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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.

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