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Friday, April 24, 2009

Posts are actually being made, but elsewhere...

Whoops, my bad. I need to remember to cross file my blogs. The best way to follow me and the rest of the writing team is here: http://www.chitowndailynews.org/section/chicago_hockey_blog/feed

Move over STHs

Starting a few months ago I began to hear about Wolves Season Ticket Holders being asked to move. Some of these season ticket holders had an empty seat next to them, a single seat, and it was difficult for the team to sell that seat.

I began to hear the story more and more as the season ended. Apparently there is a move in the Wolves management to get these seats and make them available. But there was a nagging feeling in my head. When you keep hearing the same story, time after time, you think maybe it's an urban myth.

Apparently it isn't. After posting a query on Wolfkeeper several season ticket holders confirmed versions of the story. They said basically, it happened to me. That's a lot better than saying "it happened to my friend."

Now that I know it is true, I think management of the team has to be aware of this. Why isn't it making an offer to the upset season ticket holders. The team has a lot of soft services it can offer people, such as a visit from the team mascot.

The issue is further clouded as something happened between this management team and the Wolfpack , the team fan club. No one is discussing it. Obviously people who know something are very upset.

Looking into the future, at the issue of relations between fans and the team, I note that there are still people who insist on saying this team is a class operation. I've always felt, hey, they are a service company in BUSINESS for profit. The Wolves have done a good job with their service, but it is still a service business.

Thinking of all this, there appear to be cracks in the goodwill, built since the team was founded. With more and more control flowing to customers, management better pay attention.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New Trier Men/ Women take Blackhawk Cup

New Trier High School of Northfield, Ill., won the 2009 Blackhawk Cup tournament in both the Men's and the Women's division in play tonight at the United Center. Playing against New Trier in both games was Loyola Academy of Wilmette, Ill.

The New Trier women, led by by Goalie Elizabeth Hitchcock, shut down the Rambler offense, stopping 19 shots on goal, ending with a 4-0 score. Rambler attacks failed against Hitchcock as she snagged pucks and deftly redirected them to a visibly better Trevian defense.

Rambler Goalie Kathryn O'Grady was left hanging in her pipes as the better organized Trevian offense swept aside the Rambler blue liners. In a season that saw only 36 goals scored, the only other tournament or conference losses of the Ramblers was to the Trevians. In two of the three games played between the two clubs, the Ramblers went down, most recently on December 26.

It's difficult to accept that even today, women play a role of looking in from the outside for sports. However the non-school Trevian team saw it, with the crowd showing up late to cheer for the men's team and the Women's stats not fully functional on-line. Mackenzie Martin, who had two points, was chosen as the game MVP, although my personal favorite was the play of Caroline Campbell. Campbell had a goal in the game, but played with great heart.

Stephanie Dubin scored two goals, one a power play goal at the end of the second period. And, Hannah Merens scored a goal for the Trevians. Two assists were scored by Claire Santostefano with another assist notched by Erin Cook. The Trevians were one for four on the power play.

The Loyola Ramblers went zero for two on the power play. Ogrady stopped 20 shots on goal for the loss.

The men's final game was an exciting and more physical game which saw the two teams battle across the ice surface. A first frame Rambler power play goal by Sean Cleary started the scoring. It was answered 7:26 later in the frame with a pair of power play Trevian goals, just 46 seconds apart. The Ramblers threatened the lead, but it was the Trevians, who hung on in the physical action, to put another point up at 10:34. Fabrice Chavannes, the Rambler goalie protested the goal noting that he wasn't able to move freely, being interfered after his rebound save when he was crashed in the net by a New Trier player.

With about two minutes remaining in the game and the score 3-1, the Trevians began congratulating themselves and a hot dog style of play emerged on the ice, with players “taking turns” with runs on the Rambler goal. The Ramblers were able to seize the over-confidence of the New Trier team, as there was a loss of discipline resulting in a penalty against New Trier. With a final power play 6:4 advantage the Ramblers scored the final goal with 1:20 remaining in the game. With an empty net behind them, the Ramblers continued to attack the Trevians. A no-touch icing put the puck back in play on the Trevians' side after the Trevians cleared it at one point in the final two minutes, for the Trevians it was a long two minutes of play to win 3-2.

Chavannnes stopped 17 shots on goal for the loss. New Trier goalie Gregory Ogard stopped 26 shots on goal for the win. New Trier went two for three on the power play, while the Ramblers went two for four. Alex Wetzel and Al Santostefano had two assists each for the Trevians. The other Rambler goal was by Jack Pegler. Rambler assists were credited to Francis Altman and Daniel Keefe.

New Trier goals were credited to Max Talbot, Michael Vail and Alexander Truglio. The other assist was credited to Nicholas Mcmanus.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Tibbetts update

Billy Tibbetts is the most popular single item on this blog. I wrote more extensively about him during his time as a Chicago Wolves and also a Rockford IceHogs player, but have taken a break.

Even though there hasn't been a post about him in months, searches on Google continue to point to this blog.

An anonymous poster noted that he had moved on from Brendan Tedstone's team, the Danbury Mad Hatter's (Eastern Professional Hockey League, class A) to the Huntsville Havoc of the Southern Professional Hockey League, class AA, low).

Thank you anonymous one for alerting me to this. I want to call attention to his move to people who would otherwise need to search for your comment. The wonders of the internet and the self-correcting nature of blogs. You gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wolves split weekend games

The Chicago Wolves split their games this weekend, with a road win Saturday at the Carver Center in Peoria and a road loss at the Toyota Center in Houston.

In the win over the Peoria Rivermen, Spencer Machacek had a three point night, including a power play goal, with eight shots on goal. Chicago stopped a Riverman 5:3 advantage for a minute in the second frame and led in shots on goal in each period of play to win the game 4-1. The win went to Robert Gherson with 20 saves, Manny Legace received the loss with 31 saves.

On Sunday afternoon, in Houston, Machacek had a two goal night and Mike Hamilton had five shots on goal. But Houston dominated the first tow periods of play, racking a 3-1 goal advantage. Going into the final period of play, the Wolves scored once on 16 shots on goal. But the Aeros, with just five shots on goal, scored again, to stay ahead.

Corey Locke of the Aeros was credited with a goal and an assist in the game. Kurtis Foster was credited with two points. Ondrej Pavelec received the loss with 29 saves. Barry Brust received the win with 30 saves.

It was a split decision weekend for the Rockford IceHogs also. They played both games at home.

In a Saturday night game at the MetroCentre, the Rochester Americans gave the Hogs a 4-3 win. The Amerks and the IceHogs are both near the bottom of the league with regard to their net special teams goals, from the table I'm presenting at the Chitowndailynews site (Blogger doesn't like tables):

Rockford gave the Amerks two 5:3 opportunities in this game, and the Amerks were unable to score on either. The Amerks dominated in shots on goal until the third period of play, but it was the Hogs who found the back of the net. Mike Brodeur started in net for the Americans, he was drilled out of the net at 1:38 in the second period on the third unanswered goal by the IceHogs. His nine saves were marked for the loss. Tyler Plante took over from there for the Rochester team, with 17 saves. The win went to Corey Crawford with 33 saves.

It seems odd to me that a team floundering in the offense would blame their loss on a goalie, as the Amerks implicitly did on Saturday when they replaced Brodeur. Clearly there is more going wrong, from shots on goal (defense) to a terrible offense. That's all clear in the table above. A goalie isn't going to stand a chance if no one is standing out front with him, throwing their body in front of shots.

Danny Groulx was credited with two points on the night. Pascal Pelletier had six shots on goal, but no points and Jack Skille had five shots on goal but no points.

In the Monday matinée game, the San Antonio Rampage took the IceHogs 4-3 in a hard fought battle. Two fights between bruisers Sean McMorrow and Francis Lessard marked the game. San Antonio took a 3-0 lead in the first frame with two goals by Kyle Turris and a goal by Dylan Reese.

The Hogs came back with a goal by Groulx. But it was answered by Kevin Porter in the early third frame. Rockford pressured the Rampage, putting 13 shots on net in the final 20 minutes, and scoring two goals in the process. But the Rampage were able to hold the Hogs scoreless for the final eleven minutes to win. Crawford was credited with 20 saves in the loss. Josh Tordjman, the game winner, was credited with 27 saves.

Skille racked up seven shots on goal, but came away pointless again. Tim Brent had a three point night with two goals and an assist. Petri Kontiola had two points. Turris had three points for the night, adding an assist to his first period blowout. Porter and Reese had two point nights with a goal and an assist each. David Spina also had a two points for the night.

There were a few other notes from around the league this weekend. Houston went 4/4 on the power play in a game against the Iowa Chops Saturday at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Matt Beaudoin had a hat trick in the game, with four shots on goal.

But even more spectacular was the weekend of Tim Kennedy. He was named the player of the week for his performance. On Saturday, in a wild game between the Providence Bruins and the Portland Pirates, the Baby Bruins accumulated a 4-2 lead at the end of the second period in a game at the Portland County Civic Center of Portland, Maine. The Pirates tied it up with three goals in the period, the last goal with just 1:10 to go. At that point Kennedy, on the Pirates side, had a point in each of the third period goals, a total of four points in the game based on seven shots on goal. AND, on the Baby Bruin side Mikko Lehtonen also had a four point night that included a hat trick with six shots on goal.

Portland was able to go 3/7 on the power play, that and Kennedy brought them back into the game. During the over time, Brad Marchand was called for boarding. The notes for the game say it was a two minute penalty, but most of these penalties are actually a minute in O/T. Portland was unable to use the resulting 4:3 to gain a goal. For Portland 39 shots on goal, for Providence, 35 shots on goal and a tied game after OT of 5-5.

So, the shootout; Portland shoots first and after the first set of skaters, no goals yet. Kennedy gets up and fails to score. But Lehtonen, after his hat trick, does score. After another score by Mark Mancari for the Pirates and Wacey Rabbit for the Bruins, it is a P-Bruins win.

On Sunday, the Pirates traveled to the Paul E Tsongas Arena to battle the Lowell Devils. It turns into another high scoring battle between the two teams. Portland enters the third frame with a 4-3 lead. Lowell has remained in the game on the strength of two power play goals. Although the Pirates had a series of power plays for the first ten minutes or so of the second period, they only came away with a single power play goal.

Lowell tied the game with a power play goal at 12:47 of the third period. Kennedy comes back with the Pirates to get a hat trick and put Portland back into the lead 1:06 later. But Lowell doesn't give up. They pull the goalie and Portland scores again on the empty net with a minute left. Now the lead is 6-4, Portland. Lowell still doesn't give up, scoring twice in the final minute of play to tie the game.

In total Lowell went 4/6 on the power play. Including the OT period, Jeff Frazee stopped 35 shots on goal for the Devils, John DeCaro stopped 44 for the Pirates. OT is scoreless but is dominated by the Pirates. Once again Kennedy isn't able to add to his stats a shootout goal, but the Pirates did win.

In total, among these two games, Kennedy had seven points and 15 shots on goal. In the second game with Lowell, not including Kennedy, there were five players credited with a three point night. Woah Baby!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Niemi to Blackhawks; Rivermen defeat Hogs 3-1

In Rockford, the Peoria Rivermen pulled out a 3-1 win over the Rockford IceHogs. With goalie Antti Niemi called up to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Hogs had Joe Fallon backing Corey Crawford in the pipes. Fallon, up from the Gwinnett Gladiators, has a 91 percent save percentage after ten games with the Glads.

Niemi, like Crawford when he was called up this season, isn't expected to see a lot of ice time with the Blackhawks. I'm a bit surprised that Niemi was called up, as watching the games, I see Crawford as having a better shot at the National Hockey League. However, I have no better insight than what I've previously shared about Niemi and Crawford.

Having said that, the loss at the MetroCentre demonstrates how top teams sometimes have trouble with lower ranked teams in their division. The same is generally true of the Hogs when they play the MAds or the Wolves when they play the MAds. The Rivermen cause more trouble for the IceHogs than you'd generally expect. In this game they took a lead in the first frame and held on. Early in the second period the Rivermen's Cam Paddock even gave the Hogs a double minor power play opportunity for attempted spearing (bad!). Even though the Hogs out shot the Rivermen 18-9 in the final period of play, it was the Peoria team that took the win, withstanding the Hogs attack.

Tim Brent put seven shots on net for the Hogs, scoring the only goal of the team. Crawford stopped 28 shots on goal for the loss, Manny Legace was in net for the Rivermen, stopping 33 shots on goal. Trent Whitfield had a three point night, Steve Regier had a two point night. Regier notched five shots on goal.

Wolves win in Milwaukee shoot out

The Chicago Wolves won a shootout in the Bradley Center Friday. It was only the seventh win this season for a visiting squad at the Bradley Center, out of 25 games so far. The Wolves win was also the third shoot out win for the visitors at the Bradley Center. There have been only five shoot outs at the BC this season.

The rare visitor win, the second win of the three Wolves visits so far this season, was the culmination of two goalies holding the two teams scoreless for fifty minutes. A third period Milwaukee Admiral goal by Andreas Thuresson at 10:05 broke the scoreless game open. It was followed by goals by Spencer Machacek and Jeff Hamilton of the Wolves. With three minutes and ten seconds remaining, the Wolves were looking toward a regulation win, if they could hold on. However, a hooking call on Machacek with two minutes and six seconds remaining gave Milwaukee the advantage.

On the power play and with only 53 seconds on the clock Jed Ortmeyer was able to find the way past Ondrej Pavelec to tie the game. In the overtime, the goalies again held the two teams scoreless. Pavelec's win included stopping 23 shots on goal, while MacIntyre was credited with 29 saves. Mac's performance is even more remarkable given he was able to fend off the only 5:3 power play of the game early in the third period. Cody Franson of the MAds was credited with two points. Thuresson was credited with five shots on goal.

Going past regulation evens the field for any team that visits Milwaukee. It might be that the MAds run out of gas after 60 minutes. But whatever the case, home and away, the team doesn't do as well once you get past the hour mark.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Krazy Karl returns to the Allstate; Wolves lose 4-3

When the last place team comes to town, you sort of expect nothing much to happen. So, maybe we can excuse the Chicago Wolves fans if they skipped the 4-3 loss to the last place Rochester Americans tonight at the Allstate Arena. The Amerks are beyond dreadful. They just suck. Probably less than 2,000 people showed up to see them play.

But, this was a great game to watch. The Amerks are a hard hitting team that likes to finish their checks. This was a concussive experience of a game, with great checks into the boards and on the open ice too.

Tyler Plante opened the game in the pipes for the Americans. He was joined by a Blackhawk/ Wolves alum, Karl Stewart. The Stewart I remember from the lockout year was a guy who loved to cause trouble. There was this one time I recall the whistle was blown, the guys were headed up ice and Stewart skates behind the opposition goal, grabs the opposing goalies' water bottle and takes a long chug. You, know, long enough to make sure the other guys notice what you just did?

He was that type of guy. And his short handed goal attempts were always memorable. The man had wheels.

So, it was nice to see him on the ice tonight. He started the game by showing his fans in Chicago that he still finishes his checks. It was that spirit that led him to play for a short few games for the Blackhawks. Can we get a picture of the girl in the stands asking him to marry her?

Ding, ding and ding. It was also a night when the puck was dinging the Amerks. I mean they may need to replace those pipes there are so many dings and dents in it. Plante didn't do so well in the first period. With five shots on goal, the Wolves scored twice. So, in the second period, the Amerks used Mike Brodeur.

Regular readers and the few that read from Rockford, will recognize Brodeur's name, he was a member of the 2007-8 IceHogs and a prospect for the Blackhawks. His glow was amazing. Now personally, I would have taken one of the stars of the game from Jeff Hamilton of the Wolves and given it to Jamie Rivers of the Wolves for the defense in the second period of play. But there is no doubt that Brodeur had that glow that you sometimes see in a goalie's eyes when they are in the zone and they know it too.

Number one star of the game and deserving of it.

There were 17 shots on goal, more than half the total for the Wolves in the entire game, during the third frame. This guy was a wall. Glove saves, kick saves, stick saves, pad saves, knocking it from the air. My god, his arms and legs were everywhere and it seemed that his chest stopped so many pucks that it has to be black and blue.

At one point in the second period, there was a defensive turnover by the Amerks. It occurred almost in the crease. It was just a screwup caused by pressure. Riley Holzapfel was right there, he had the puck and he shot and hammered and nothing. Brodeur stopped him. It was a point blank moment of first we have control and then Holzapfel is beating on Brodeur's pads with the puck. That stuff happened all night to Brodeur. His win, stopping 24 shots and letting one in, was remarkable.

Now, I said take the star from Jeff Hamilton. But, he had a great night too. Three points, including two goals. The Amerks' Janis Sprurkts had two goals, while the Amerks' Michal Repik and the Wolves Brett Skinner had two points each.

Finally, the loss went to Ondrej Pavelec. He stopped 19 shots. I'm beginning to suspect that riding Pavelec like a horse is poor coaching. This guy needs a lot of rest, and is still not back from his injury earlier in the season.

This is the first time I've really noted poor on-ice officiating. Zac Wiebe missed some calls, and yes, at least one was on the Wolves. His misses led to a fight between Joey Crabb and Michael Duco, Duco having to tell Crabb to knock off the BS with the goalie. It should have been Wiebe doing that work instead of the 194 pound Duco. Despite what should have been a call on the Wolves, it was a missed call earlier that probably cost the Wolves an additional power play. Well, first game in about 20? This is much better than previous years in my opinion.

I've been beating on the Amerks as a bad team. Earlier this week I published a stat that they lose about half a goal a game, net, to the power play. And, tonight, there it was, an unanswered power play goal. Around the blog, Jane is an Amerks fan and so is much of her family. You can imagine the back and forth that occurs. But, looking at them play tonight, I wonder what is the real issue with the team? I guess they don't play as a team, have poor defense and don't score. That would do it. But, when they do things right, as they did tonight at the Allstate, that's a good team out there.

It was a nail-biter of a win for the Rockford IceHogs in Peoria tonight. The stats show Antti Niemi shut down the Rivermen with 21 saves. Manny Legace, good, but not enough with 21 saves too, received the loss.

We're at a point in the year when everyone is warmed up. This game looks like it was a great example of defensive play, of hot goalies and everyone having to go down to the last ounce of strength to win. The final, 1-0 for Rockford at the Carver Arena.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Aeros double up on Wolves 6-3

The Houston Aeros doubled up on the Wolves, 6-3, at the Allstate Arena tonight. Backed by former Wolves Jesse Schultz and Kurtis Foster, the Aeros pounded the Wolves and took advantage of their brilliant penalty kill to dominate the game.

Wolves Wing Jeff Hamilton put eight shots on goal and was credited with a goal and an assist in the game. Brett Skinner was credited with two assists. But side to side movement of the puck totally defeated the Wolves defense. Ondrej Pavelec's speed in the side to side saves is not enough, as the Aeros took advantage of whatever is effecting the Atlanta prospect, to put it past him. He had just 20 saves on the night.

The winning goalie, Nolan Schaefer stopped several short handed breakaways and two 5:3 power plays by the Wolves, handily winning the game with 23 saves.

Foster, on a rehabilitation assignment to the Aeros after a well-publicized crash into the boards in March 2008, played a conservative game on the ice Sunday. It was his first appearance of the year. He was key to one of the Houston goals, but was not among those credited with an assist. His presence on the ice was felt, Wolves players gave him a lot of space and he controlled the puck effectively.

The game was officiated by four on-ice officials, an unusual situation in the American Hockey League.

In Milwaukee, Cal O'Reilly of the Milwaukee Admirals scored a hat trick, one of his goals interrupted by a goal by the other team. The MAds won the game 5-4 behind the four point O'Reilly effort and a two goal effort by Hugh Jessiman.

Wolves take down MAds 2-1; Hogs need better special teams, lose 4-1

The Chicago Wolves defeated the division leading Milwaukee Admirals 2-1 Saturday night at the Allstate Arena. In a low-scoring game marked by tripping, hooking, holding and slashing penalties, there was plenty of action in the sin bin and power plays on the ice. But the only goal outside of equal strength was a short handed goal, by Matt Anderson, to start the scoring at 12:56 of the first period.

Anderson, who received two points in the night, was also involved in the second and final Wolves goal, in the second period at 12:04. The MAds answered that, staying within one goal, just 19 seconds later.

Eleven power play opportunities were wasted by the two teams as it became a defensive battle won by Ondrej Pavelec, stopping 23 shots on goal, compared to Drew MacIntyre, who lost, stopping 27 shots on goal.

At the Wells Fargo Arena, the Iowa Chops chewed up the Rockford IceHogs 4-1. The power play continues to haunt the Hogs, who now rank 22nd in the American Hockey League. The team is making just 15.6 percent of power plays. It's penalty kill is 28th in the league, at 79.3 percent. Corey Crawford was the one left to defend the net, stopping 24 shots on goal. He also defended unsuccessfully against a 5:3 power play late in the second period.

The Chops, ninth in the league on the power play, took two power plays goals out of six opportunities during a decisive second period. The Hogs are giving up more than 4.8 power play opportunities per game currently. Or, on average, they are giving up .79 goals due to lack of discipline each game. That's a broad statement of the problem. It would be impossible to totally rid a team of penalties. Still, here is a look at the league stats for this issue. After we net out the gains from power play goals, the Hogs are near the bottom of the league. They are losing .25 goals on average per game due to the combination of failed power plays, failed penalty kills and time in the box.

They need to turn this around to be competitive in the post-season.

(The table is reprinted here: http://www.chitowndailynews.org/chicago_hockey_blog/Wolves_go_down_63_Hogs_downed_41,22288)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Wolves go down 6-3; Hogs Power PP fails in 4-1 loss

A disciplined Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Chicago Wolves 6-3 Friday at the Van Andel Arena. With just two power play opportunities and those held scoreless, the Wolves were unable to stop the Griffins from rolling over them.

Darren Haydar, a former captain of the Wolves now with the Griffins, had three assists in the game. He was matched by Griffin Justin Abdelkader. Evan McGrath got an unusual short handed/ empty net goal to end the game. Jordan LaVallee had two goals and six shots on goal for the evening. Chad Denny had the first goal of the game, less than two minutes into play. But it was the last lead for the Wolves that night as the Griffins powered past the Wolves, outscoring them and out shooting them too.

Referee Shaun Davis only called hooking and holding calls Friday, but five were called on the Wolves, just two on the Griffins. The Griffins used their five to take two goals. Daniel Larsson received the win with 25 saves. Ondrej Pavelec received the loss with 34 saves.

The lack of a creditable power play hurt the Rockford IceHogs again on Friday as they lost to the Milwaukee Admirals 4-1. The IceHogs went 0 for 8 on the power play before a MAds team that seemed to delight in abusing their foes, knowing there wouldn't be a response on the scoreboard.

Despite a 5:3 advantage near the end of the first period and a substantial lead for the Hogs in shots on goal for the first two periods, enough to last the entire game, Rockford only snuck one past MAds goalie Drew MacIntyre. The Admirals on the other hand were able to use two of their four power plays to score. Mike Santorelli, Cody Franson and Ryan Maki were all credited with a goal and an assist for the MAds. Cal O'Reilly was credited with two assists. Danny Groulx, for the Hogs, was held pointless on six shots on goal.

MacIntyre's win was due to 26 shots on goal. Antti Niemi received the loss, he stopped 18 shots on goal.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Rushing to the exits; the new team says "safe home."

The Levin organization has generally been well loved by Wolves fans. First, they win championships. They enter the season with the idea that they will compete and win the championship of their league.

Second, season ticket holders for the Wolves will brag to season ticket holders of other sports about the goodies they receive; private parties, ticket exchange rights, sweaters, gifts and the ability to interact with owners and the team.

Along comes two guys from the Chicago Rush this month. Mike Gordon is the new VP of Partnerships and Mike Polisky is the President of the team. Both are former Rush executives. Talking with my editor I noted that although I haven't been introduced to Polisky, there is a new person in the stands, talking to the fans and engaging them. Then tonight, another new guy was there. No introduction yet, but he looks like Gordon.

“Has Polisky talked to you yet?” my editor asked. “No, but he's interacting with people. It never happened with the old COO,” I replied.

At the close of the game tonight, the guy who appears to be Polisky is walking around telling us to drive home safely. And on the concourse, the guy who appears to be Gordon is thanking us for attending the game.

WOW. This team, known for its fan friendly attitude never did this before. In fact, I can't put a face with the PR person, haven't said more than 20 words to any of the PR people in three years of writing for the Chitowndailynews. And, that's not for trying. This newspaper is ignored by the Wolves PR department.

I'm shocked. These two guys, if they are who I think they are, are talking to fans! What's next?

IceHogs in disappointing win; Best minute was the first

The Rockford IceHogs took the Rochester Americans 2-1 tonight at the Blue Cross Arena War Memorial. The game started with Sean McMorrow and Riley Emmerson dropping the gloves as the puck dropped. But in a game with ten power play opportunities, the only goals were even strength goals. All in all, the first few seconds were probably the best of the game. I hope you weren't late.

The Amerks have struggled all year. Even in the generous world of hockey, they are listed as having a win percentage of only 37.5 percent. Their 36 points is the rock bottom of the league.

It's a sad situation for a team with more championship banners than most professional sports. The power play AND the penalty kill of the Amerks are awful. Just looking at the stats, they actually look a lot like those of the Chicago Wolves. However, the Wolves are finding ways to win and even seem to be reversing problems in defense and power plays.

But, it looks beyond hope for the Amerks this season. So, it was a little surprise that there was enough fight in them to stay within one of the Rockford IceHogs tonight. The stats show Rockford gave Rochester a 5:3 in the first frame that didn't score. In the second, Rochester gave Rockford two excellent scoring: a major and in the final minute of the second period, a 5:3. Rockford couldn't score on either.

That's wrong and disappointing. The Hogs need to swallow the opposition whole when these chances come.

Jake Dowell had a goal and an assist in the game. Pascal Pelletier had the other of the two Rockford goals and five shots on goal. Corey Crawford received the win with 31 saves. Tyler Plante received the loss with 31 saves for the Amerks.

Crabb in four point effort

Joey Crabb had a four point night with a hat trick and an assist in a 5-1 Chicago Wolves win over the Peoria Rivermen at the Allstate Arena tonight. Crabb took advantage of two 5:3 power play opportunities and an even strength goal in racking up the hat trick. He assisted Spencer Machacek in his goal and was on ice, distracting the Peoria Rivermen for the final goal, an empty net run up the ice by Jordan LaVallee with a 1:07 remaining in the game.

Crabb, with seven shots on goal for the game, opened a can of whoop on the Peoria team with a series of three checks in the first period, all within a period of about fifteen seconds. They started behind the Wolves goal where the puck squirted loose, he followed the puck up the ice and flattened a Riverman into the boards at the blue line, continued up the ice and his last check was on a Peoria blue liner right in the Peoria crease.

He followed that up with a 5:3 power play goal with four seconds remaining in the first period. At 47 seconds into the second period, he assisted Machacek with his goal. At 9:49, after the Rivermen gave the Chicagoans yet another 5:3 he took another goal.

During one second period power play on Peoria, Trent Whitfield came up with the puck. His breakaway could have been stopped by Riley Holzapfel, at the near boards, but Whitfield eluded Holzapfel and found Ondrej Pavelec's five hole. It was the only score of the game for Peoria.

In the final period of play, Chicago gave the Peoria team four power play chances. Peoria also was beating on the Wolves, notching eleven shots on goal. Nevertheless, at 14:56 Crabb found the back of the net again for the hat trick. Less than four minutes later, after Peoria pulled their goalie, LaVallee, with Crabb on his flank, put the finish on the game with an empty net goal.

Pavelec received the win, stopping 30 shots on goal. He really looked good tonight as the defense was more effective in front of him except in the case of the short handed break away. Ben Bishop received the loss with 22 saves. In part due to Crabb, the power play came alive with three for eight, while the defense held the Rivermen scoreless in six penalty kills.

It was Crabb's eighth, ninth and tenth goals of the year in the American Hockey League. It was his sixth point of the season in the AHL. It is his 19th game this season in a Wolves sweater. He was sent to Chicago by the Thrashers January 30th. According to the Internet hockey database, he also played in 26 games as an Atlanta Thrasher, scoring just three goals and four points.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Saturday nights all right for fighting in Toronto

It was fighting and fighting and fighting some more in Toronto as the Rockford IceHogs met the Toronto Marlies in a game that featured half as many fights as goals. The Hogs acquitted themselves well, however, bringing home a 6-3 win in the contest at the Ricoh Coliseum.

Jack Skille and Kyle Rogers started the roughhousing with roughing penalties just 1:23 into the game. Evan Brophey found Justin Pogge's five hole for the first goal at 8:44. At 10:57 Mike Radja completed a series of fast back and forth passes to put it past Pogge for a 2-0 score. Then Jake Dowell and Darryl Boyce danced for a five minute penalty at the 11 minute mark. And at 13:23, not a fight, but a disagreement? A high sticking penalty to Niklas Hjalmarsson and a slashing penalty to Ben Ondrus.

That wasn't going to satisfy the blood lust, so Mike Brennan and Kris Newbury went at it mano to mano for another five minutes in the sin bin, with a minor tacked on to Newbury. That gave Rockford a power play and Judd Blackwater used the opportunity to pound in the 3-0 goal.

The second frame, Dowell starts out with a double minor for high sticking. And now Toronto Center Tim Stapleton, using one of his ten shots on goal, chips it in to make it 3-1. This is interesting to try to figure out, Dowell's double means the advantage was 5:4. But then there was an interference called on Mark Bell making it 4:4. However Tim Hambly is caught holding the stick, making it 4:3, then there is a goal, which would cut Dowell's double by two minutes, but it is still 4:3 for... Oh god, this is higher math at this point. In any case there is yet another power play goal scored at 7:12. So, the Marlie advantage lasted at least that long.

Let's celebrate that with a fight. At the 7:12 mark of the second period there's Jordan Hendry, he gets two minutes for cross-checking and two minutes for roughing. And there's Pete MacArthur, we haven't heard from him yet, five for fighting. And Newbury, two for roughing and Darryl Kronwall, five for fighting. Is anyone watching the score? It's 3-2 Rockford.

An interference called on Bates Battaglia gives Rockford another power play and Niklas Hjalmarsson will use that to push the IceHog lead back to 4-2. That's a good reason to fight of course and this time it was Dan Bertram and Joe Ryan at the 17:09 mark. But wait! There's more! One more goal in the period, Blackwater. Blackwater? He just joined the team on the 29th and he already has three goals. What gives? Where has he been?

Final period of play. The Hogs lead 5-2. Toronto lights it up, firing 11 shots on goal in the period. At the 12:21 mark the discipline that had marked this period breaks down as Rob Klinkhammer and Jaime Sifers have a go and get five each. Now, consider that this is the final fight of the game. This isn't a series of enforcer fights, its each team on each team:

Skille Rogers Two minutes each roughing
Dowell Boyce Five minutes each for fighting
Hjalmarsson Ondrus High Sticking/ Slashing two minutes
Brennan Newbury Five minutes each for fighting
Dowell --- Double minor for high sticking
Hendry Two minutes for cross checking/ two minutes for roughing
Newbury Two minutes for roughing
MacArthur Kronwall Five minutes each for fighting
Bertram Ryan Five minutes each for fighting
Klinkhammer Sifers Five minutes each for fighting

I mean look at the list. The only two players to repeat on it are Dowell and Newbury. This was quite a fight card! In total 47 minutes of penalties to the Hogs and 41 to the Marlies. The Hogs were able to get two for four on the power play. Stapleton shot an unbelievable ten shots on goal, nearly a third of the 31 total for the Marlies. He had a goal and an assist for the night.

Radja and Brent had a goal and two assists, Blackwater had two goals. Adam Pineault had three assists. Petri Kontiola had two assists. The Marlies Newbury had two assists. Corey Crawford received the win. He stopped 28 shots on goal. Pogge received the loss, he stopped 15 shots on goal.

In all of this mess, a few things stand out to me, first, ten shots on goal in a game by one player is very unusual, gotta give the man credit. The second I see is the two goals by Blackwater. Can he maintain this pace? Where is he from? After that, I'd want to consider a blue liner for the final star of the game. This was a very physical game. I'm thinking Hambly as he has an assist and was on the ice for a +/- of +2. But I'm open to other suggestions. But clearly, a defensive fight, in every sense of the word.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Krahn shutout 3-0

The Chicago Wolves played the best game of the season Saturday as they out fought and out played the Houston Aeros in a knuckle biter 3-0 shutout at the Allstate Arena Saturday night.

Mike Hoffman and Matt Kassian started the fireworks early with a bare knuckle fight less than 90 seconds into the game. On their next shift together the two heavy weights began jawing at each other and were sent back to the sin bin to cool themselves off for another two minutes.

After Krys Kolanos was added to the sin bin at 15:10, the Wolves, with the first power play of the game, passed the puck to Riley Hozapfel at the point. He fired a rocket past goalie Nolan Schaefer seconds into the power play, giving the Wolves a 1-0 lead.

Hoffman and Kassian celebrated the goal by having yet another fight and spending five more minutes in the sin bin. Although there were two Aeros power plays for most of the last five minutes of the period, it was the Wolves who dominated the first period. The Wolves put 11 shots on goal for just six for the Aeros.

In the second period Joey Crabb used a power play to do the same thing to Schaefer. At the point, a pass and a rocket into the net. He even used the same two players to set the shot up: Jamie Rivers and Grant Lewis. A two goal Wolves lead going into the final frame. This time the Wolves shots were eight compared to just seven for the Aeros.

The final period of play. With 5:57 left to play, Kevin Constantine pulls Aeros goalie Schaefer, giving the man advantage to the Aeros on the attack. The shots on goal begin to pile up and the pressure on the Wolves is made worse when Brett Sterling is called for a hooking penalty.

With 6:4, Brent Krahn became a wall. It really reminded me of a playoff game from two years ago, the grace and pressure that he was under as he stopped everything. Yes there were pucks that the Wolves cleared towards the empty Aeros net, but it was relentless pressure. Arturs Kulda, with 1:07 remaining in the period and the power play ended, cleared the puck and raced in with the puck to put the puck in the net.

An empty net goal, it brought Schaefer back on the ice. The Aeros had admitted they lost.

This was the first shutout for Krahn since the 2007 season. In the third period he stopped 17 shots on goal. In fact, during that period, only two shots were credited to the Wolves, and of course one of those scored. The Aeros dominated the third period. Krahn was a wall.

Krahn's win was 30 shots stopped. Schaefer stopped 18 shots for the loss. Three points were awarded to Grant Lewis for assists. Two points were awarded to Rivers for his assists. This was a game in which the defense and the offense played well and they were backed by a solid goalie. It was a great turnaround from the disappointment in Milwaukee on Friday night.

For the Aeros, mention must be made of Krys Kolanos, who put five shots on the goal. And, of course Hoffman and Kassian were each awarded 12 penalty minutes for their pugilism.

Hogs crush Moose, 4-1

The Rockford IceHogs spanked the Manitoba Moose 4-1 in a Friday night win at the MTS Centre. Antti Niemi received a win, with 28 saves. Tim Brent scored two goals on five shots on goal, Mike Radja a pair of assists.

Jason Jaffray had seven shots on goal, but no points. Cory Schneider received the loss with five saves on eight shots. He was benched for Curtis Sanford, who stopped 15 shots on goal. An empty net goal in the final 11 seconds of the game by Brent accounted for the balance of the score.

MAds Kelsey Wilson gets Gordie Howe Hat Trick

A disappointing loss to the Milwaukee Admirals by the Chicago Wolves at the Bradley Center Friday. The Wolves, after struggling to take the lead from a 2-0 deficit, could not hold on, losing two goals and the game in the final five minutes of play when Kelsey Wilson scored twice in 37 seconds.

Ondrej Pavelec was called for unsportsmanlike conduct as a result of the final goal. Pavelec's defense was penetrated repeatedly during the game. It seems like a problem that has continued all season with Pavelec finally responding to it in a physical manner. But you need to wonder if this was the fault of the opposition or the opportunity they used to win?

In other words, it is the job of the defense to deny the opposition position between them and the goal. Yet, that is what Brian Sipotz, in particular, is allowing in game after game. Sipotz is listed as 6'7” and 248 pounds. His hometown is listed as South Bend but he's playing with a Swedish passport on that ice. It is a wonder to me that his +/- is +5. That demonstrates to me how limited this statistic is for measuring the quality of blueliners.

Milwaukee is in command of the conference at the moment. They have 62 points, which is 12 points and a game in hand over the second place team, the Rockford IceHogs. For every team in the North and the West, this team has a target on it. Last night, the Wolves almost succeeded in doing what few teams have been able to do, beat them at home. That's only happened five times this season. On a side note, Milwaukee is in a bit of a slump at home, having lost three of the last five games played at the Bradley Center.

Milwaukee led the scoring with two goals in the first five minutes of the game. At the end of one period it was two goals on ten shots for Milwaukee. In the second frame, Sipotz was penalized with a high sticking resulting in a Milwaukee power play. Joey Crabb, just down from Atlanta, picked up a loose puck and broke away to score a shortie. After Chicago received a power play late in the period, it evened the score on a goal from Spencer Machacek.

Entering the final period of play, Chicago created a lead on a Brett Sterling goal, then extended it on a Jordan LaValee score, making the game 4-2 Chicago with about six minutes remaining. One of the reasons Sipotz has that high +/- that I discussed earlier, is that he is on the ice for the offensive successes. That happened in the third period, where he is credited with two assists. For the night he only had a +1. He was on the ice for what happened next.

Milwaukee went on the power play at 15:11, the result of a tripping called on Riley Holzapfel. Kelsey Wilson used the advantage to score. Here's the tale of the sudden reversal from the Milwaukee Admirals game summary:

Thirty-seven seconds is all it took for Wilson to add two goals to his assist and first period fight, and it sure did come at a good time. At 15:28 of the third period, the Admirals were on the power-play when Cody Franson fired a rocket slap shot from the point and Wilson was there to tip it in and tie the score at four apiece.

My note here: Kelsey was wide open. No defense. Just him and Pavelec.

The game-winner for Wilson came off a rebound shortly after his first marker of the evening. It was Ryan Maki who drove the puck in down the right-wing side and fired a shot that bounced hard off of Chicago goalie Ondrej Pavelec’s legpad, and came right out to Wilson who fired it in for the go-ahead goal of the game

Same thing again.

“He’s a good presence on the power play in front of the net. I made the decision this morning that he was going to play on the power play in front of the net, and low and behold, he makes something happen when he’s doing that,” said Admirals head coach Lane Lambert.

Undoubtedly a star of the game performance by Wilson who notched a Gordie Howe Hat Trick with his first goal. Just amazing. Wilson notched two goals and an assist for the night with a fighting major. He only was credited with two shots on goal for the night, so he was 100 percent in shooting. Wow. Just Wow!

Cody Franson had a goal and two assists for the MAds, while Ryan Maki had a goal and an assist. Drew MacIntyre's win counted 29 saves.

Pavelec notched 30 saves on the night and an unusual minor penalty for a goal tender. Jeff Hamilton and Sipotz had two assists. Joey Crabb notched five shots on goal.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Hogs, Moose in shootout

The Manitoba Moose and the Rockford IceHogs had to settle their differences with a shootout at the MTS Centre last night. In the shootout the Hogs were able to put three in, compared to two for the Moose, and won the game 2-1.

Judd Blackwater, a rookie loan from the ECHL Stockton Thunder, scored his first American Hockey League goal and only the eighth goal of his professional career to help the Rockford IceHogs force the Manitoba Moose to the shootout. His power play first period goal came off a pass from Petri Kontiola.

In the second period, the Moose took a goal back just after the end of a power play to tie the game. Rockford dominated the remainder of the second period, but was unable to find the net again. Antti Niemi ended his five game losing streak with the win. He stopped 24 shots on goal. Curtis Sanford, of the Moose, stopped 27 shots on goal.

Pete MacArthur posted six shots on goal in the effort. The Hogs are at the start of a seven game road trip.

Wolves win in shootout

A shoot out was needed to determine the final of the game between the Chicago Wolves and the Iowa Chops at the Allstate Arena last night. Power plays dominated the action in the 4-3 Chicago victory, with five of the six goals awarded during power plays.

After dinging a shot off of the Chops post, the Wolves discipline began to erode, as it allowed four advantages to Iowa in the first period. Iowa surged to a two goal lead on the strength of two power play goals as a result. Chicago was finally able to answer with a single goal at the end of the period when Mike Hoffman, playing to the center of the crease, lost control of the puck. However, he stayed with his check, and the puck became lost in the moving scrum to goalie David LeNeveu and trickled across the goal.

In the second period Chicago took a series of four penalties beginning at 13:12 with a 5:4 Iowa advantage. The Iowa advantage increased to 5:3 after a minute, twelve seconds and ended after three minutes, twenty seconds with a power play goal. Chicago held the Chops back from further gains, even though yet another power play was awarded to Iowa. The closing minute of the second frame saw Iowa take two penalties, including one for an after the whistle hit by Petteri Wirtanen on Steve Martins.

Chicago, now behind 3-1, entered the third frame with a 5:3 power play. This paid off immediately as Brett Sterling put a loose puck in. Iowa was able to hold on for the remainder of the 5:4 power play. However, at the 7:12 mark, as the Wolves effort was beginning to take its toll, Brian Salcido grew frustrated and put the puck out of play, resulting in a delay of game penalty. John deGray followed that eight seconds later with a high sticking penalty. Chicago's 5:3 power play was cut short, however, as Mark Lemelin called Sterling for two minor penalties 35 seconds later. Sterling, became entangled in front of the Chops net. He seemed to be calling for a slew foot penalty, but was called for holding AND for poor sportsmanlike conduct. As the power plays traded back and forth, each team was able to hold the other in check. The Wolves effort this period continued however, and at the 12:17 mark deGray was called for tripping. Jordan LaValee was able to take advantage of the power play to tie the score.

During the period, the outshot the Chops 14-2. Even without the arbitrary measure of the shots on goal, the pressure the Wolves put on the Chops was evident in the lack of discipline that sent the Chops to the sin bin for much of the period.

Entering the extra period, the two teams showed their exhaustion. Matt Beleskey was called for a one minute hooking charge, but the Wolves were unable to put that power play to use. This was one of the applications of a new American Hockey League rules that shortens some penalties in the extra period. It was felt that the two minute penalties in a five minute period were to great an advantage when play included only four players. The rule could be applied to the National Hockey League in coming seasons.

During the shootout Beleskey was the only scorer for the Chops, while Jeff Hamilton and Brett Skinner each scored for the Wolves. Skinner was acquired on the 13th from Atlanta.

Brent Krahn backed Ondrej Pavelec in net. Dan Turple and Robert Gherson were both scratches. Pavelec had 23 saves on the night for the win. LeNeveu had 30 saves. This was the first appearance of the Iowa Chops at the Allstate. Chicago has played three games at Iowa earlier in the season, splitting the series 2-1. Jeff Hamilton was notable for his five shots on goal. He was awarded an assist for the night. Nine Wolves received points in the game. Troy Brodie must be recognized for his seven shot effort for the Chops. Ajay Baines received two assists for the Chops.

The Wolves travel to Milwaukee tonight for a game against the Milwaukee Admirals. They play Saturday against the Houston Aeros at the Allstate, finishing up three games in three nights.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

All-Star Break breakdown

I'm anxious to hear from Kris Grey her observations on the Milwaukee Admirals v. Rockford IceHogs game last night. This was a game in a sold out MetroCentre. Just reading the brief description of the game that I prepared, you can see that these two teams were well matched; and, Milwaukee won.

Going into the All-Star Break, I can think of no better way to wake the Hogs up than to lose to the team that is going to block access to the Conference games in the post season. They have to figure out the MAds. They'll have lots of opportunities to do that in the coming two and half months.

One thing that must change: the pathetic Hogs penalty kill. There are two answers to this, one is to get better on the ice. The other is to become a more disciplined team. You take fewer penalties, you then aren't as worried about not being able to stop what's coming at you.

Milwaukee is among the best in the league in both penalty kill and power play. Although Drew MacIntyre is an older player, in terms of the American Hockey League, he can guide them to a Calder Cup win, especially if this team continues to play as they are now. Good power play, good penalty kill and good net defense. It's a killer. Once again the MAds are threatening to go to the finals with an excellent team.

If I had money to bet on this situation, I'd have to say the Admirals are favored to go to the Conference from the West Division.

Now, over in Chicago, Ondrej Pavelec is back in net. That's good news. I think by now it is obvious to everyone that I'm not a fan of Robert Gherson, preferring Brent Krahn and Dan Turple. But Krahn is out on injury and is also not a property of the Atlanta Thrashers. Turple looks better than Gherson but isn't getting it together.

The situation in goal for the Wolves is tough, the defense is inexperienced. There is hope, with Chad Denny and others, but defense is like a good stew, it takes time to mature. I'm thinking next season these guys will be where they need to be, which is to say, they'll be ready to move up to Atlanta when there is an injury. Then Chicago will have a good defense.

Unlike in previous years, the Wolves are responding to poor defense with some discipline in net. At this point, I'd be happy with the team making the cut for the playoffs. Better discipline is just not going to be enough to carry this team along.

Bad night for Hogs, Wolves

The Milwaukee Admirals scored just 12 seconds into the game against the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday night at the MetroCentre. Following the initial goal, the Hogs came back with 4:01 remaining in the period to tie the game: Rob Klinkhammer scoring off a pass. But the Admirals put bookends on the period with a goal with just 40 seconds remaining.

A second period goal by Dan Bertram tied the game. However the final period didn't go the way the Hogs hoped, with two goals unanswered by the MAds. The final score was 4-2 in favor of the Admirals.

Niklas Hjalmarsson was credited with two assists on the night for the Hogs. Ryan Jones and Mike Santorelli had a goal and an assist each for the Admirals.

The final game for the two teams prior to the All-Star Break, the Hogs gave up just two power plays to the Admirals. The Admirals gave up four power plays. Corey Crawford stopped 31 shots on goal for the Hogs, and Drew MacIntyre 31 shots for the Admirals. Shots on goal: 35 for Milwaukee and 33 for the Hogs. This was a test of two equals and Milwaukee came out on top in a packed house in Rockford.

In Toronto, the Marlies beat the Wolves 3-1 at the Ricoh Coliseum. Chicago scored first on a power play, 2:30 into the game. However, from that point on, the only thing in the net was off a Marlies stick. It was another disappointing night for Chicago shooting, as they only put 22 shots on the Toronto goal. Ondrej Pavelec, returning to his first night in goal since an injury sidelined him, stopped 33 Marlies shots and six power play opportunities.

Wolves television analyst Billy Gardner did not call the Saturday game. His father, who still lives in Southern Ontario, is seriously ill. Gardner seized the opportunity to spend time with him. Gardner was replaced by Dan Turple, Tyson Marsh and Gene Ubriaco.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Western Division matchup tonight: MetroCentre

A key showdown tonight in the West Division is the game between the Rockford IceHogs and the Milwaukee Admirals. The Hogs are 2-1-1 in the series, while the Admirals are 2-2. The out of regulation loss for the Hogs was a shootout.

The Ads have been hot all season, cleaning up the West, challenging to stand atop the entire league in the standings. However, the Hogs have not been an easy team for them to figure out, as shown by the record above. As the fans and the teams enter the back stretch of the season, there will be five more contests between these two teams by mid-April. My prediction is that these will be the final two teams standing in the West Division, and the winner probably in the North Conference as well.

Corey Crawford is riding the tiger at the moment. He'll have a bit of a rest due to the American Hockey League All-Star break. So, put him in against vet goalie Drew MacIntyre. Let's see some blood on the ice as the Hogs face a Milwaukee team that has embraced a style of play that is very disciplined, only 748 penalty minutes this season so far. Placing it 24th among the 29 AHL teams. Yowza!

Hogs put bite on Chops

In the second part of a home and home series, the Rockford IceHogs returned the favor and defeated the Iowa Chops 6-4 Friday in play at the MetroCentre. Corey Crawford put on a show, keeping the Hogs in the battle as the Chops blistered the goalie with 37 shots on goal and four power plays, keeping them to just two goals.

Meanwhile the Rockford offense went one for four on power plays, putting 27 shots on goal, but six past David LeNeveu.

Rockford took the lead in the first frame with a Dan Bertram goal with 8:23 remaining. Although Ryan Donally tied the score with 6:46 remaining, Rockford replied with a power play goal by Adam Pineault. From there, things went into the tank for the Chops as the Hogs scored twice more in the second frame, interrupted by an Chops goal with 1:03 remaining in the second, and two more Hogs goals in the third.

Jake Dowell and Pineault had a goal and an assist each while two assists were notched by Petri Kontiola. Danny Groulx went +3 on the night. For Iowa, T J Trevelyan put seven shots on goal with one goal, teammate Troy Brodie had six shots on goal.

Pineault, who was acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets for Mike Blunden January 10, is in his seventh game for the Hogs.

Bulldogs break Wolves win streak at three

A 3-2 loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs ended a three game winning streak for the Chicago Wolves. The game, Friday at the Copps Coliseum, saw the Bulldogs open the first period with a 2-0 lead over the Wolves.

Robert Gherson, the Wolves goalie, deflected a power play shot by Yannick Weber into the back boards. However it got lost in a melee in front of the net, going from David Desharnais to Mike Glumac and then past Gherson into the net. Later in the period, while Chicago was on the power play, Yanick Lehoux made a break away attack. Gherson left the crease to poke check the puck, missing he lost a race to block a shot by Steve Gainey.

Jeff Hamilton was able to cut the lead to one in the second period when Chicago was on the power play. Ryan O'Byrne gave the Bulldogs insurance to their win, when with 4:56 left to play, he scored from the blue line. Steve Martins was able to bring the Wolves back to within one with a goal with 2:36 remaining. The Wolves emptied the net with a less than a minute to play, but were unable to use the advantage to send the game into overtime.

Gherson stopped 17 shots on goal for the loss. Hamilton goalie Cedrick Desjardins stopped 25 shots on goal for the win. Clay Wilson, in his third game with the Wolves, notched assists on both goals.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chops take bite out of Hogs

The Iowa Chops took a 4-3 bite out of the Rockford IceHogs in action at the Wells Fargo Arena of Des Moines, Ia. last night. The Hogs started strong, putting eleven shots on the Chops, finally culminating in a goal by Mike Radja mid-way in the first period. The Iowa blog describes a “nasty” first period fight between Brennan Turner and Ryan Donally. This is one of the best play-by-play blogs out there in the West Division. However, the Chops returned in the second part of the period, evening up the shots on goal. A long power play by the Hogs was unable to score, as they received a 5:4 advantage for 2:21, before they gave up a pair of penalties for two 5:4 power plays to end the period.

In the second frame, T.J. Trevelyan scored on the starting power play a minute into the period, followed at the 8:27 mark by a turnover goal again by Trevelyan. The IceHogs managed to tie the game 27 seconds later on a goal by Nathan Davis. But the period ended in a disaster for the Rockford team as Niemi gave up two goals in the last minute of play.

In the final frame, Corey Crawford substituted for Antti Niemi. During a power play, Trevelyan blasted Crawford, attempting to get his hat trick. However, it was Pascal Pelletier who found the back of the net instead, putting Rockford within one of the Chops. In the final ten minutes, a Rockford power play and an empty net gave a 6:4 advantage to the Hogs for 2:04. David LeNeveu made some highlight efforts, according to the Iowa blog, to hold the line. LeNeveu stopped 25 shots on goal. Niemi recorded 17 saves while Crawford recorded seven. The Rockford power play went 0 for 6 on the night.

Mike Radja had six shots on goal for the evening, while Danny Groulx and Pascal Pelletier had five each. Davis had a goal and an assist while Groulx marked two points on the evening.

In Milwaukee, last night, Hugh Jessiman had a power play goal, an even strength goal and an empty net goal for a hat trick. The Milwaukee Admirals spanked the Quad City Flames 4-0 in the win. In other news, the Chicago Blackhawks recalled Niklas Hjalmarsson, a blue liner, from the IceHogs.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hogs win in matinee OT

An overtime goal put the Rockford IceHogs over the Grand Rapids Griffins 2-1 in a special matinée game held at the MetroCentre yesterday. Griffins captain Darren Haydar uncorked a short handed goal early in the second frame to open the scoring, followed by a power play goal by Petri Kontiola at the 8:29 mark of the period.

Antti Niemi held the Griffins to one goal in regulation play and scoreless in four power play attempts, stopping a total of 23 shots. Daniel Larson stopped 32 shots on goal for the Grifs. The game winning goal was launched by Andrew Archer.

Kontiola received two points for the game. Evan Brophey had six shots on goal while Dan Bertram and Pascal Pelletier had five shots each. The win broke a three game drought for the IceHogs.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Next year's class

[Response to Jane Rickard at ChiTownDailyNews.]

Jane, I'll take my butch slap in a graceful manner. You are right that there are players on the Wolves who can still go up to Atlanta this year. Jordan LaVallee and Brent Sterling come to mind. Brent had a shot at the Thrashers last year. I'm not certain why they felt he didn't make the grade. I think we'll see him move on to another organization that is more accepting of smaller players and perhaps find a slot in the NHL. LaVallee is certainly very good. AAAA good. He's also young and it would be wonderful to see him make the move to the big ice too.

The other players are sort of “next year's class.” They will probably be developed by the end of the season and will move to the National Hockey League over the next two years as vacancies occur in the Atlanta roster. I didn't really go that deep into the roster in my discussion about the team.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

IceHogs: their year to shine

To all appearances, Don Granato played Jeff Hamilton for at least three solid minutes at the tail end of the Saturday night win over the Quad City Flames. It begs the question why? What appears to have happened was that Hamilton, entering the bottom of the frame with two goals, was just a goal shy of a hat trick. And, Granato saw an opportunity for Hamilton as the man advantage moved more and more to the Wolves due to penalties. Granted a goal by any of the Wolves in the final minute and the overtime, would have been a win. But it appears as though Granato allowed his interest in Hamilton scoring a hat trick to prevail over his interest in winning a game.

This is a big difference from previous years under John Anderson. Anderson almost seemed to remove players who had two goals from play, preventing them from trying to score a hat trick. It was maddening. There were lots of games last year and the previous year when I really wanted him to stick with a player and let them have an opportunity to get a hat trick.

He wouldn't do it. He was focused on winning the game.

Now we have a new sheriff in town. Sure, I've been watching for the past five months. I've seen the lines change and been wondering when the team would jell with a respectable power play or a decent penalty kill. But until the slump that started around the holidays, the team was in the thick of the run. Even with the slump, the team is just five points from second place. A good run and the team becomes competitive for a playoff spot.

But, it's a fragile thing. I know a hat trick win would push the team. I know that Brian Sipotz, scoring his ninth professional goal and second goal of the season could be turned into the player he was last year. Yet, I want to be sure the team has the two points in the bag. Like Anderson, I would have played for the two points, not the hat trick.

As we move into the halfway point of the regular season, it wouldn't surprise me to see this team fail to make the playoffs this season. The best of last year have either been absorbed by the Atlanta Thrashers or have moved on to other clubs. Of all the players on the ice, the only obvious choice to move into the National Hockey League is Ondrej Pavelec. And Pavelec is injured. Brett Krahn could perhaps stage a move too, but he isn't the property of the Wolves or the Thrashers. If he did make a move, he'd be back with his parent club.

The team on the ice is respectable, don't take it that I don't like them. Steve Martins and Colin Stuart in particular are clearly playing with a lot of heart. Both are AAAA players. And, Stuart might still find a place in the NHL.

Over the years as a Wolves fan, I've felt that the aim of the team and of the management was to win Calder Cups, to hang Championship Banners and to wear Championship rings. The recent history of the American Hockey League is that the winner of the Calder often suffers a poor following year.

I'd like another Calder victory for the Wolves. But this year, I'd be happy if the team made it to the second round of the playoffs. The spirit is there, but the skill is a bit short. For evidence, take a look at the power play and the penalty kill.

Over in Rockford, I'm watching a team that would have won the Calder last year except for one obstacle, the Wolves. The IceHogs, rebuilt by Chicago Blackhawks prospects and with a superior pair in the pipes, could go all the way. Last night they lost Jack Skille, who apparently suffered a concussion from a hit.

It's a serious blow. Skille is very close to making it to the NHL. Skille, Corey Crawford, Antti Niemi, Pascal Pelletier, Evan Brophey, Jimmy Sharrow, Petri Kontiola and Mike Radja may all wear Indian heads. Compare those seven names to the single name I've put forward for the Wolves: Pavelec. This looks like the Hogs year to shine.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

IceHogs can't catch Grifs; dominate game, but still lose

The Rockford IceHogs dropped their third consecutive home stand game, 3-2 against the Grand Rapids Griffins tonight at the MetroCentre. The Hogs shot everything they had at Griffins goalie Jimmy Howard who stopped 24 shots on goal. In the third period, the Hogs dominated the ice, out shooting the Griffins 9:3, but were able to find the twine only once. Jack Skille, injured in the Friday night game against the Chicago Wolves, was a scratch. Corey Crawford stopped 16 shots on goal but it wasn't enough.

Wolves smother Flames 4-3 in OT

The Chicago Wolves chalked their third consecutive win with a 4-3 overtime win over the Quad City Flames at the Allstate Arena tonight. Quad City took a fast lead, with a goal at 19 seconds into the game when Brett Palin rebounded a shot on Robert Gherson. However the Wolves Jeff Hamilton broke away with the puck just 32 seconds later and was fouled. Awarded a penalty shot, Hamilton faked QC goalie Matt Keetley for the tie goal.

The action continued to be hot as just at the 2:23 mark J.D. Watt and Scott Lehman got into an altercation that lasted nearly a minute before they were broken up. Twelve power plays were awarded in the evening, with the Wolves going three for eight and the Flames going one for four. Hamilton's second goal of the night, early in the second period on the power play tied the game. Then a goal by blue liner Brian Sipotz, also on the power play, put the Wolves ahead.

It was Sipotz's second goal of the season and his ninth professional goal. The Flames traded goalies at that point, putting Leland Irving in for Keetley. However, Kyle Greentree turned a shot on Sipotz for a goal to tie the game during a late second period power play.

Late in the third period, the Flames were hit with three penalties, allowing Chicago to have a 5:3 advantage for 1:59, including a minute of overtime. It was all that was needed as Brett Sterling rebounded a shot from Hamilton past Irving for the win.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wolves Power over IceHogs 3-2

The Chicago Wolves chalked their first regulation win of the year with a 3-2 score against the Rockford IceHogs at the MetroCentre tonight. The Wolves scored on two of five power play attempts, reversing recent problems with the power play. Joe Motzko and Jeff Hamilton had a goal and two assists each. Hamilton had seven shots on goal.

After a late first period goal put the Hogs in front, the Wolves tied in the second before the mid-point of the period. At the end of the frame, the Hogs allowed a 5:3 advantage to the Wolves. The Wolves capitalized on it with a power play goal, taking a permanent lead. Then, a minute into the final frame, the Wolves, still on the same power play, now 5:4, scored again. The Wolves have scored 11 of their 29 power play goals against the Hogs this season.

"Our transition game dried up on us," said IceHogs' coach Bill Peters. "I thought we quit making plays as the game went along and we had a hard time moving the puck. We left the puck on the wall a lot and didn't make our plays."
A late attempt to tie the score was held back by the Wolves for their win. Robert Gherson made 25 saves for the win. Antti Niemi had 30 saves in his loss. The Hogs' Pascal Pelletier had five shots on goal and a goal.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wolves end losing streak with shootout win

The Chicago Wolves won their first game of the new year, taking the Toronto Marlies 3-2 in a shootout last night at the Allstate Arena. Robert Gherson stopped 23 shots on goal and Jeff Hamilton put seven shots on goal in the effort. Jordan LaVallee notched a goal and an assist, leading the Wolves effort.

Chicago went 0 for nine on the power play in the night. The two teams traded power plays back and forth, a total of 14 power plays during the game. A long series of power plays allowed the two teams to trade the numerical advantage on the ice starting at 12:18 into the first period with a Marlies power play and ending five minutes and four power plays later, when a Wolves power play expired at 17:18.

In the overtime period Chicago received another advantage with 2:44 remaining when Alex Foster was given a double minor. Despite six shots on goal for the period Chicago was unable to score and the game was sent into a shootout.

Brett Skinner, new acquired by Atlanta from the New York Islanders for Junior Lessard, notched one of the shootout goals and had an assist on the night. The other new addition, Clay Wilson, did not see action. The last time Chicago put a streak of two wins together ended December 18. In between it lost ten games, winning just three.

Chicago is 4-1 in shootouts this season. It is also 1-2 on extra time victories, giving it a winning record of 5-3 if the game goes beyond regulation.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

IceHogs lose to Rampage 4-2

The Rockford IceHogs, AAA affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, suffered only their second loss in seven games last night as the San Antonio Rampage put them down 4-2 at the MetroCentre. The Rampage enjoyed two power play goals and an empty net goal on their way to the win. It was Corey Crawford's sixth regulation loss of the season. He is currently 12-6-2.

Adam Pineault blistered Rampage goalie Josh Tordjman with six shots on goal, but was unable to find the twine. Pascal Pelletier and Jack Skille each had a goal and an assist.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wolves chalk up another loss; 4-1 to Aeros. Now 8 L in 9 Games

The Chicago Wolves made it eight losses in nine games as the Houston Aeros took the Wolves down 4-1 at the Allstate Arena Sunday evening. Aeros goalie Nolan Schaefer kept the Aeros in the game with 24 saves while the Aeros offense took the Wolves apart on the other side of the rink. Although Dan Turple stopped 22 shots on goal, it wasn't enough as the firepower of the Aeros overwhelmed the Chicago defense.

Chicago's power play continued to sputter this evening, with only one power play goal following a 5:3 advantage late in the first period. As the power play continued, 5:4, two Aeros defenders lost their sticks as the Wolves puttered in the neutral zone. When the attack finally came, it fizzled out.

Spencer Machacek for the Wolves, Corey Locke and Matt Beaudoin for the Aeros each put five shots on goal and were credited with a goal each. Beaudoin's goal being an empty net effort. The Aeros Peter Olvecky was credited with three assists on the night.

Another Wolves loss; another Hogs win

Another loss for the Chicago Wolves, this time to the Peoria Rivermen, 3-2, in action at the Allstate Arena Saturday night. It was the Wolves seventh loss in eight games. Peoria won the contest putting only 17 shots on goal, only one in the final period of play, as Wolves goalie Robert Gherson only notched 14 saves on the evening. Atlanta Thrashers prospect Brett Sterling was blanked, though he put five shots on goal. The Wolves power play, 28th in the league at 12.1 percent, sputtered again last night, being held scoreless.

Meanwhile in Rockford, the IceHogs enjoyed a 1-0 over the Toronto Marlies last night. Scoring on an Evan Brophy goal early in the first frame, the Hogs held the Marlies down for the win. It was Corey Crawford's first shutout of the season. The team indicated it will be riding the hot hand in its next outing.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dear Hockey Dad

The following is in response to a comment
Dear Hockey Dad,

I've been talking to my wife (Jane Rickard, of the Powderhornhockey site) and others about your comments since I received them. She has separate knowledge about the game. I want to send the comments to some friends in the NHL, the OHL and the AHL too. Hopefully they will also respond. My concern is that I was never exposed to the juniors and don't write about them. What you're asking about is an issue with the juniors. However, I want to take the comments seriously and comment on them with what knowledge I have, however poor.

First, I don't want to comment on Okanagan Hockey. I'm not knowledgeable about juniors to that degree. I have some advice on this later.

As a parent, I share your concern about the future of your child. I am surmising, from your letter, that you do not have any hockey experience yourself in juniors or college. The world of junior hockey, with its camps and sending children away to work with a team, a family of hosts who care for your child. This is very strange to those of us from the US. You need to get in contact with people who have these experiences. There are parents, former players (now adults) and hosts who will be glad to talk to you about what to expect. One of the most outspoken people I've met on this is an NHL coach. There are people all over the system who will talk to you. You need different viewpoints. You obviously don't know what to expect and don't know where to turn, if you're writing me. LOL.

Ask for help. The worst that will happen is people won't respond. I think if you explain why you are asking you'll receive a tremendous outpouring of love and support.

It is important that you be educated in what to expect. From my discussions, the coach should be open to talking to you about your child. He should be able to explain what he expects of your child and what he is offering your child. If, for example, he says that he expects your child to play third line, and he doesn't, he should be able to discuss with you why that is happening. A good answer might be that your child is not applying his talents. That's sort of like not studying.

Host families should also be open, in the same manner, to open discussion. They are going to be surrogate parents for your children for most of the year. How many other players are they hosting? What is the age difference? What is their philosophy about religion, spirituality, schooling and discipline? Think about how you'd answer these questions before you ask them. I assume that hosts have considered these ideas, but they might hesitate if they are new.

Your child is taking a huge step towards their independence. And the years of love and care you've given them will be tested. Most children in the US and Canada are not tested like this for another four years, when they are 18. They will be exposed to drugs, alcohol, sex and crime.

Let's not make the mistake of thinking that if you kept them home they wouldn't be exposed to these things. High school is almost defined by these things, in any community in the country. The value system you've given them will be tested whether away or home. For the most part, I felt that years of being able to talk to my child paid off big when she entered high school.

Thinking back to my own high school days, I think that the weaknesses of my family became the weaknesses I had to deal with. Alcohol was a problem in the family and it was a problem in high school and college. There was a lack of personal relationship in the family, caused by a hierarchical structure. That survived to poor relationships with my girlfriends and first wife. It really seemed true, in my case, that the sins of the father were visited upon the son. Time for some reflection. These are hard issues to deal with in yourself, and your child.

Someone has suggested the OHA to you or your son. If you want to find other schools, there are some good publications. Everyone has a bias, my favorite hockey publication is the Hockey News. Here in Illinois we have a local publication just for juniors. I find it in the sports equipment stores that sell to kids.

Now, is there nepotism in hockey? HELL YES. It seems to exist on every level and every position in the sport from the guy driving the ice surfacing machine to the coaches. It can be profoundly disturbing. I'm thinking of the appointment of Frasier relatives to positions as on-ice officials in the pros. There is also such good ole' boy networks throughout life. Help your child recognize it is human nature and to use it for his advantage.

Now the last thing I wanted to add popped into my head as I was watching ESPN's Outside the Lines last week. Perhaps you saw the story of the high school football player who claimed he was recruited by Cal? There is a lot of pressure on children to succeed. This led in Nevada to an issue where the young man felt he had to hide his failure to be recruited from his parents, his school and his coaches. A county standout, he wasn't good enough for the PAC-10. But he told his school and the local press he was headed to play for California.

The situation happened in part because no one around him, including his coaches, but especially his parents, had the experience to know how a college recruits athletes. John Anderson, now the coach of the Atlanta Thrashers, and a parent of a child in the juniors, told me that a parent has to be the biggest and the best advocate for their child in this system. Get educated and stay in touch with everyone.

There was an article in the Hockey News this season. I remember it as saying that Sidney Crosby's parents putting together the cost of bringing Crosby to the level of expertise he is at. Now, I might be wrong about the player, I can't locate the article. However there were a number of important facts. First, his parents owned auto dealerships. That allowed them the wealth and the freedom to support their child. They were at every home game and many away games. They sent the child to two camps each year during off-season. They spent $160,000 over the years on equipment, training and education.

There are only about 600 professional NHL athletes in North America. About another 600 in the minors earn maybe $75,000 a year. After that, their parents support them. In Europe, I'm not sure of the numbers, but there is greater income and there are more teams, but you need to include the European population, including of Russia and parts of the former Soviet Union. You can easily see that there are just a few thousand jobs. Easily less than 3,000, worldwide.

There are hundreds of thousands of children in the hockey system. While hockey is a game that your children will likely enjoy for many years, unlike football, people are playing it well into their middle years, the culling in professional athletes is chilling.

Now, it will probably cost me or my daughter about $160,000 in education and other costs to make her an expert in her field. The cost of medical school, to be a lawyer, a manager or many other positions, approaches $160K from one side or the other. But it is a tremendous sacrifice of your time and your wealth for your child. Unlike the dentist, at the end of the line, a coach will be faced with a prospect camp of young adults, perhaps 50 of them. One will be given a professional position in the minors.

Hogs pick another off Wolves, 3-1

Yet another loss for the Chicago Wolves to the Rockford IceHogs, 3-1, on a snowy Friday night at the Rockford MetroCentre dropped the Chicago Wolves to sixth place in the Western Division. In the crazy tight field of the West, that is only three points out of second place. In turn, the Hogs are now tied for second in the division.

The blogs correspondent in Rockford, Kris Gray, summed up the situation facing the Wolves this year: “Wow. Chicago just isn't the same (team) we played last year.” The Wolves have now dropped the last six games and seven of the last eight games. Since December 6th, they have faced the Rockford IceHogs seven times, Rockford has won five of those contests.

Blackhawks prospect Jordan Hendry sustained a knee injury in the third period, according to post-game radio discussions. However, Gray, an RN, reports from the game that it appeared to be a knee injury. Robert Gherson is back in net for the Wolves as Brent Krahn is reported to be ill. He gave up two goals on 35 shots. Corey Crawford for the Hogs, had 34 saves, giving up one. An empty net tally by Jack Skille ended the Wolves hopes for additional time.

Spencer Machacek had a power play goal for the Wolves, and tallied six shots on goal. For the IceHogs, Skille had six shots on goal and two points. Pete MacArthur also tallied six shots on goal. Former Wolves blue liner Jimmie Sharrow now skates in a Hogs sweater, he had a goal also.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Rampage over the Wolves 5-3

The Chicago Wolves fell 5-3 to the San Antonio Rampage Wednesday night at the Allstate Arena. It was the fourth loss in a row for the Wolves, and their sixth loss in the last seven games. As in seasons past, the Wolves are in a post-holiday slump.

However the loss to the Rampage must be especially galling. First, the Chicago Blackhawks spanked the NHL affiliate Phoenix Coyotes 6-0 earlier in the week. But even just in the AAA, the Wolves have given more points to the Rampage than any other team, with a record of 3-3 this season. The Rampage would be circling the drain if it weren't for the Wolves. Their record is 28th out of the 29 teams. The win on Wednesday allows them a four point cushion on the league last place Rochester Americans.

The Wolves chance to take the game was probably blown during a 5:3 power play late in the first period. Granted that Rampage goalie Josh Tordjman is a worthy opponent, the opposition he faced in the bottom of the first frame was like the Keystone Cops.

Joe Motzko, who really is an on-ice leader, had two bad minutes on the ice that seemed to seal the deal for the Rampage, starting with a broken stick, then two whiffs that puttered behind the net. Finally, after his teammates gave him yet another chance to redeem himself, he put a pass to... well his own goalie, from behind the San Antonio goal.

It sailed clear down ice from one goal line nearly to the other. It was dismal.

And while the Chicago power play was 0 for five, the Rampage power play was three for seven. An empty net goal, was the final insult.

If we continue to beat the horse a bit, I'll note that while Alex Brooks was tough in front of the Wolves goal, refusing entry to Rampage probes, veteran blue liner Brian Sipotz didn't seem to mind having Rampage players insert themselves between him and his goal. His checks were lack luster, I've been struggling in the past month to identify what Sipotz is adding to the game.

On a positive note Brett Sterling had a spectacular goal in the third frame. It put the team within one and held the promise that something could be rescued from the game.

Griffins out shoot the Hogs 6-5

In Grand Rapids, the Rockford IceHogs, AAA affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, lost 6-5 in a shootout to the Grand Rapids Griffins at the Van Andel Arena. The Hogs went 0 for six on the power play in a game that featured 88 shots on the goals.

Blackhawks prospect Antti Niemi was shelled from the net in the first ten minutes, giving up four goals on eight shots on goal. In his relief, Corey Crawford stopped 37 shots on goal, giving up one goal. Coming from this deficit, the Hogs scored two goals in the first frame, another in the second and two more in the third frame to tie the game in regulation. However the team wasn't able to find the twine again until the shootout when they were out gunned by the Griffins.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Hot Paws; Hot Paws

Skates, the Chicago Wolves mascot, is a key feature of the pregame show at the Allstate Arena. On Jane Rickard's outside blog, powderhornhockey.blogspot.com, you can see Jane's photo of Skates igniting fireworks from his paws.

Occasionally the fireworks don't fire. We call it a hot paw, I'm not sure what Skates calls it. But, the occasion of a misfire, or a hot paw, seems to be a bad omen for the Wolves. As noted earlier this weekend, the Wolves lost to the Rockford IceHogs in a close game that featured the hot paw.

We'll be watching for more hot paws and reporting on the game results that night.

IceHogs spank Wolves for 3rd time in 2 weeks; 6-4

A wild Saturday night in Rockford's MetroCentre gave the Chicago Wolves yet another loss at the hands of the Rockford IceHogs, as the Hogs won their third game against the Wolves in ten days, 6-4.

Pascal Pelletier scored a hat trick and an assist in a game that saw both goalies replaced in net. Starting for the Wolves, Brent Krahn was replaced by Dan Turple after he gave up his fourth goal of the night before the halfway mark of the game. Pelletier scored two goals divided by Petri Kontiola and Jack Skille's goals. Krahn stopped just six of the shots on goal in his roughly 27 minutes in net.

Yet, this was followed by a Wolves offensive, as 16 shots on goal in the second frame put three goals past Corey Crawford in less than five minutes. Antti Niemi then stopped the Wolves cold in the third period. Pelletier's hat trick forced the Wolves to pull Dan Turple for a man advantage with less than a minute remaining. Rob Klinkhammer put the final goal in the empty net to seal the day for the Hogs. It was a notable empty net goal because it occurred during a penalty kill, in other words the Hogs were fighting a 6:4 advantage.

Zach Bogosian was credited with a blistering six shots on goal and a power play goal in the fracas. But Pelletier beat even that high mark, with his seven shots on goal. Skille picked up two assist for a total of three points for the evening.

The win tightens the Western Division race for second place. The Milwaukee Admirals have run away with first place, with 50 points and a game in hand over all their opponents. They have won 15 points in the last 8 eights. At 42 points, Peoria and Iowa are just a point ahead of the fourth place teams of Rockford, Chicago and Houston. Chicago meets San Antonio mid-week before yet another game, the fourth in two weeks, against the Rockford IceHogs on Friday in Rockford's MetroCentre.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Crawford posts 100th pro win

The Rockford IceHogs defeated the Chicago Wolves 3-2 tonight at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont. The game, a goalie battle between Chicago Blackhawks prospect Corey Crawford and Brent Krahn was finally won by the Hogs in the final minute of play when Rob Klinkhammer maneuvered between Krahn and his defense. Then holding the puck, he waited for Krahn to commit before sliding the puck into the twine.

Crawford, who won the game and stopped 34 shots on goal, only received the second star of the game. The first star was won by the losing goalie, Krahn. It was the 100th professional victory for Crawford. Someone really fouled up the stars of the game on this one.

Klinkhammer scored two goals for the Hogs. He is credited with five shots on goal for the night. The other Hog goal was scored by Evan Brophey. Danny Groulx also had a good night, putting two assists up.

The Wolves defense was working against a Hogs offense that seemed to have Krahn's weakness. Each of the three Rockford goals was the result of getting inside the defense and then having Krahn commit early. To be fair to Krahn, defending a goal, when the defense has been outmaneuvered, is very difficult. Still, why is he committing so soon? This game is part of a home and home series. The two teams play again in Rockford's MetroCentre tomorrow evening.

Winter Classic in review

Where do we go from here? The Winter Classic was an unqualified success. The City of Chicago, despite the political issues in the state, looked great. That alone was quite a feat for winter around here. And the game was great, except for the win by Detroit.

I would have liked to see the venue, which will be used through the weekend by neighbors, used for a college or junior event. I think it is too much to wish the AHL were able to use the venue too this weekend. A match in Wrigley between the Chicago Wolves and the Chicago Blackhawks affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, with the IceHogs the home team in Wrigley, would be amazing and give a boost to the minor league teams in this area.

The University of Notre Dame or one of the great schools in Michigan that produce great hockey players could have used the venue this weekend. The Chicago Steel, our junior team based in Bensenville. The list goes on.

The Chicago Blackhawks, under Bill Wirtz, almost killed hockey in this town. Less than 15 months after Bill Wirtz's death and the vitality of the franchise and the sport are renewed. This is an exciting hockey town again, with a Calder Cup champion playing in Rosemont and an NHL team finally in the hunt.

And that hunt made the game itself interesting. This wasn't a throw-away match. The two points were important to the Chicago Blackhawks.

I also loved the detail that the game was part of a home and home series. What is clear, however, is that the players need to be here for several days before the game is played. The media needs the players for stories. As a blogger, we had to work around that. We assumed we wouldn't have access and worked to find stories that were not in control of the NHL and the Blackhawks.

The venue itself only sat 41,000 or so people. Was that a bad thing? The fans were close to the action. They were letting go with the roar that once rocked the Chicago Stadium. The only thing missing was a light snow, make a note to mother nature that she gets an A- due to no snow falling.

The size of the venue isn't important if the story, the romance, is there. Jane would say I'm talking about the cheese. And cheese sells.

For Chicago, and for this region, this was a great moment. Although I sat at home watching, the work done before the game, the three articles in our special report and Jane Rickard's photography will always remain with me. I learned more about concussions, rooftops and the Bears than I think I had in total prior to this event. Still, it would have been nice for the team to recognize bloggers with a special event for them.

I expect this event will park Chicago in an enviable position versus the competing cities for the Olympic bid. The city, in the midst of a storm and the holidays, looked great. I've always told potential visitors to stay away in the winter. This winter event proved me wrong.

So, what next for the Winter Classic? Fenway or a New York venue? Like many others, I think the WC will not be held in Canada, perhaps excepting Toronto or Montreal, but not anywhere else for the moment. By which I mean for many years. A decade? This event is the primo NHL event of the season until the playoffs. The TV audience hasn't been announced, but it has to be huge. It needs to go somewhere like Wrigley or Rich Stadium again. It needs romance, good fortune, cheese and a great game.

For the last two seasons it has had that going for it. So, romantic venue, two teams that are struggling against each other and have a history, the cooperation of mother nature... Your guess of what is next is as good as mine. But I look forward to next New Year's Day.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Winter Classic 19; final Hawks 4, Wings 6 update

This should be the final entry of the game. If you've been reading, thanks and Happy New Year. There are less than two minutes remaining in the game now.

Now 1:30 remaining. No OT this year. Wings in some confusion in front of their net. But Conklin stops it again. Now less than a minute remaining. Looking at this game I have to think that the way to see this game would be from the rooftops. it would be slightly more expensive, at $300.oo USD each. But, you are warmer or at least can stay warm.

A last moment goal by the Hawks. Keith pots one into the twine after getting fed from the faceoff. Anyway that was a great game to watch.

The players are doing a playoff lineup, saluting the fans. Very nice. Gotta give my MVP to Havlat. I'll update in a few minutes as I listen in on the final interviews with the players and coaches.

Well, not much to say from the ending interviews. Just the road to the Stanley runs through Detroit. I guess that is another hockey cliche we'll have to live with.

Winter Classic 18 update

Well, those two goals have driven Huet from the pipes. The Hawks have brought in Khabibulen.

That's gotta hurt the Hawks in the head if nothing else. Their talking about the shadows on the field. I can't see any on the TV and the outside is still pretty cloudy.

The Hawks are finally putting some people in Conklin's face. But, it's no good, he's stopping everything. I don't know how they'll handle this change in nets that is coming up in about three minutes. A time out?

The stands look full again. Shot clock is greatly in the Wings favor, according to the announcer. I guess the score shows that too. And there is the ten minute mark. I guess they're waiting for a break in play and they'll switch sides.

Khabibulen way out of the net, almost on the blue line, playing the puck. The goalies have been playing the puck to cut the angle in this game. There haven't been as many funny bounces as there was in the game last year. The temperature here in Chicago is about right for outdoor games and the ice and the air are both at about the right temperature.

This is a long time without a whistle. Now going on more than two minutes. And there is the whistle. Some of the old hawks are singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame..." Mikita, Hull, Savard and some others.

TMI, the TV tells us that Conklin took a "potty break" during the commercial. Oh god, shut up and sit down already.

The game is going back and forth again. Remember that the Hawks are now down wind. Lot's of stuff written on the wind at Wrigley. I'm not sure what direction it is coming from, I assume from the Northwest? If it was coming off the lake we'd see some lake effect snow, yep, northwest. The wind can be variable around here, even just two miles away. (Did I say a mile earlier?)