E-Mail Subscriptions to the Blog

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wolves win 1st game of finals 5-4

Chicago’s power play again dominated a game to allow the Chicago Wolves a 5-4 win against the Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton Penguins at the Allstate Arena Thursday night. Three unanswered first period goals by the Wolves and a penalty kill of a 5:3 power play led to the team being wildly applauded as they exited the ice at the end of the first frame. However, the baby Pens came back in the second period, scoring early in the period, with just a minute, 15 seconds between the first and second goals.

The second and third goals of the Pens effort seemed to be set plays, almost identical, even to the lines, although the credits for the goals were awarded to different players. Off the face-off, the Pens brought the puck back to the right side blue line, then passed cross ice where the puck was teed up and fired through traffic for the goal.

After being taken advantage of twice by the play, the Wolves didn’t allow it to happen again. Goals by Joel Kwiatkowski and Bryan Little kept the Pens at a distance. But a third period goal by the Pens brought them within one of the Wolves. Then a sloppy penalty by Kwiatkowski with less than two minutes to go, gave the Pens a final chance at the power play.

The WBS goalie, John Curry was pulled, allowing the Pens to put a 6:4 advantage against the Wolves. Still, it was a near thing, as the Wolves almost put a loose puck into the empty Pens’ net.

Once again, the heart of the team was team vet Steve Martins. Martins was awarded a penalty shot during the closing seconds of the first period when a turnover during the power play had to be stopped by Wilkes-Barre. Ondrej Pavelec had 30 saves for the win. Penguins rookie Alex Goligoski, who has had an outstanding post-season, had a goal and three assists in the game.

Let's Go Wolves!

It’s an hour till the puck drops. We met some fans from the coal city here at a dinner the Wolves organize. As I’ve said before, best fans in the American Hockey League. The spirit of these people, flying in to Chicago to watch their team shows the stuff necessary for a win.

That’s not to slag the Wolves fans, many of whom will be trying to nab tickets at the Wachovia building in Wilkes-Barre next week. Last time I saw the WBS Pens in the finals, a 2004 match against the Milwaukee Admirals, they were camping in state campgrounds, trying to hold down costs.

We’re blessed that our teams are playing this late in the season and that despite the economic challenges; we are able to follow our teams to these finals.

It takes a winning attitude to make it this far. And the teams frequently do not see each other during the regular season, leading to a first game of testing each other, probing for the weakness. It must be found, developed and exploited quickly. Any loss, especially on home ice, is hard to make-up.

Let’s GO Wolves.

Seventh man advantage favors baby Pens

The Chicago Wolves v Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton Penguins final of the Calder Cup Championship starts tonight. Chicago fans haven’t seen the Penguins play since last season when the team made a West Division swing. That’s prehistory in hockey. So much changes, especially in minor league play.

Although the home advantage has been huge in the playoffs, and that goes to the Wolves, I think that the seventh man advantage is strongly in the Penguins favor. The Wachovia building that the Penguins play in is routinely sold out. The Penguins have one of the strongest fan bases seen in the American Hockey League. The white out seen in Mellon Arena when the Detroit Red Wings played game three? The same advantage is going to be on the Baby Pens favor too.

That favors a long series, with the Wolves taking the Chicago games and the Pens taking the Pennsylvania games. I don’t see Chicago having an easy time, even if they take a lead in the Pens home.

The Pens on the other hand, have come to Chicago and won. Okay, I said that is prehistory. But it’s happened. I’m predicting the Wolves have tough wins at home, but drop one home game, and lose each of the games in Pennsylvania. The series goes six or seven. The series ends in Chicago.

Now, that’s what I think is going to happen. Chicago plays a disciplined game, plays its game, not WBS’, and finally, is able to take the oxygen out of the Wachovia building with early goals in games three and four, that will change things. That is how the Wolves can win this thing. That’s what I want to happen.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Spencer Anderson plays in Memorial Cup championship; Dad in crowd

While John Anderson has been coaching the Chicago Wolves to the Calder Cup finals his son Spencer has been playing for the Memorial Cup Championship. The Kitchener Rangers faced the Western Hockey League Champs the Spokane Chiefs. Rogers Sprots Net reports that John Anderson watched his son play in the finals game.

Unfortunately, for the Andersons, the cup was won by the Spokane Chiefs, who immediately broke the cup.

Spencer has not yet been drafted by any NHL team. He was wearing an Atlanta jersey during the Traverse City tournament last September. John Anderson said at the time that he was talking to scouts but that nothing had yet transpired.

Penguins previewed

I reviewed all of the Wilkes- Barre/ Scranton Penguins video available on line. It really doesn’t tell much, as it consists of lots of fight highlights and very short clips of the Penguins goals against various opponents.

If you insist on showing, as a highlight, the final seconds of a goal and focus on the celebration, it is difficult for anyone to analyze what happened. Jane Rickard, whose blog Powderhornhockey, watched the clips with me and commented that the Penguins seemed, at one point, to be celebrating all of the high sticking penalties missed by the refs.

The coming series isn’t likely to see the Penguins taking a lot of penalties, illegal, or otherwise. I won’t argue that the Penguins aren’t a physical team, but in the post-season, the Chicago Wolves have averaged about 23 penalty minutes per game. Only the Syracuse Crunch have averaged more penalty minutes per game, in the post season, than the Wolves. The Penguins, despite the videos of fights and hits and high sticking, have averaged just 12 minutes in penalties per game.

The Wolves have done well in the post season against undisciplined opponents, notably against the Toronto Marlies. The Rockford IceHogs, who faced the Wolves in a very emotional series that proved to be a physical and emotional high for the season so far, were able to defuse the Chicago special teams, even taking advantage of the man advantages to beat the Chicago PK unit.

So, the first thing I expect, in this series, is that we’ll see fewer opportunities for the Chicago PP unit to score against a more disciplined team than they have faced before.

At the same time, the Penguins are accustomed to a physical form of hockey in the form of the Hershey Bears and the Philadelphia Phantoms. These two teams were unable to shock the Penguins. I don’t think Chicago physical play is going to be able to be used as an advantage against the Penguins.

Now there are two other things I saw in the videos. First, the practice video showed a play that we saw bits and pieces of in the highlights. The puck was taken across the blue line close to the left center of the ice. A cross-ice pass to the far right was immediately dumped down the right boards. The lively boards in Chicago are likely to let the puck leak into the left corner, although the video indicates the Penguins want to play the puck in the right corner.

The Wolves have fought very well in the corners and against the boards. Boris Valabik, in particular, can create plays behind the net that confound the opposition. The other thing I’m thinking about this play, it can be easily thwarted with defense in the neutral zone. It can be forced further to the point and cross ice presence can make it difficult to complete.

The other interesting feature of the video is a short piece, posted by the Penguins on YouTube of a recent practice. Is it for real or is it disinformation? Time will tell, but it shows the players practicing shots high, especially to the right side of the goalie.

I don’t recall any weakness by Ondrej Pavelec on the right side, but months ago he had a tendency to go down early. Looking at highlights from January is like examining fossils. Maybe it has some interest to the current situation. Maybe not. The Rockford IceHogs publicly said they planned to challenge Pavelec by shooting high, after drawing him to drop.

That didn’t work.

Now, the AHL will require the two teams to name 17 players. Here is a list of the players expected to play, based on the stats. I don’t believe any are currently injured.

Tim Brent C
Ryan Stone C
Kurtis McLean C
Nathan Smith C
Connor James C
Dave Grove C
Dustin Jeffrey C
Mark Letestu C
Now, that is 8 centers. I am mystified. Why does this team have so many centers? They must be playing wing.
Here’s a list of their wings, as you might expect, it is a light list, as there are so many centers.
Chris Minard LW
Tim Wallace LW
Luca Caputi LW

Finally, on the blue line:
Alex Goligoski D
Mark Ardelan D
Ben Lovejoy D
Alain Nasreddine D
Ryan Lannon D
Deryk Engelland D

And in net, John Curry.

Goligoski has had a great post season. He is a rookie and is averaging, as a blue liner, two points per game; He only averaged about half point per game in the regular season. Missing is Dennis Bonvie. He has appeared in five of the post season games.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

4-2 win puts Wolves in finals; Home Ice & PP leading factors in wins

A 4-2 win Friday night at the Allstate Arena against the North Division champs, the Toronto Marlies, is sending the Chicago Wolves to the American Hockey League championship game. It will be the third time the Wolves have played in the AHL championship finals since joining the AHL in the 2001-2 season.

The series, won 4-1 by the Wolves, started with a pair of convincing wins by the Wolves at the Allstate Arena and a pounding of the Marlies at the Ricoh Center earlier this week. However, the Marlies came back to crush the Wolves in the second game at the Ricoh Center. Home ice advantage has been a key factor, in the wins in the league, as only the opponents of the Portland Pirates, seeded third in their division, have not been able to win the series.

Portland is still in the playoffs, the last Cinderella team. They are tied 3-3 in the Eastern Conference finals with the Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton Penguins. The winner of a game seven, tonight at the Wachovia Arena in Wilkes Barre, plays the Wolves next week starting Thursday.

The power play was a key feature, again, in the Wolves victory over the Marlies on Friday. Each Wolves goal, except the final empty net goal, was on a power play. Toronto has been unable in this series to effectively use its man advantages against the Wolves. The Marlies, in fact, were leading the game 2-0 at the end of the first frame. It seemed a dangerous tipping point in the game as the first goal has also been a deciding factor in many of the post season games played, according to NHL analysts.

The discipline of the Marlies began to breakdown midway through the second period. An elbowing call on Phil Oreskovic at 7:52 was followed by a hooking call on Buffalo Grove-native Andy Wozniwski at 9:12, giving the Wolves a 5:3 advantage. The Wolves used it to score twice within sixteen seconds.

Joel Kwiatkowski’s power play, which broke the dam, was his fourth in as many games. The Marlies were given ample opportunities to catch the Wolves, including a five minute major called for kneeing against Andre Deveaux at about the six minute mark of the third frame.

However it was another of those soft penalties that Toronto has not learned from, called against Alex Foster at 14:47 into the period that put the game out of reach for the Marlies. Darren Haydar, assisted by Kwiatkowski and Jason Krog lit the lamp for the game winner. Later, Kevin Doell, on a breakaway, potted the empty insurance goal with 42 seconds remaining on the clock.

The Chicago Wolves have won three league championships since their first campaign in 1993-4. Two Turner Cups were won under the old International Hockey League. In their first season with in the AHL the team won the Calder Cup championship. The Wolves returned to the Calder Cup finals, in the lockout season, when they lost to a Philadelphia Phantoms team loaded with players who are now in the NHL.

John Anderson, the Wolves coach for each of their championships, also won a Colonial Cup championship in the United Hockey League (now the International Hockey League) behind the bench for the Quad City Mallards.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Marlies edge back from golf game w/ 6-1 romp

Finally, Wednesday night, American Hockey League fans saw the Toronto Marlies team that came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Syracuse Crunch and that offered Chicago a big loss in April.

A 6-1 loss in the Ricoh Center in Toronto has set the Chicago Wolves back to a 3-1 series lead. The Marlies, who started Justin Pogge in this match, were able to stop the Chicago power play on Wednesday, giving up only one goal against the Chicago special teams on eight attempts.

A dominant Marlies put 12 shots on Ondrej Pavelec in the first period, penetrating him three times, once on the power play. Chicago was able to return one point to the scorecard in the period. The Marlies then added three more unanswered goals to their point total in the next two periods. Colin Murphy had two goals and an assist. Pogge was credited with 27 saves.

Wolves lead 3-0 in series; Earn 4-1 win in Toronto

The Toronto Marlies, unable to exert discipline, dropped the third game in the Western Conference series of the Calder Cup tournament last night. The Chicago Wolves took advantage of the Marlies, winning easily 4-1 at the Ricoh Center in Toronto.

Only two teams have been able to come back from a 3-0 deficit, according to the American Hockey League. Any loss in the next four games ends the season for the Toronto Maple Leaf farm team and advances the Wolves to their third Calder Cup final since joining the AHL in the 2001-2 campaign.

The Wolves took advantage of four of the ten power plays presented by Toronto, earning all of their points with a man advantage. The Wolves, now, lead the league in power plays in both percentage and in raw number, being awarded 105 advantage opportunities in the post season, compared to 86 for the Marlies, the closest team in opportunities. 22.9 percent of the power plays are successful.

The Wolves lead successful power plays on the road by an even more dramatic 27.5 percent.

On the penalty kill, among active teams, the Wolves have given 100 power play opportunities to opponents, but lead the active teams in percent of kills with 89 percent. The Marlies place first, having given opponents 105 power play opportunities. They have the worst penalty kill among active teams, successfully stopping 77.1 percent of plays.

A key to the Wolves domination of the Marlies in this series is their ability to kill penalties and take advantage of their power play chances.

Another big component of the Wolves play is the dump and chase. The Wolves have used this method with abandon against the Marlies and the IceHogs, rarely carrying the puck across the line. While the Marlies have crumbled in the first three games, the first game and first period showed a determined forward defense by the Marlies that forced turnovers and the dump and chase.

However, the Wolves have successfully battled in the corners against the Marlies. The Wolves have taken possession of the puck from the Marlies corner, and beat the Marlies on their own side of the ice.

Finally, the Wolves have successfully used a cross ice passing plan that seems to demand that the player leading the charge pass to another player, even when they have an open shot on goal. You’d think this is a bit of madness, but it has led to a string of victories since the Wolves adopted it during the IceHogs series.

With everyone from the Canadian media to the coach of the Marlies noting the need to stop taking undisciplined penalties, you would assume the Marlies’ captain would be standing up telling his players to hold their tempers.

But it was a stupid penalty by Ben Ondrus in the final frame of the Tuesday game that lead to one of the Chicago goals.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Marlies back against the wall--- again

You need to wonder who will receive the MVP, if the series between the Toronto Marlies and the Chicago Wolves ended today. Offensively, Jason Krog has scored five goals, driving the Marlies goalie from the net in game two and leading the league in post season scoring.

On the other hand, defensively, the Marlies can’t seem to figure out Ondrej Pavelec. Pavelec has only allowed two goals in the last three games, going four periods at present without letting anything in.

This is a team game, of course, and the Wolves have been hot both offensively and defensively since game seven win against the Rockford IceHogs. They’ve taken advantage of the Marlies lack of discipline with power play goals and just grinding the Marlies down. A great example of that was the third period of the second game. A new goalie in net, the Wolves didn’t test him with an offensive effort, but rather ground the offensive edge of the Marlies for 20 frustrating minutes.

The Marlies didn’t help things either, allowing further Wolves power plays in the third period, which basically took any oxygen out of the effort of the to even score. In the final moments of the second and third periods, it looked as if the Marlies were completely out of gas, playing a defensive game as if they were on the penalty kill.

The Marlies’ back is against the wall now, behind 2-0 and heading home. They haven’t played particularly well at home in the post season, dropping two games in a row to the Syracuse Crunch in the previous series. They had to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win that series. And that showed heart, but maybe it was also the end of the string for this team. Maybe the win against the Crunch was the final hurrah.

If they drop the Tuesday night game, in Toronto, to the Wolves, it will be statistically impossible for them to come back. Even a win on Tuesday must be matched by a big effort on Wednesday for the Marlies to have a hope of winning this series.

It is early yet, but this just doesn’t look good for the Marlies.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hat tricks

Let’s start with the idea of a hat trick. Jason Krog’s hat trick in the previous game was almost matched by another on Sunday as he scored two goals within about seven minutes in a spanking of the Toronto Marlies. Hat tricks are relatively unusual in standard play, rare in the playoffs. So what is a hat trick?

Much of this information comes from Wikipedia, standard hat trick, three goals of any color in a game.

Gordie Howe hat trick, a goal, an assist and a major penalty in a game. Gordie Howe is reputed to have only scored one of these during his career.

Texas hat trick, four goals in a game. I think it is better to call these a hat trick plus one, as the Chitown Daily News does. That of course leads to a hat trick plus two or plus three… Pretty simple and descriptive. Texas? What does Texas have to do with anything big?

Okay, a natural hat trick. There seems to be some discussion of this. Three goals in a row. Three goals, one in each period. And finally, three goals, all in the same period. I had several discussions with people about whether Krog’s goals, separated by the goal of an opposing player, might qualify as a natural. Apparently not.

Mario Lemieux hat trick. I also heard this called a full cycle. In a single game and in any order, a goal, a short handed goal, an empty net goal, a penalty shot goal and a power play goal. Mario Lemieux is reputed to have scored one of these on a day he also had a treatment for his cancer.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Krog hat trick; Wolves 4, Marlies 1

Jason Krog scored a hat trick and a point to lead the Chicago Wolves to a 4-1 win over the Toronto Marlies in the first game of the Western Conference finals of the American Hockey League Calder Cup championship, Friday night at the Allstate Arena.

Krog’s hat trick was the ninth hat trick by a Chicago Wolves player in post-season play. Darren Haydar scored a goal and an assist in the win. Joe Motzko scored a pair of assists. Ondrej Pavelec stopped 26 shots on goal for the win.

The Marlies held the Wolves scoreless in the first period. A fierce defense of the blue line largely prevented the Chicago team from penetrating the offensive zone, even during power plays. Chicago was held to just eight shots on goal in the first period, compared to nine shots on goal by the Marlies, this despite three Chicago power plays to the Canadian team’s one in the period.

In the second frame, the Chicago team scored on a power play with just a minute and a half into the period. Krog’s first goal, at 7:15 into the period was matched 21 seconds later by the sole Toronto goal of the game.

Scott Clemmensen, who stopped 28 shots in the game, does not have a butterfly save, looking more like a Catholic kneeling in prayer when he closes his five hole. His rebounds were beautifully deflected away from the action. However, as shown against Pavelec in the Rockford series, the better players can anticipate this and we can expect Chicago to park a Sterling, Motzko or Steve Martins on the weak circle waiting to rebound on the empty net.

Krog’s final two goals came with less than two and half minutes remaining. His final goal was a short-handed and empty net score. The best of seven series continues on Sunday with a 3 P.M. game at the Allstate Arena.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wolves are pumped; Oh! Canada! Here we come!

Game seven between the Rockford IceHogs and the Chicago Wolves highlighted two different styles of play. That was clear by looking at the game sheets of the series. Although the Wolves were outshot almost throughout the series, and particularly in game seven, they won.

That goes against hockey sense. You put the puck on the net and good things happen. But, not for the IceHogs in this series. I used the term desperation hockey to describe the play of the Hogs. I meant it as a complement. It is another of the myths of hockey that to win a championship you need to play desperation hockey.

It was desperation hockey for the Hogs; they were on the wrong end of the score almost throughout the season at the Allstate Arena. And there is nothing to get you thinking about winning and losing quite like a game seven.

So the Hogs, they played hard. They finished their checks; they took every opportunity they had to shoot the puck at Ondrej Pavelec.

This was a great foe. And what made it even more intense was the background radiation in this series. Wolves’ fans have said, from time to time, for example last season I said, the Wolves could take the Chicago Blackhawks in a series. I still believe last year’s BHawks would find it very difficult to face the Wolves or several other American Hockey League teams.

Last season the crest said NHL team, but the play didn’t.

I haven’t said that this year.

Here was the baby Hawks, if we can use that term in a gentle way, and the Wolves were able to put them away.


I felt the Wolves were cruising through the end of the regular season. From about March 1st on, they played without passion and without heart. I was worried about what would happen in the post season with this team.

Sure, they were a great team. This is probably the best Wolves team I’ve ever seen. Granted, I’ve only been watching them for about five years. But they lacked that special character, the heart of a champion. They seemed to be playing to finish the season.

Unfortunately, this was brought home even more, as players, the contracts with the Atlanta Thrashers ending at the conclusion of the season, announced they were signing on to European teams. Maybe, they didn’t want to get hurt, maybe they didn’t care about a championship. Those words came from the discussion boards and they percolated in my head and I hoped they weren’t true.

I don’t want to be a homer about this, but I wanted the Wolves to win the series. I didn’t want these European signings to be the end of the road for this team. I figure next year is the year for the IceHogs. This year belongs to the Wolves.

Then we played the Milwaukee Admirals in the post season. Series one, leading to the West Division Crown. The Admirals have a long history with the Wolves, going back to the original International Hockey League. They were a team that could find the weakness in our best. And when they were hot and we were the cellar dwellers, we found the way to win against them.

It’s a great rivalry, although I wish there were better interaction with the fans.

I could see this team growing and accepting the increase in adrenaline needed to win as the series progressed. Thank you MAds, you helped push the Wolves to a higher level of play.

Still, when the series started against the Hogs, the Wolves won the first two games and it seemed as though it would be an easy series. The boys relaxed. Thank you Hogs for winning three games. Thank you for making them realize they wanted to win. Thank you for forcing them to play some of the best hockey I’ve seen all season.

What could have been better? Well, if the Hogs had managed to make it into the North Division finals, I think this would be a Conference final between Rockford and Chicago. That would have been excellent.

Also, I’ve wanted to see the Manitoba Moose make it to the Conference Finals. But they seem to fade away in the post season year after year. Even the Grand Rapids Griffins would be a great North Division foe to face, though I’ve always liked playing the Moose best.

Those are all IHL rivalries. But okay, we’re taking on the Marlies. Second City USA v. Toronto. The big apple, if you will, of Canada. Nothing gets me more in the mood for a great game than hearing O’ Canada. The boys appear ready to win a ring and hang a banner. Let’s take the Marlies guys! Eight more wins and you hang your championship banner. Eight more wins and you get sized for a big ole’ ring. Eight more wins and you’ll have something to remember and cherish when your career is over.

Wolves win West Div game 7; 4-1 victory, on to Marlies

The Chicago Wolves defeated the Rockford IceHogs in game seven of the Western Division Finals of the Calder Cup Tournament 4-1, Tuesday at the Allstate Arena. The Wolves are scheduled to meet the North Division top seed and champion, the Toronto Marlies, Friday.

On-Ice play was lightly officiated, with only five total penalties given in the game. The IceHogs outshot the Wolves throughout the game. It appeared as though the Hogs were playing desperate hockey, with lots of shots on goal, whenever they had the opportunity. The Wolves, on the other hand, were using cross-ice passing, even when they had shots, to force Chicago Blackhawk goalie prospect Corey Crawford to move side to side.

Two of the Wolves goals were on the power play. Joe Motzko had three shots on Crawford in the first period and two assists in the game. The official game sheet only credits Motzko with one shot on goal. The potential shutout was broken by Kris Versteeg in the mid-third period. Crawford was pulled with about three minutes remaining. However, after Colin Stuart scored an empty net goal with about 90 seconds remaining, he returned to the net for the remainder of the game.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Wolves win 4-3 in Rockford; Series final goes to Chicago on Tuesday

Rockford, Ill-- Four power play goals in the second period were enough to lift the Chicago Wolves to a 4-3 win over the Rockford IceHogs in American Hockey League West Division finals for the AHL championship tonight at the MetroCentre.

After starting a lackluster first frame, shooting just five shots on goal for the period, the Wolves took advantage of a five minute high sticking penalty against Jerraime Domish, called when Domish hit Joe Motzko in the eye, to score two goals. Jason Krog scored two of the power play goals and an assist, with Joel Kwiatkowski scoring a goal and two points. Darren Haydar also had two points. The fourth goal was scored by Nathan Oystrick.

Ondrej Pavelec turned aside 31 shots and was able to stop a 5:3 Rockford power play advantage for the win. Corey Crawford, the Chicago Blackhawk prospect who has had an exciting post-season, turned aside 22 shots for the loss.

Petri Kontiola had a pair of goals and an assist. The third Rockford goal was scored by Kris Versteeg, who also had a point. Martin St. Pierre had two assists on the night.

The win ties the best of seven series; it goes back to the Allstate Arena on Tuesday for a game seven final match-up. The win puts Chicago in a favorable position, the Rockford team has had only one win in the Allstate this season, last week during the post-season. The frustration on the Rockford team with not being able to finish the Wolves was obvious on the game sheet, as the coach, Mike Haviland, let loose on the on-ice referee after the game and Crawford nearly broke his stick in frustration on his way to the lockers.

Haviland told a press conference after the game that a lack of discipline and particularly the 5:3 advantage allowed the Wolves to take possession of the second period. They were able to hold the Hogs back enough in the third frame for the win, he said.

Happy Mother's Day

It was Mother’s Day in Rockford and at least one fan, a mother I presume due to her sex, was celebrating by taking a drug holiday. Oh never mind, it’s just that the name of the blog was invented years ago in Toledo during a Mother’s Day game when another lucky fan went out and had a drug holiday.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

AHL top seed out.

Friday saw the elimination of the Providence Bruins from the American Hockey League finals by the Portland Pirates. The Bruins had 117 points in the regular season, winning the regular season championship.

Wolves close to elimination; Hogs win 5-1

The Rockford IceHogs put the Chicago Wolves back to the wall with a big win at the Allstate Arena Friday. The 5-1 win was the first by the IceHogs at the Allstate and puts the team one win away from winning the Western Division championship.

Ondrej Pavelec, while brilliant, was beaten in the second period by a stolen puck that was poked past him in the corner and another turnover on the left circle that was passed to an unprotected right side.

Corey Crawford, meanwhile, had an outstanding night, stopping 40 of 41 shots on goal. In an attempt to beat the Chicago Blackhawks prospect, Wolves coach John Anderson played with the lines in the Friday night game, moving Brett Sterling to play with Steve Martins and Brian Little to play with Jason Krog and Darren Haydar. However, when that didn’t work, the original lines returned in the third period.

But nothing seemed to be able to penetrate Crawford until late in the second period when Krog finally hammered one home. Martin St. Pierre scored two points and Troy Brouwer two goals in the win. The Wolves must win each of the two remaining games to move on. The two teams play again Sunday afternoon in the Rockford MetroCentre.

Journal Star: Rivermen sold to Blues

The Peoria Journal Star reports that a co-owner of the Peoria Rivermen predicts the sale of the team to the owner of the St. Louis Blues will be announced within two weeks. “We have reached a verbal agreement,” Bruce Saurs told the Journal Star.

“There’s no doubt they intend to keep it in Peoria for a long time to come,” Saurs is reported as saying. The Journal Star says the offer was about $3.5 million, including the share owned by Anne Griffith. The Rivermen have an agreement to stay in Peoria’s Civic Center through the 2009-10 campaign with five year option to continue. Saurs, 81, is to remain in Peoria for the Blues fronting the organization.

The story, by Dave Eminian, says the process picked up speed when the Anaheim Ducks made an offer to purchase the team in March. However, Anaheim would have moved the team, according to Eminian.

Schlegal Sports: Iowa to remain AHL outlet

Schlegel Sports Inc. said the Des Moines area will soon have a new NHL affiliation, "There is going to be AHL hockey here next year and for a long time to come," Kirby Schlegel said.

The Des Moines Register said speculation on the affiliation centers on the Portland Pirates, affiliate of the Annaheim Ducks. The Ducks had been affiliated with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks several seasons ago. The Pirates are 3-1 in the Atlantic Division finals of the Calder Cup. An announcement by that club is not likely until the conclusion of the club's American Hockey League season.

The Iowa Stars team was affiliated with the Dallas Stars. Dallas announced, earlier this season, that it would be affiliating with a Texas city in the future.

Waddell asked to step aside: ESPN

Blogs from Kukala’s Korner to Hockey Ape are reporting that Don Waddell either asked to step down or was asked to step aside, but still in management, at the Atlanta Thrashers. Kukala’s quotes Scott Burnside of ESPN: “GM Don Waddell has been asked by the Atlanta Thrashers to give up his duties and accept another management position.”

The assumption, according to ESPN, is that if the doesn’t accept the new position, he will leave the Atlanta Spirit.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Falconer takes on the AJC

The Falconer writes an Atlanta Thrashers blog, “Do the Thrashers Have Large Talons?” The Craig Custance article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution has stirred the pot, among Wolves fans and Thrashers fans, insinuating the alliance between Chicago Wolves and the Atlanta Thrashers is flawed.

The Falconer did extensive research on the development of American Hockey League players to the NHL since the Wolves first affiliated with the Thrashers. It is a damning indictment of the care that we believe professional journalist should have in preparing a story. “It seems clear to me that if you look at the entire time period of the Thrashers-Wolves affiliation that the Wolves have produced players who made the NHL. But the majority of those NHL players are on someone else's roster. Is that the Wolves fault?,” he writes.

It seems clear to me that if you look at the entire time period of the Thrashers-Wolves affiliation that the Wolves have produced players who made the NHL. But the majority of those NHL players are on someone else's roster. Is that the Wolves fault?

Physical Crunch threaten upset win in North Div.

Zenon Konopka led the Syracuse Crunch to a key 5-4 OT come-from-behind win over the Toronto Marlies Wednesday. Konopka scored a goal and three assists in the game. His over time pass to Joakim Lindstrom was responsible for the game-winning goal. The Crunch now threatens to send the Marlies home for the year with a win in any game in the American Hockey league North Division Finals series.

Konopka is ranked 11th among league scorers in the post-season. Ranked fourth among players with penalty minutes, the scorer has two Crunch line-up ahead of him among players with penalty minutes: Derek Dorsett, who was suspended for a widely reported instigator incident in a game earlier this week, and Tom Sestito.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

AJC: still stirring the pot

The Atlanta Journal Constitution continues to stir the pot, saying the Atlanta Thrashers/ Chicago Wolves alliance was fatally flawed in a Craig Custance article, and now in a blog entry by Jeff Shultz, who follows the Atlanta Hawks. Both the Hawks and the Thrashers are owned by the Atlanta Spirit.

“It's difficult to make a convincing argument after you introduce yourself to the public as "an all-star team of owners, but then you can't stop suing each other,” Schultz says in Hawksquawk here.

“Waddell's latest bit of amusing scrambling came in Craig Custance's examination of the dysfunctional relationship between the Thrashers and their affiliate, the AHL's Chicago Wolves. At one point, Waddell suggested the Thrashers were in an advantageous position over the Detroit Red Wings because Atlanta's prospects were in the AHL playoffs and the Wings' prospects weren't. The problem: The Thrashers' prospects are in the playoffs every year and it doesn't seem to make a difference in the Thrashers' season. The Red Wings? They win Stanley Cups,” the blog says.

Hawks tix to be more of a bite.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Blackhawks are planning to raise prices significantly next season. According to the story, the average increase will be 16 percent, but some prices will increase 85 percent. The lowest priced tickets, $10 for a season ticket holder, will increase 50 percent, according to the story.

The highest priced ticket, a $275 day of game ticket, will increase to $285. Eric Rabbers, described as a season ticket holder in the 300 (nose bleed) level was quoted as empathizing with the move: “especially in my section, the prices we were paying were pretty cheap.”

Yeah, for that money, maybe they could actually put together a team that could make the playoffs. Duh!

Rockford, Chicago tied at two in series after 3-2 Hogs win

Rockford, IL—Behind by two goals, the Chicago Wolves were gaining momentum in the closing minutes of the second period when a turnover led to a goal with a minute on the clock, reversing their momentum. The goal by Troy Brouwer, his second of the game, allowed the Hogs to hang on to win, tying the Western Division finals of the AHL championship series at two each.

The series, which was marked by physical play throughout, got off immediately to a bang with powerful checks into the boards. The glass swaying to the impacts, a Rockford fan chortled, “we never finish our checks, what’s gotten into them?”

But it was also a disciplined game, marked by 13 power plays that may have led to the Rockford win. Taking away the opportunity for Chicago to put its powerful special teams unit on the ice was more of a factor than the side-to-side high side shots predicted in a Rockford Register Star article.

The series now moves to the Allstate Arena for a Friday game. The Hogs have never won a game at the Allstate, including in this playoff series. Two of the remaining games are played at the Allstate. So, for the Hogs to move on, they must win one in Rosemont.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Weaknesses in playoff goalies: topside

Look for more work on making Ondrej Pavelec going side-to-side in coming Rockford IceHogs games. In an interview in the Rockford Register Star Martin St. Pierre said the IceHogs had seen a weakness in Pavelec’s side-to-side movement. He also said Pavelec tends to do down quickly so that the Hogs will be shooting more upstairs in coming games.

A Wolves source said the Wolves had seen four of their goals in the first two games were topside and he predicted more shots by the team on Corey Crawford above the pads.

Dan Kelly shown exit by BHawks; Foley to return: Tribune

Chicago Blackhawks television play-by-play man Dan Kelly has been shown the door, according to reports in the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. The Sun-Times story quoted Chicago Wolves owner Don Levin as urging the Blackhawks to take Foley. The Tribune story said the deal was already done, according to sources it didn’t name.

Foley is currently the television announced for the Wolves. According to the Sun-Times, his contract expires at the end of the Wolves playoff run.

Kris Versteeg interviewed in McKeen's

McKeen’s Hockey Prospects interviewed the leading playoff scorer for the IceHogs, published here. Here’s a small sample of the great interview:

McKeen's: Down here in the AHL, are there any particular things that Chicago wants you to improve upon so that you can stick there full time?

Versteeg: When I'm down here, sometimes I try to do too much with the puck. I have "Havvy" (head coach Mike Haviland) and those guys on the bench, usually re-assuring me, but I do need to get better at moving the puck and probably using my line mates a bit more. I think it comes with trying to do too much and trying to help the team too much and do more than you actually can do.

Brouwer to appear in chat room

Chicago Blackhawks prospect Troy Brouwer, will be joining the AHL.com chat room on Thursday night for questions from fans. The former Moose Jaw Warrior is currently playing in the American Hockey League West Division finals against the Chicago Wolves.

The winger has a goal and four points in the playoffs, after eight games. In the past two seasons he’s played 12 games with the Blackhawks, gaining just a point. Brouwer was the leading scorer for the Hawks’ affiliates, scoring 35 goals this season, 25 of which were on the power play.

Questions are vetted. They can be e-mailed to info@theahl.com. For more information go to the IceHogs web site.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Hogs v Wolves

Geoffrey Clark, who says he is a Wolves fan, discusses the passion for the Chicago Wolves v. Rockford IceHogs match-up at the Bleacher Report: “It is a battle between a Chicago team and a Chicago affiliate. The IceHogs are affiliated with the Blackhawks, so an area- hockey fan that knows little to nothing about the Wolves might root for the team from Rockford. Of course, those who love to see winning hockey or those who have been long fed up with Bill Wirtz’s mismanagement of the Hawks when he was alive will most certainly root for the Wolves.”

Josh Unice update

JT, who follows the Montreal Canadiens, has been in a funk and decided to look at the up and coming prospects for the Habs in the Ontario Hockey League. He had the opportunity to watch Chicago Blackhawks goalie prospect Josh Unice. His comments on Carey Price and the development status of Unice are to the point: “Kitchener's Josh Unice was a third-round selection of the Chicago Blackhawks last year, but he still looks like it'd be a big jump for him to play AHL-calibre hockey next season.

“Carey Price was playing where these guys are playing last year. He has gone from the world of the Unices and Van Buskirks, past the world of the Pogges, Berniers and Rasks, to the realm of the Brodeurs and Luongos in one season. When you consider his stats in the NHL, behind a defence that ranged from brilliant to porous on any given night, and realize that his 2.56 GAA was nineteenth in the league, and his 0.920 SV% ranked him seventh, it starts to sink in. He's not only playing with the big boys, while his highly-touted contemporaries are still playing junior or American League Hockey, but he's competing with the big boys too."

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Talking Trash

The blog has had some of its best times at the MetroCentre and following the Rockford IceHogs. The only thing better than a series championship series with the Hogs versus the Wolves would be a conference championship. And that could have happened this year.

For the Wolves, this is really a blessing. No disrespect to the players, but the Wolves were cruising from about March 1st to the end of the season. A series against the Milwaukee Admirals and a series against the Rockford IceHogs is just what this team needs to get ready for a final showdown for the Calder Cup.

Not that I wouldn’t love to see the IceHogs go on to the Calder too.

There are people out there, and I’m thinking of you Bob Howard, who don’t seem to be giving the West Division a chance in the Calder Cup race. Syracuse, Portland and Providence is the mantra. No one said it was going to be easy to win the Calder. But for every great goalie and team in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Division, there has been one in the West.

I truly thought the promising career of Pekka Rinne was finished when he was mugged while home over the summer in Oulu, Finland. He looked so shaky on his return last season. Nashville seemed to give up on him, relegating him to the AHL for the rest of his career.

I don’t think that is true any longer. I’ve seen the Nashville goalies up close, and Rinne should be able to take their spot next season, if there is fairness in the heavens. Though John Anderson will tell you that there is no fairness, especially in the heaven dominated by hockey.

Rinne kept the MAds in the series against Chicago far longer than the rest of the team deserved. His play was top form.

Now, in round two, the Wolves face Corey Crawford. As I mentioned in the blog before, I was blessed to have tickets the night Corey played at the United Center against the Anaheim Ducks. He shut them down. In the three games so far, no one can doubt his ability to stop pucks.

This is a tougher series than against the MAds too, because the IceHogs are simply a better team then the MAds. They have been all season. Either the Hogs or the Wolves should be able to handle the Crunch or the Marlies and move on to the finals.

Will the next series be easy for either team? Of course not. Even 4-1 series wins, at this level, are hard-played white knuckle contests. The small-ice Hogs are a physical team and would match up well against the Crunch, while pitting Toronto against Chicago would be an exciting big city battle of two places with original six teams that have disappointed their fans recently.

Zenon Konopka’s reputation is preceding him to the Midwest. We could start the trash talk now, but let’s see if the Crunch has more staying power than Al, the ice monkey, and his political run for mayor. Let’s see them defeat the Marlies first.

By the way, Al is the best thing about Syracuse. It is one of the few places in the AHL I’ve visited where none of the home fans approached us, where I felt the stadium deserved a bull dozer and the city to be forcibly repatriated to either the Iroquois or, if they wouldn’t take them, Great Britain.

Wolves win Saturday 7-3; Hogs win Sunday 3-1

Rockford, Ill—The Rockford IceHogs dominated the Chicago Wolves in the second period here this afternoon to take back the momentum in the Western Division finals of the Calder Cup race, winning 3-1. The Wolves, who have a 28-5-2 regular season record versus opponents when they out shoot them, out shot the Hogs 11-7 in the first period and looked primed to take a nearly insurmountable 3-0 lead in the best of seven series.

But the Hogs came out in a second period of disciplined hockey, outshooting the Wolves 21-7 in the period. A rebound by Kris Versteeg put the Hogs ahead, and a power play goal late in the period by Derek Nesbitt put insurance on that goal.

It was only the second power play goal by Rockford in the post-season, both occurring against the Wolves. A drought in special teams scoring, which had been one-sided was broken Saturday at the Allstate Arena when Petri Kontiola put one by Ondrej Pavelec in the 7-3 Wolves victory.

The Wolves struggled to put a goal on the board throughout the game, putting 28 shots on Blackhawks prospect Corey Crawford, finally scoring with 1.16 remaining on the clock. The regular season play between the two teams saw a decided home ice advantage, with the Wolves taking just one of the five games played in the MetroCentre and the Hogs being shutdown at the Allstate Arena. Game three, on Wednesday, is played at the MetroCentre again, with a 1-1-1 format following that game.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Welcome back to the 2nd season

A month is a long time to take off from a blog. It is a horrible thing to do to it, as readers begin to find it of interest, and then I disappear. I missed the closing days of the American Hockey League season, including the race by the teams in the Western Division for the final playoff spots in the West and North Divisions.

The Chicago Blackhawks prospect Akim Aliu joined the Rockford IceHogs and Angelo Esposito, the recently acquired Atlanta Thrashers prospect, joined the Chicago Wolves.

Both Chicago and Rockford survived their first playoff series to come together on ice to determine the Western Division contender for the Calder Cup.

I’ve been following these two teams for years and I’m pumped. I expect the winner of this series to take the North Division winner and advance. It would be foolish to predict the final winner of the Calder Cup, but what the hey… it will be the winner of this series.

The IceHogs play on a small ice surface in a building I expect to be humming Sunday. Their fans are homers and are loud and obnoxious and I love going to their games. They are wonderful people in a wonderful facility with a new team and a championship season last year. It is exciting in a way that hums through the blood and percolates out of the pores. I’ll be proud to cheer for the IceHogs into the Calder Cup finals.

But my first love is the Chicago Wolves. We’re the big city guys, sitting under the flight path of one of the world’s busiest airports. We rarely fill our arena of 16,000 plus seats, but we can match our lungs against anyone. This could be the best team the Wolves have ever iced. Ondrej Pavelec handles the puck with confidence and authority. His rebounds are almost always well directed. Looking back, he was seconds away from a shutout numerous times this season. Was it his confidence or the defence relaxing in the final minutes of play that allowed these marks of excellence to escape his record?

He is well defended with a strong line of men. I don’t think Atlanta has been able to recognize strong blue liners, let alone develop them (think about the mismanagement of Braydon Coburn). Next season Boris Valabik, Nathan Oystrick and Joel Kwiatkowski could all potentially play on an NHL blue line. Coming up, close behind in skill, Brian Fahey, Scott Lehman. Further back Chad Denny , Grant Lewis, prospect Arturs Kulda and Wolves signee Brian Sipotz.

I cannot remember a year before, where the blue line is so good.

And finally, the key to our wins, we have some of the top scorers in the league. There was a nice write-up about Jason Krog in the Hockey News last week. He is one of two players I believe are the keys to the Wolves going all the way. The other, Steve Martins.

I watch these two men on the ice and see them play with great heart. There are others on the team who no one should ignore, Brett Sterling and Darren Haydar in particular. But I sense these two men want a ring. They want a cup. They want their name put on hockey history. A Stanley Cup or an Olympic medal would be great. But they are settling for a Calder Cup.

For the IceHogs, what can I say? There is another NHL goaltender on the ice, Corey Crawford. I had the pleasure of seeing him shutout the defending NHL champions at the United Center this year. It is a joy to put him among the pantheon of great goaltenders of this generation that I’ve seen cheering for the Wolves. He’ll do the Indian proud.

Like the Wolves, the front line of the Hogs has some small skilled players. I wish there was a place for these guys in the NHL. Martin St. Pierre, Jim Fahey and Jack Skille. I’m not as accustomed to the Hogs players as the Wolves players. They play hard. They are a hard physical team that finishes its checks and doesn’t mind mixing it up on the ice. I compare Wade Flaherty to Crash Davis in his working with the younger goal keepers.

But, I don’t think this is their year.