Game 15: Wolves 5, Griffins 3
Giving up guides has been the name of the game for the Chicago Wolves lately, only this time they were the ones to benefit from a team’s mistakes. The Wolves got off to a slow start, giving up three goals in the first two periods. Jared McIsaac’s first professional goal opened the gate for the Griffins and, perhaps more importantly, the Grand Rapids crowd to unleash the bears for Teddy Bear Toss Night.
After the long delay in cleaning up many, many bears, there was hope that the wolves would have had a chance to regain some momentum, but Kyle Criscuolo scooped a ricochet a little over a minute later (in actual game time).
An early third-half penalty from Griffins striker Riley Barber opened the door to a comeback for the Wolves. Josh Leivo scored his first goal of the season in a power play. Leivo’s goal gave life to the Wolves, and less than a minute later, Max Letunov scored his fourth goal of the season to place the Wolves within one goal.
The two teams then played against each other to a standoff, with Eetu Mäkiniemi and Calvin Pickard making some big saves for their team. Two minutes before the end, Mäkiniemi was drawn for the additional attacker, which immediately paid off.
Spencer Smallman was perfectly positioned to receive a pass behind the goal line from Jack Drury. The Wolves tied the game for the first time in the entire season with the additional attacker on the ice.
While all eyes were on overtime, the wolves had other ideas. In the next shift, Stefan Noesen put the puck in the corner and then sent it to the net. The puck ricocheted off Andrew Poturalski, went over Pickard, and slammed into CJ Smith, who put it in the net to give the Wolves a very unexpected lead.
An empty goal by Poturalski sealed the victory of the wolves. Poturalski’s four-point night marked the sixth multi-point game this season and the most points since beating Grand Rapids on October 31 (three goals, two assists).
Scoring: Andrew Poturalski, 1 G, 3 A; CJ Smith, 1G; Josh Leivo, 1G; Maxim Letunow, 1 G; Jalen Chatfield, 1A; Jack Drury, 1A; Stefan Noesen, 1A; Dominik Bokk, 1A; Sam Miletic, 1A
On the net: Eetu Mäkiniemi, saved 29 of 32, 0.906 Sv%
Game 16: Wolves 3, IceHogs 2 (SO)
Last weekend, the Wolves battled the Rockford IceHogs for the lead, a trend for the team this year.
This is the fifth time the two teams have met this season. The IceHogs have won 3 of the top 4, including both games at Allstate Arena, despite trailing 2-0 in each game. The team that scored the third goal has won every game in the season series. #RFDvsCHI
– Greg Boysen (@GregBoysen) November 28, 2021
The Wolves struggled to get something done on an early power play opportunity but got another try midway through and this time Max Letunov tipped off a tip from CJ Smith to score the goal.
While the Wolves overtook the IceHogs 14-4 in the first third, Rockford accelerated in the second third. Isaak Phillips scored 33 seconds in the period from an acute angle from the goal line. The IceHogs second goal saw a fun rebound from a Wolves player to get behind Alex Lyon who had otherwise been strong despite limited shots.
In the third period, the action between the two traditional rivals heated up with two Wolves’ penalty shootouts and a fight between Stefan Noesen and Evan Barratt. The third also saw IceHogs striker Brett Connolly go down after an accidental collision with a Wolves player with an apparent injury to his right leg. Connolly, one of Rockford’s top players, needed help from the ice as he was apparently unable to put any weight on his right leg.
Shortly thereafter, the Wolves’ Gate came when CJ Smith took a puck around the back of the net and pocketed it.
The game couldn’t be solved in overtime, so a shootout broke out. Michal Teply, DJ Busdeker and Lukas Reichel were all stopped by Lyon. CJ Smith and Andrew Poturalski were stopped by Collin Delia, but Josh Leivo converted to give the Wolves victory.
After the game, CJ Smith spoke about the team’s love of comebacks. “It obviously shows what we are passionate about and for each other in the locker room,” he said. “We just have to stop putting ourselves in positions where we have to do that. It’s great that we’re doing that and getting some wins, but I don’t think we should put ourselves in this position where we have to do it a lot. “
Coach Ryan Warsofsky, who has often spoken of the team having problems when things don’t go that way, was happy that the team found a way to win. He specifically named CJ Smith as the best player on the team that night, particularly as a player who took to heart the instructions to improve his game.
Rating: CJ Smith, 1 G, 1 A; Maxim Letunow, 1 G; Andrew Poturalski, 1A; Dominik Bokk, 1A; Joey Keane, 1A
On the net: Alex Lyon, saved 17 out of 19, 0.895 Sv%
Game 17: wolves 3, grasping 1
The Grand Rapids Griffins rounded out the Wolves’ three-in-three games. As a rematch after the Griffins surrendered a 3-0 lead on Friday, this game seemed emotional. On Saturday evening, Warsofsky confirmed what was coming.
“I don’t even think I have to say anything,” he said to keep the team on track. “I think our boys will know [Grand Rapids] will be ready. … We just have to play our game. We know how to play. Our boys know it. “
In a reversal of the game on Friday, the Wolves took the lead 3-0 by the end of the second period. They also dominated the shots, 33 to 15 in the first two periods. While Grand Rapids took control of the game early on, the wolves quickly took over the helm. CJ Smith used a Griffins envelope and sent the puck into the net. Andrew Poturalski distracted him and gave him his ninth goal of the season.
Poturalski’s goal also resulted in him setting the franchise record for most points in a season against Grand Rapids – and keep in mind that there are many more games to be played in this match.
Leivo scored in the power play at the beginning of the second period, and Stefan Noesen scored his fifth win of the season, giving the Wolves a 3-0 lead. Noesen’s goal came in a particularly brilliant sequence, in which Mäkiniemi took off Riley Barber with a shot at close range and then sent the game the other way.
Mäkiniemi was fantastic throughout the game. While he only had 19 shots in total, the wolves gave up their chances of quality. Whether it was an athletic, extensive save or a simple pad stop, Mäkiniemi was up to the challenge.
(This particular sequence showed the loudest Ring I think I’ve heard it before.)
While the Griffins tried to put pressure on in the third period in hopes of a comeback of their own, the Wolves defense shut things down and limited it to just four shots. The Wolves gave up a goal while playing against two men, but otherwise kept the Griffins off the score sheet.
The Wolves have won all five games against the Griffins this season. Poturalski seemed surprised to learn that he had set a new franchise record, but didn’t think there was anything special that was driving his success. “I have some friends on the other team and it’s fun to joke about them, but I don’t think there is any real reason for that,” he said. “I just go out and play and for some reason I get some good opponents. I would like to keep playing it every night. “
The team’s mood was noticeably lighter after the victory when loud, happy music came from the locker room. Poturalski sensed the change in mood came after Friday’s victory at Grand Rapids.
“It started with the third period at Grand Rapids on Friday night and it showed what a team we are making up from three behind and scoring five goals in the third quarter without an answer,” he said. “It was a seasonal game, as the coach told us after that game. We just kept that momentum and took it one game at a time. But three out of three are definitely not easy for the mind and body and to get three wins, that is definitely huge for us. “
Warsofsky had an easy way to round up this weekend’s games.
“You know, I thought we won in different ways this weekend. Obviously … big comeback on Friday, the comeback last night. And tonight we kind of managed the game a lot better. So we have to play with the lead in the third period. We just managed the game better. You know, it’s that simple. “
Rating: Stefan Noesen, 1G, 2A; Andrew Poturalski, 1G; Josh Leivo, 1G; CJ Smith, 2A; Max Lajoie, 1A; Jesper Sellgren, 1 A.
On the net: Eetu Mäkiniemi, saved 18 out of 19, 0.947 Sv%