz 14 (Little, Giroux), 7:08; 6, Chicago, Martins 14 (LaVallee, Crabb), 7:26; 7, Toronto, Boyce 8 (Leveille, Harrington), 14:57. Penalties---LaVallee, Chicago (tripping), 2:52; Crabb, Chicago (high-sticking), 7:32; Newbury, Toronto (roughing), 8:51; Desbiens, Chicago (roughing), 8:51; Aubin, Toronto (boarding), 10:42; Valabik, Chicago (hooking), 12:56; Ondrus, Toronto (hooking), 15:56; Haydar, Chicago (slashing), 17:16.

Third Period---8, Chicago, Fahey 9 (Schultz, Little), 12:02; 9, Toronto, Harrison 5 (Newbury, Harrington), 16:27 pp. Penalties---Battaglia, Toronto (hooking), 1:23; Newbury, Toronto (hooking), 10:09; Sterling, Chicago (slashing), 11:09; Earl, Toronto (tripping), 12:08; LaVallee, Chicago (roughing), 15:51; Sifers, Toronto (slashing), 18:51; Newbury, Toronto (game misconduct), 20:00

Shots on goal---Toronto: 14-11-8--33. Chicago: 12-10-14--36. Power plays---Toronto: 1-8. Chicago: 0-10. Goalies---Toronto, Clemmensen (31-36). Chicago, Pavelec (29-33). A---9,118. Referee---Nygel Pelletier. Linesmen---Peter Cichy and Al Stensland

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Two more Chicago win; Wolves in 1st place of Western Conference

The Chicago Wolves won two games this week, jumping into the lead in the Western Conference of the American Hockey League. Steve Silverthorn, discussed here LINK made his Allstate Arena debut, relieving Tobias Stephan and making four saves in a 6-4 win over the Iowa Stars on Wednesday.

Then, on Friday, the Wolves won their 27th game of the season with a 6-2 win that extinguished the Quad City Flames at the I Wireless Arena in Moline, IL.

The Wolves opened a two-goal lead over the Flames in just 21 seconds of the first period, including a short-handed goal, one of two goals that night by Alexandre Giroux. Although the Flames kept the heat on the Wolves all night, out shooting them 40 to 33, the early Wolves goals chased starting Flames goalie Brent Krahn from the net after Giroux’s second goal. Reliever Matt Keetley, who received the loss, stopped six shots, letting three in.

Ondrej Pavelec was credited with his 10th win in his last 11 starts. Robert Gherson relieved him in the final 4:04 of the contest. Gherson, who has seen mostly losses, stopped all five shots he faced.

Wednesday’s win over the Iowa Stars marked one of the few appearances of Silverthorn in the AHL and his first in net at the Allstate. Normally stopping for the Idaho Steelheads, he has an ECHL GAA of 2.53, compared to the shelling he is receiving in the Iowa uniform of 5.32, according to statistics from hockeydb.com.

The game was lightly officiated by referee Nygel Pelletier, with just 10 minutes of penalties, just two minutes assigned to the Chicago Wolves. And although the Chicago first line was prominent on the scoreboard, it was the depth players who pushed the team over the top, with four goals. Pavelec faced 32 shots on goal, stopping 28 in the winning effort.

Saturday games regionally: The Chicago Wolves face the Toronto Marlies, allowing fans to see the top two scorers of the league face each other. The Marlies, the affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, are dominating the North Division, and trail the Wolves by just one point in the Conference standings. A lower scoring team, overall, Wolves fans may see a post-season preview at the Allstate.

In Milwaukee the Rockford IceHogs will visit the Bradley Center for the first time. Once affiliated with the Admirals, the Hogs have seem many of their best players called to the Chicago Blackhawks to cover injuries there. They received Troy Brouwer while Sergei Samsonov was traded by Chicago. His only appearance in a Hogs sweater was against Chicago, earlier this month. The Admirals, meanwhile, flounder near the bottom of the league, an unaccustomed standing for them.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Wolves double up Admirals 6-3; Haydar scores hat trick

Milwaukee—The Milwaukee Admirals dropped their third in a row as the Chicago Wolves doubled up the score, 6-3, with former Admirals player Darren Haydar scoring a hat trick in play at the Bradley Center, here Saturday.

A season high crowd of 13, 843 saw the Admirals unable to keep up with the Wolves. Although the Admirals fired all their goals high, defeating Ondrej Pavelec, who drops for every shot on goal. They were unable to find enough to lift their score. Pekka Rinne, the Nashville prospect goalie who has returned to Milwaukee after being injured during the 2006 off-season, seems unable to stop the Wolves as the performance of the Admirals has deteriorated since an early season overtime win over the Wolves.

The Admirals are currently tied for last place in the Western Division of the American Hockey League. The current three game losing streak starting last week with a loss to the Wolves.

The Wolves come off a loss to the Rockford IceHogs on a road trip to Rockford Friday night. Their win on Saturday, and a loss by the Rockford IceHogs, keeps the IceHogs and the Wolves within a point of each other for the Western Division lead, with the Wolves trailing and also having four games in hand.

For the second night in a row, the Wolves power play, ranked second in the league, rocked their opponents. Haydar’s first goal, a power play goal, evened up the score with the Admirals in the second period. It was followed by two more goals in under four minutes to give the Wolves a 3-1 lead, including Haydar’s second of the night.

Haydar’s third period power play goal proved to be the game winner. It was the third hat trick of Haydar’s professional career. Since being returned to Chicago by the Atlanta Thrashers the forward has scored 17 goals in nine games.

Steve Martins ended the Milwaukee hopes of sending the game into overtime with a third period goal with a little over three and half minutes remaining, and then Martins also scored a short-handed and empty net goal with a 1.37 remaining in the game.

Chicago 0 3 3 -- 6
Milwaukee 0 2 1 -- 3

First Period---None. Penalties---Schmidt, Milwaukee (cross-checking), 1:49; Lehman, Chicago (holding), 6:50; Martins, Chicago (slashing), 8:44; Niskala, Milwaukee (slashing), 9:31; Lehman, Chicago (fighting), 13:53; Wilson, Milwaukee (fighting), 13:53; Fretter, Chicago (hooking), 16:40.

Second Period---1, Milwaukee, Ellison 9 (Sulzer, Peverley), 6:46 pp.; 2, Chicago, Haydar 3 (Pilar, Krog), 11:47 pp.; 3, Chicago, Sterling 21 (Crabb, Krog), 15:05; 4, Chicago, Haydar 4 (Sterling), 15:44; 5, Milwaukee, Peverley 8 (Sulzer, Pihlstrom), 17:15 pp. Penalties---Kwiatkowski, Chicago (hooking), 6:17; Henry, Milwaukee (roughing), 8:32; Schultz, Chicago (roughing), 9:02; Langfeld, Milwaukee (high-sticking), 11:34; Martins, Chicago (hooking), 12:29; Bench, Chicago (too many men), 16:59; Peverley, Milwaukee (roughing), 19:49.

Third Period---6, Chicago, Haydar, 5 (Kwiatkowski, Krog), 3:03 pp.; 7, Milwaukee, Vigilante 9 (Santorelli), 6:18; 8, Chicago, Martins 12 (unassisted), 16:28; 9, Chicago, Martins 13 (unassisted), 18:23 sh. Penalties---Wilson, Milwaukee (slashing), 2:47; Deveaux, Chicago (hooking), 17:25; Deveaux, Chicago (slashing, misconduct), 19:46.

Shots on goal---Chicago: 8-13-8--29. Milwaukee: 11-10-9--30. Power plays---Chicago: 2-6. Milwaukee: 2-9. Goalies--Chicago, Pavelec (27-30). Milwaukee, Rinne (23-29). A---13,843. Referee---Frederick L'Ecuyer. Linesmen---Roger Behling and Chris Allman.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Tudor Floru- Tonight's Star of the game

Rockford, IL—The Rockford IceHogs took a three point lead in the Western Division over the Chicago Wolves with a 5-4 win Friday night at the Rockford MetroCentre. The game, hampered by poor officiating, was nevertheless elegant in its rugged physical play. Unfortunately, the officiating dominated play. So much for a hockey game.

Referee Tudor Floru is overmatched by the American Hockey League players he is attempting to officiate, seeming unable to balance the flow of the game and the need to be fair in his calls. The best recent examples of his shallow officiating having been Brent Sterling’s penalties on Friday. Let’s start this entire conversation by noting that most officials don’t have their own website, but Floru does: Fire Floru.

Go on and visit that site right now, I’ll be here when you get back.
Hi, that was a great photo by Jane Rickard from her website. That picture, if you cannot tell, takes place after the whistle. Immediately in front of Floru too. Sterling has just been given two minutes for goal tender interference. He skated into the crease and pushed Corey Crawford. Clear interference. Whistle. Stick gets shoved violently up Sterling’s nose.

That type of shit, and that is a technical word here, used here for unnecessary on-ice bullshit moves, not a cuss word, is the same type of shit that the league is punishing Chris Simon for. HELLO Floru? Send a fucking message that attempting to injure another player is not acceptable. Two minutes? Two minutes? Two minutes? For that? Basically an off-setting minor penalty?

Floru is breaking the code here. He is putting players at risk and himself too. Time to digress to another website. This is from the Peoria Journal Star: Cleve's World.

Well, obviously I’m not the only person who has wondered about what the hell is going on here? Dave apparently didn’t follow the web around enough to realize Mr. Floru has been fucking up games in the Central Hockey League in previous seasons.

But I digress. Sterling, two minutes for goal tender interference and Mr. Crawford, two minutes for attempted surgery. Later in the same game, Sterling is screaming at the Floru. I’m not close enough, but let’s guess he is using some four letter words in a non-technical manner that I would never use on this blog. Ten minute major. So, the guy who had unofficial surgery gets ten? The guy who gave it to him gets two?

I've seen this guy officiate two games in the AHL now. In both, there were very upset fans and team officials on both teams screaming at Floru. I’m not sure where this Floru guy belongs. But not officiating games for professional hockey leagues and not in development for the National Hockey League either. He just sucks.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

What a game! Sabres v Pens

First of all, I freely admit to screwing up a man-law already this year. It occurred Tuesday as the NHL outdoor game was coming to an end. My partner, Jane Rickard (who runs the blog site Powderhornhockey) and I had hosted a viewing party for the Sabres v Penguins game.

Most people were late in arriving. It was New Years Day after all. There was my brother. He and I grew up in a house with European farmer attitudes towards time and the fact he arrived the day he indicated he would speaks in his favor.

And Rik, a young friend who had partied hard the previous night. There was Barb and John, and my daughter too. All late. The first person to arrive showed up more than 90 minutes after the game had started and I had been put in authority over the Tivo. I set it to record, but didn’t set it for any additional time.

Hence, we watched as the game OT ended, and then moved to live television and discovered that we had no idea how the shoot out ended.

Rik asked for my man card and duly folded a corner back. It was a mere warning.

But what a great game. Snow falling, the remarkable charge of Sidney Crosby through the snowy surface, bouncing the puck on his blade, to bring the puck into the offensive zone. The crowd shots. This was a great game to watch and enjoy. I could see people, during the party, stealing away and watching the game: watching hockey on television.

The opening sequence of shots (was it on NBC or the 2 ½ hour special on the NHL network?) that showed kids playing pond hockey was fantastic. I wanted to cry! Wait, no, the man card wouldn’t take that too.

Anyway, it was great!

The NHL has to do this again. The Sabres should demand this as a New Year’s Day game every year. No more dull bowl games playing meaningless games in sunny Southern States. Which two teams are playing? No one ever seems to know or care. No, now the North has its own possibility of meaningless games celebrating our wonderful snowy heritage. Yeh!

And the fact that it was Buffalo was an added bonus. The Sabres are our adopted NHL team. (Sorry Thrashers fans). After all, the running joke in our house for most of the last decade was that Chicago had two minor league hockey teams (or its alternate, the NHL should consider putting a franchise in Chicago).

What went right? Snow and weather to start. Plus, a tight game.

As the buildup to the game was broadcast, I kept hearing how people hoped the weather wouldn’t effect the game. Damn right. No, seriously wrong. If weather kept people away due to being extreme or kept the game from being played due to damaging the ice. Well, that would be a problem.

But those shots of the snow falling and the guys skating? Oh my god! I wanted to be there, witnessing it, writing about it and shooting it with my camera.

This took the romance of the game, gave it a testosterone shot in the ass and put it on display for a national audience. It is the way I learned to play back in the day. And that’s not to say I’m an athlete. I’m a fan. But it brought home the games at Lafollette Park. There was the gridiron flooded with water, the rocks on the ice to symbolize the goals and the stuff sticking through. And it was a rough ice surface.

A symbol is a more powerful thing that the real item. And this game showed it. Now that there have been several successful outdoor games, the game can survive a bad outdoor tilt. History will record a great game in Buffalo and people will be challenged to remember if they watched it.

My opinion about the bottom line: any game that doesn’t require a degree in Latin mathematics to recall a memory is probably a good thing.

But I ramble: which is a thing abhorrent to this blog.