Game 41: Wolves 3, Monsters 2 (OT)
Jack LaFontaine finally got his first professional win as Wolves picked up an overtime win at Cleveland. Thanks to goals from David Gust and Stefan Noesen, Wolves held a 2-1 lead until the start of the third period. Monsters forward Tyler Angle made a two-on-two run where his shot bounced off a player in front of the net and went in.
LaFontaine again didn’t face too many shots as Wolves worked hard to limit Cleveland’s possession time. The Monsters’ only other goal in that game came shorthanded; Carson Meyer grabbed his own rebound after Joey Keane blocked the first shot and got the puck past LaFontaine.
Keane had a solid game, not only registering the ultimate game winner in overtime, but also helping set up Stefan Noesen’s second-half goal. Keane’s match winner came on a two-man run with Maxim Letunov. Letunov caught the eye of the Monsters defenseman, who dropped onto the ice in an attempt to block the shot; instead, he managed to pass the puck to Keane, who scored on the largely open net.
LaFontaine missed 4:12 from time in the second period after leaving the game for medical attention after a hectic change of activity in net. Alex Lyon briefly stepped in to take his place and faced no shots while in the net.
This match marked the 12th game in a row where Wolves did not concede a goal while shorthanded.
Score: Joey Keane, 1 G, 1 A; Stefan Noesen, 1G; David Gust, 1G; Jack Drury, 1A; Maxim Letunov, 1A; Andrew Poturalski, 1A
At net: Jack LaFontaine, saved 16 of 18, 0.898 Sv%
Game 42: Wolves 4, IceHogs 5
Hurricanes fans who have seen their team struggle against the Ottawa Senators this season are well aware of the tendency of a good team to underperform against a mediocre opponent. For Wolves, that opponent is the Rockford IceHogs.
While the IceHogs sit in a distant fourth place in the Central Division (42 points in 39 games; 0.538 percentage points), Wolves have struggled mightily against their in-state rival. In 10 games this season (including Game 43, described below), the Wolves are 3-4-0-3 (the AHL separates overtime losses and shootout losses in their records).
The only other teams where the Wolves have a losing record to date are against the Manitoba Moose (1-2-1-0, with four games remaining) and the Toronto Marlies (0-1-1-0, with two games to play). The Moose and Marlies currently sit in second place in their respective division and are considered tough opponents. The Icehogs? Not really.
But that’s how it is in hockey. Wolves found themselves in a 3-0 deficit early in the second period. IceHog’s first two goals came just over a minute apart in the first half, both by Michal Teply, both in very similar fashion thanks to rebounds.
Teply’s second goal came on an IceHogs power play, which ended Wolves’ franchise-record streak of 35 consecutive penalty kills. Wolves had not allowed a goal for 777 minutes and 59 seconds. The last shorthanded goal conceded came January 9 against Cleveland.
Alex Lyon was taken off after Rockford’s fifth goal, with Jack LaFontaine appearing in relief. Wolves scored twice in the second half, one in which they edged Rockford by a 20-6 margin, and continued their comeback attempt in the third. Wolves scored twice, including a last-minute goal from Jamieson Rees, but IceHogs keeper Collin Delia stopped a flurry of shots in the dying seconds to preserve the victory for Rockford.
Of note in this match, defender Jalen Chatfield left in the first period after being tackled by Kurtis Gabriel. Chatfield did not return to play and did not play the following night. Gabriel was assessed a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. Wolves failed to score in the major, which included two minutes of five-on-three play as the IceHogs were awarded a penalty less than a minute into the major.
Score: Andrew Poturalski, 1 G, 2 A; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1G, 1A; Jamieson Rees, 1G; David Gust, 1G; David Cotton, 1A; Max Lajoie, 1A; Jack Drury, 1A; Stefan Noesen, 1A
In the net: Alex Lyon, saved 11 of 16, 0.688 Sv% (33:51 TOI), Jack LaFontaine, saved 7 of 7, 1,000 Sv% (23:29 TOI)
Game 43: Wolves 3, IceHogs 4 (SO)
Wolves and IceHogs met for the second night in a row and once again Wolves allowed the first goal, just 5:07 from the start of the first period. Forward Kyle Marino, called up that day from the ECHL for a seemingly unique purpose, tried to breathe some life into the team with a fight on the next shift, taking on Kurtis Gabriel in retaliation for his hit on Jalen Chatfield the night before.
As the fight fired up the crowd, Wolves didn’t enter the board until the following period, when Ryan Suzuki scored his third of the season in the period top. Suzuki fell in front of the IceHogs net and fired his shot to tie the game.
The IceHogs scored the next two goals, with a puck sinking under Jack LaFontaine when he failed to seal the back of the net fast enough, and later, a power-play goal from Ian Mitchell, who benefited from a a nice pass from Lukas. Reichel, who simulated the Wolves and LaFontaine skaters.
Less than a minute later, Jack Drury brought Wolves within one as he was in the right place to receive a spinning pass from David Gust, in one of the most impressive plays I’ve seen Wolves succeed this season.
Stefan Noesen, who celebrated his 29th birthday that day, tied the game with less than two minutes remaining. Noesen’s 22nd goal of the season tied him for the league’s top scorer (tied with Sheldon Dries of the Abbotsford Canucks).
Overtime was fruitless for either team, so the game headed to a shootout, where Rockford’s Michal Teply scored the only goal to give the IceHogs the win.
More concerning than the penalty kill allowing goals in back-to-back games – the kill had to come down to earth at some point – is Wolves’ continued struggle on the power play. It’s the third consecutive game without a goal on the power play and the seventh in 10 games without a goal. Wolves have 42 power-play attempts in 10 games and have just six goals to score (14.3%). Three of those goals came in one game (a 4-1 win over Grand Rapids, a team with one of the worst disadvantages in the league).
Wolves have a significant break before facing the IceHogs again, and have only two games left against them on the schedule: at home on April 19 and at Rockford on April 30 to complete the regular season.
Scoring: Ryan Suzuki, 1 G; Jack Drury, 1G; Stefan Noesen, 1G; Max Lajoie, 2A; Andrew Poturalski, 1A; David Gust, 1A
At net: Jack LaFontaine, saved 16 of 19, 0.842 Sv%