ROSEMONT, IL – The Chicago Wolves dropped Saturday’s contest against the San Antonio Rampage by a score of 2-1 at home at the Allstate Arena. This game marked the first matchup of the season between the two AHL teams with St. Louis Blues prospects. Brandon Pirri scored the lone goal for the Wolves in his return to home ice after being sidelined due to injury.
While the Wolves took two early penalties to begin the first period, they continued to prove why they lead the league in penalty killing, posting an 89.4% success rate entering Saturday’s game. After two commanding kills, Pirri potted Teemu Pulkkinen’s feed to put the home team up 1-0. San Antonio, however, answered 2:43 later in the first, as former Wolves player Adam Musil beat Kasimir Kaskisuo to knot the game at one entering intermission.
The second period was relatively uneventful between the two teams. Spencer Martin made 26 saves for the Rampage through two periods of play, while the Wolves held the opposing team to only twelve shots on goal combined. Chicago came close numerous times to jumping out to a lead but appeared to miss key passes and rebounds.
Andrew Agozzino notched the eventual game-winner for the visitors 1:15 into the third. For the first time in awhile, the home crowd did not cheer when this former Chicago Wolves player beat a goalie at Allstate. While Chicago would get its third and final power play opportunity of the night five minutes after Agozzino’s goal, it continued to be fruitless, finding itself unable to convert on any of the past 19 chances.
Kaskisuo made 19 saves in the losing effort, and the same five players were on the ice for Chicago during both of San Antonio’s goals. Chicago moves to 4-6-1-0 on the season.
Head coach Rocky Thompson thought his team played well in the loss.
“I was happy with how a lot of our guys played tonight. We played aggressively, we were hard on our forecheck. I thought we competed, really, for the 60 minutes. I think their goaltender played extremely well and we had opportunities. We had opportunities again tonight to score goals. It didn’t work out for us. Like I said, their goalie made great saves.”
The penalty kill has easily been the highlight of this team’s play in recent games. Thompson credits all of his guys in the effort.
“Just hard work, sacrifice and attention to detail. Things change night-to-night on the penalty kill, depending on who we’re playing against, but our guys consistently work. They adapt to what’s in front of them and they sacrifice at the end of the day and that’s why you have success.”
As for his biggest concern for the team still? It’s not the power play. At least, not the power play as a whole.
“I think something we do have to get better at as a team, particularly – and it’s not just on the power play – is winning faceoffs. It’s hard to go back when you lose a draw and then have to break a puck out. So right there, it’s twenty seconds of killing, but it’s also twenty seconds of gas in your tank that, when you have to break in and get it back down, you just got a little bit less energy to execute. When we won the faceoff, or jumped the loss and got the puck back, we had a lot of success because we didn’t have to go back and break it out. So that’s a key for us, and I think if we can get a little bit better in the faceoff circle there and win those draws, our power play percentage – we’re going to get rewarded again because, like I said, we did have some opportunities to score tonight on them.”
Wade Megan definitely showed improvement at the dot centering, Pirri, and Pulkkinen, tonight. He says,
“I think that’s always a work in progress. It just always is. You always have to work on it, you always have to compete in the faceoff circle. So that’s just a growing part of my game and I’ll continue to work on that.”
The Chicago Wolves take on the Milwaukee Admirals at home Sunday at 3 p.m. as they look to redeem themselves after Wednesday’s 3-0 shutout loss to the division foes.
Thompson knows what the key to walking away with a win Sunday is.
“We didn’t compete in our last game against Milwaukee. So that was a problem for us. We started off well, and then we kind of, we lost a little bit of heart there as they scored those three goals. Our guys weren’t able to recover… at the end of the day tomorrow, if we’re able to compete, and that’s what Milwaukee does, they’re a very competitive team, That’s an opportunity for us to on home ice establish ourselves and right some wrongs.”