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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.

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