ROSEMONT, IL – Head coach Rocky Thompson earned his first regular-season win behind the bench as the Chicago Wolves topped the Ontario Reign 5-2 at Allstate Arena Saturday night. Special teams gave Chicago the edge, as they went 3-for-5 on the man-advantage and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
Saturday night’s game also marked the first-ever meeting between the Chicago Wolves and the Ontario Reign, the latter of which joined the AHL for the 2015-16 season. Ontario and Chicago both entered the night with two losses. Although Chicago had scored five goals in each of its two losses, it was still winless on the season. It hoped to have some success against an Ontario team which was looking to bounce back after being held to one goal total in its first two games.
Alex Tuch’s power-play goal at 14:11 of the first period would kick start Chicago’s commanding home victory. Tuch’s fourth goal of the season came after he put Brandon Pirri’s rebound past Jack Campbell. Teemu Pulkkinen had the secondary assist, but this line was just getting started for the night. Justin Auger of Ontario took a late goaltender interference penalty at 19:21 of the first, which negated what would have been the game-tying goal.
Paul Thompson showed why he had an “A” on his chest as he doubled Chicago’s lead at 5:17 of the second, potting T.J. Tynan’s rebound off Campbell’s leg pads. Tomas Hyka made his own mark on the power play as he put in a rebound two and a half minutes later.
Though shots remained almost even throughout the second period, the score gap continued to increase as seconds ticked away. Pirri recorded his first goal in a Chicago Wolves jersey, putting the puck in from just even with the goal line. The Wolves would carry the 4-0 lead into the third.
Max Lagace’s shutout bid was spoiled early in the third, however, as Philippe Maillet broke Ontario’s 127-minute, 40-second goal drought at 1:03. Brett Sutter would make it 5-2 31 seconds later as the Reign attempted to make a four-goal comeback. The Wolves would hold Ontario off the score sheet for the remainder of the game, and Pulkkinen notched an insurance goal with 4:29 remaining to seal the win.
Rocky Thompson was really enthusiastic about how his team bounced back after Ontario’s two quick goals.
“When you lose momentum it can be so hard to regain it, but our guys were able to do that and actually get some really good scoring chances where the goaltender had to make some big saves for them right in the middle part of that period. I loved the battle back from our guys in not-perfect circumstances, so that’s definitely something we can build on.”
Lagace echoed Thompson’s positivity.
“It’s gonna happen in the season, two quick goals. Just had to stay composed and keep doing what I did in the first two periods. After that, I thought we shut the door, played really well, and the response from the team was excellent.”
Thompson was also really enthusiastic about Lagace’s 34-save effort.
“I liked how he was able to settle down after those two goals and get control back, so that was really good. I thought he played really well tonight, which is great – good for his confidence and I thought we could see that he had some swagger in the net which is important.”
As for what Rocky Thompson has planned for the team?
“I’m not going to think about it yet. I’m going to enjoy this [win] tonight, and I’m going to see how our guys are doing. It’s a long week, lots of things happen at the American League level, sometimes it’s the Vegas Golden Knights or the St. Louis Blues that can dictate what the roster is. So, I’ll enjoy this tonight and we’ll get back to work.”
Thoughts on the Ontario Reign, courtesy of Duck and Hound.
- After going almost 130 minutes without scoring, the Reign pack two goals into 30 seconds, and nothing else.
- The forward lines are starting to come together, but the defense is still having problems.
- The penalty kill is once again struggling to start the season, but the power play isn’t there to back it up.
- Reign are still looking for their first win of the season as they descend to the bottom of the Western Conference.
The Chicago Wolves are back in action Saturday, October 21 at 7 p.m. as they take on the Tuscon Roadrunners home at the Allstate Arena.