ROSEMONT, Ill – It was a game of inches at the Allstate Arena Wednesday night in game one of the Central Division Finals between the Chicago Wolves and Iowa Wild.
The Chicago Wolves saw two key pieces returned to their lineup for the first time in over two months – league MVP Daniel Carr and second goal-scorer Brooks Macek. It was all but expected at least one of these two would show up on the score sheet, especially after watching their team almost get knocked out in round one.
After Chicago began the first period in dominant fashion, these two did just that when Macek cleaned up the tertiary rebound from Carr off a shot from the point by Jake Bischoff at 14:24.
Tomas Hyka had a chance to double the lead for the home team soon after, but Andrew Hammond, who was perfect against the Wolves in the regular season, was able to make the important save for Iowa.
Back the other way, Oscar Dansk allowed the tying goal to Gerald Mayhew when he failed to fully seal the net, and it was 1-1 with just 1:10 left on the clock in the opening frame. The two teams enter the locker rooms knotted at one, but shots on goal were 10-5 in favor of the home team.
As much as the first period belonged to Chicago, the second belonged to Iowa, who would record 11 SOG to Chicago’s 6. The home team would open the second on the power play, but it seemed to be subtly misconnecting on all chances. It was as if each person on the unit was playing at slightly different speeds.
In the midst of a back-and-forth second, where there were huge momentum swings, Mayhew capitalized for the second time on a swarming Wild series, dancing around all six Wolves players on the ice to put his team up 2-1 with 3:28 on the clock. There would be additional momentum swings in this period, but Hammond and Dansk each stood large to keep this game 2-1 after the sandwich stanza.
The beginning of the third period belonged to the home team, who would come just shy on the man advantage yet again. Keegan Kolesar, Curtis McKenzie and T.J. Tynan, who were perhaps the most steadily dominant line for Chicago all game and would finish with seven combined SOGv- and who knows how many other chances – came close to tying this game but could not solve Hammond.
Not to worry, the youngsters would put the rest of the game on their back. First, it was Nic Hague with an unassisted bomb from the point with 13:32 to knot this game at two, and breathe life back into the home team. At this point, it was clear game one of this series was a far cry from the game one stomping endured by the Wolves in the first round.
With 5:30 on the clock, it became a game of inches.
Hammond was forced to come up big with 22.4 seconds left in regulation after the Wolves did whatever they possibly could to poke the puck past him. Alas, the netminder recorded his 20th save of the night, and extra time would be needed in Rosemont.
Iowa came out firing on all cylinders to open the fourth period, but Dansk would stand tall in net to give his team hope of a win. As the minutes ticked off, Chicago seemed to find its footing and a once-dominant Wild period was now a back-and-forth set of chances by both the Wild and Wolves.
Just as he did in round one, and ever since joining the Chicago Wolves, Tye McGinn would give the Wolves their best scoring chance when he threw a crisp pass to Cody Glass. The cage was wide open for Glass who didn’t miss, and the home team took game one in overtime 3-2. Dansk would finish with 26 saves on 28 shots, and Hammond made the same amount on 29.
This was the first game in the playoffs the Wild power play had been kept off the score sheet, as they had scored at least one goal per game against the Milwaukee Admirals. While Chicago’s power play also struggled at times, both Macek and head coach Rocky Thompson agree it’s nothing to be worried about; it will come in time, especially with the continued turnover on special teams.
Rocky was not surprised that this game was so back and forth.
“It was kind of a mano a mano type of game where it was give and take. They would give, and we would take. Then we would give, and they would take. It was the way our series have been this year. It’s a really close match up and they’re a really, really good.”
Headed into tonight’s game, any Wolves fan would have been smart to bet either Macek or Carr would get at least one goal in their first game out especially after missing so much time.
“It was tough, obviously, not being able to play in the last series,” said Macek. “I couldn’t be happier the boys pulled it out in game five do-or-die. I’m excited that I got to get back in the lineup… Hands felt a little off, [my] gamespeed is faster in practice, but I thought as overtime was around I felt pretty good.”
After being almost a point per game (3G, 2A) in his six regular-season games with the Wolves, Glass needed to continue the goal-scoring momentum he finished with to end round one. That the youngster did, and he now has the same amount of points, three goals and two assists, in the six playoff games as well. When asked about his goal after the game, the 6th overall pick said,
“As soon as McGinn got the puck, I remember making eye contact with him and I kind of knew he was gonna find me. He put it through two guys and onto my stick, so I was lucky enough to put it in… I kind of blacked out. I know it hit the back of the net so that’s all that really matters.”
The Wolves look to close out this home stand of the playoffs with a win Thursday night at Allstate Arena. Puck drop is slated for a little after 7:00 p.m.