ROSEMONT, Ill. – Great defensive play by the Manitoba Moose led to them defeating the Chicago Wolves 2-1 at Allstate Arena Saturday night in a battle between the Central Division?s top two teams. Even with four power-play opportunities in the first forty minutes, the Wolves were limited to just 11 shots on goal.
The Moose came out strong in the opening period, controlling the game from the first puck drop. They outhustled, outshot, and simply outplayed their division rivals who entered Saturday on a six-game winning streak. As the minutes ticked off the clock, Chicago averaged just one shot on goal every five minutes.
However, Manitoba gave Chicago a five-on-three power play with less than two minutes on the clock. It would be the home team which struck first in the low-shooting affair when T.J. Tynan found Teemu Pulkkinen down low to the right of Moose goaltender Eric Comrie. In Rocky Thompson’s systems, Pulkkinen usually fires immediately upon receiving the puck, but he caught it with the heel of his blade and therefore dished it cross-crease to a waiting Brandon Pirri who fired from one knee to give the home team the 1-0 advantage after twenty on just four shots on goal.
Chicago’s best chance to score in the second came early on a shorthanded rush quarterbacked by Tynan, but the eventual shot proved to be an easy save for Comrie to keep his team within one.
The Moose tied the game at one when Peter Stoykewych intercepted the puck in the neutral zone and fired high going bardown in the corner, beating Wolves goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo gloveside.
After twenty minutes, the Wolves, who are consistently one of the highest-shooting teams in the AHL, found themselves limited to just 11 shots on goal.
Even with six total chances on the power play, it was the Moose who would walk away with the game-winner coming with an extra man. Though the Moose and Wolves played a much more even third period, Chicago took a costly penalty with just 3:48 on the board. Nic Petan scored fivehole on Kaskisuo to give his team the win and help give them a little breathing room over the number two team as they inch to playoff time.
Kaskisuo made 20 saves in the loss while Comrie stopped 22 of 23 faced.
One of the biggest reasons the Wolves lost was their power play, which went 1-for-6 on the night.
‘In a tight game like that, said Pirri, and they’re all going to be like that down the stretch, if your power play gets hot that could be the difference. It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t [tonight].”
Head coach Rocky Thompson agreed with Pirri about the power play.
“We had some really good opportunities in the third period. I thought Comrie came up big in those situations. Had chances on the power play all night. We didn’t do a very good job on the power play – in the third I thought we did and it gave us a chance to take the lead unfortunately it didn’t work out.”
Rocky wasn’t happy with the team’s performance during the first forty minutes and credited Manitoba’s play.
“They played hard. They were playing heavy tonight. We didn’t support the puck well, I felt in the third period we did. It was probably our best period of the game as far as generating opportunities and having possession, but they were playing hard. I thought we were defending okay but we just had no sustained pressure up the ice early in the game because we were allowing ourselves and our teammates to be isolated so we caused changes of possession.”
Pirri felt Chicago needed to simplify its game to win.
“We were being too cute and at the same time we weren’t holding the puck. You’ve gotta be confident. It’s not easy. They didn’t play last night, we did, but it’s not an excuse, it’s what happens in this league.”
With the loss, the Wolves fell to 33-19-6-2 and saw their six game win streak come to an end. Their next game is a Sunday home matinee match as the Rockford IceHogs are in town for a 3 p.m. puck drop. As always, be sure to follow @SinBinWolves on Twitter for current Wolves information and game updates.