ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Chicago Wolves looked to end their regular season play with a win over the Manitoba Moose at home Sunday afternoon at the Allstate Arena. With Chicago having clinched the Central Division title two days (and games) previously, they came into the match resting eight of their usual starters.
Though Chicago would get the game’s first two chances on the power play, it was the visitors who entered the first intermission leading. With Chris Casto sitting for a four-minute double-minor for high-sticking Nic Petan at 19:14 of the first, Patrice Cormier tipped an absolutely beautiful redirect past Oscar Dansk for the 1-0 lead with just over seven seconds on the clock.
On their third power play chance of the night just four minutes into the second, the Wolves were finally able to solve goaltender Eric Comrie. This time, it was Teemu Pulkkinen assisting on the goal, not scoring, for his sixth point (4G, 2A) on the weekend. Pulkkinen’s shot left a perfect rebound in front of the open net to the left of Comrie, and Paul Thompson put the puck into the net to tie the game before most players on the ice had realized there was a rebound.
Before the second would end, the two teams would come together for two altercations after the whistle. The first fight featured Zac Leslie and Brody Sutter after Leslie took exception to badgering by the latter. Next, it was Tyler Wong chasing down Brendan Lemieux after taking an elbow to the head, and the teams entered the third locked at one.
With 7:37 left, the Moose caught a lucky break when the puck bounced off the top of the net and into the goal, deflecting off the back of Dansk for the 2-1 lead.
While not a hard-hitting game like the two against Rockford earlier this weekend, the Wolves-Moose matchup was a different kind of rough. Buddy Robinson accosted Kevin Lough away from the play repeatedly, and the Wolves defenseman did not retaliate until his helmet was forcefully peeled off his head. Then, the two dropped the mitts and went at it.
Dansk was pulled for the extra attacker with under two minutes to play in the game, and though Manitoba missed the initial empty net attempt, Jan Kostalek buried the puck seconds later to seal the 3-1 victory for the Moose in their regular-season finale.
Dansk made 27 saves in the loss, and Comrie stopped 23 for the win.
Head coach Rocky Thompson was nothing but smiles after the game – even though his team lost.
“It’s positive because we’re healthy. We’re healthy which is the most important thing on a roster is healthy and it’s good and it’s ready to go. We’re a dangerous team. Even in the last two games, you can see the depth of us. We were right in this game tonight. Oscar had a great goaltending performance – bad bounce at the end of that power play in the third period… but outside of that we were right there. One shot away, or even we could’ve been tied without that bounce. Last night we found a way to beat a Rockford team. Again these two lineups (Rockford and Manitoba), those are their playoff lineups that both teams are playing, so it’s encouraging for our guys and I’m sure the other guys are excited, we’re excited to get the playoffs going.”
Nicolas Hague echoed his new coach’s sentiment, saying,
“I think it shows the depth of this team. The fact that we can not play top players on this team and we’re able to beat Rockford. They’re a good team and we were sitting some key parts of our lineup, and even tonight we were sitting key parts of our lineup and I thought we were right there. They had a lucky bounce off the top of the net and that was the go-ahead goal, but I think it just shows the character of the room and how deep this team really is.”
As for how Rocky feels about his team having gone from 5-11-4-2 to a playoff team, he said,
“I’m happy with our players. I’m happy with the character they showed early on and sticking with the plan and not losing heart, losing focus and working hard every single day. They did that and they were the ones that put themselves in this position.”
The Chicago Wolves kick off their Calder Cup campaign Saturday at home against the Rockford IceHogs. Puck drop is scheduled for just after 7 p.m. Be sure to follow @SinBinWolves for all coverage as it relates to the Wolves’ quest for the Cup.
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