ROSEMONT, Ill – After dropping the last two games of the Calder Cup Finals, game four was pivotal for the Chicago Wolves who were down 2-1 to the Charlotte Checkers in the best-of-seven series.
The Wolves saw the return of Curtis McKenzie to the lineup after he was suspended for game three. This appeared to be just in time for Chicago who would be without the services of Daniel Carr after he left game three late. He’s currently day-to-day.
All signs seemed to point in favor of the home team early when Nic Hague opened up the scoring just 45 seconds into the first, igniting the crowd when he took the puck coast-to-coast and dangled around Checkers netminder Dustin Tokarski to make it 1-0 Chicago.
Jesper Sellgren was able to knot the game at one for the visitors on a shot through traffic which beat Oscar Dansk clear.
Making up for his turnover the night before, Zac Leslie regained the lead for Chicago with his second goal of the playoffs at 16:29. Thanks to the screen in front of Tokarski by Tomas Hyka, the goaltender did not see the shot from the point with enough time to react. If the Wolves were going to continue to have success, they would need to continue these messy goals.
After 20, it was 2-1 in favor of Chicago.
Tye McGinn and McKenzie operated by this theory as well during the opening frame. McGinn had an opportunity midway through the second to make it 3-1 Chicago after the nice read by Dylan Coghlan to prevent a potential breakaway chance by the visitors.
Brooks Macek was finally able to make it 3-1 when he pounced on a rebound with 6:13 left in the second.
However, the Wolves gave up a late power-play goal to Martin Necas who made it 3-2 with exactly 60 seconds remaining in the middle frame.
At this point, shots on goal were knotted at 16 all and Chicago had the one-goal margin.
Then, the wheels fell off for the home team as Nicolas Roy needed just 32 seconds in the third to knot this game at 3.
While the teams would trade chances, it was Alexi Saarela who would break the tie with 7:08 on the clock, and Roy would record his second of the evening with the empty net goal at 17:28. In less than 20 minutes of gameplay, a 3-1 Chicago lead had become a 5-3 striking loss. Dansk saved just 18 of 22 shots on goal in the losing effort.
Now, the Wolves find themselves down 3-1 in the series with a chance to be done for good Saturday night. If you’re Rocky Thompson, do you give Max Lagace a try in net? He switched up netminders when on the brink of elimination last season, and Max is the single reason Chicago went to three overtime periods in that game before the loss.
It’s clear something has to give, but it may be too little, too late for the Wolves at this point. The Checkers’ roster is full of players who will be on an NHL roster full time sooner rather than later, and just when you think they’re down for the count they find another gear.
If you’re Rocky Thompson, what change would you make?
As always be sure to follow @SinBinWolves for all your Calder Cup Finals needs.