ROCKFORD, ILL. – The Chicago Wolves closed out 2017 with a 6-2 victory over the Rockford IceHogs at the Allstate Arena Saturday night. With the victory, the Wolves extend their point streak to 10 games, which is now the longest active in the AHL.
For a team with such erratic power play performance this season, the Wolves were able to make it click against the IceHogs. Brandon Pirri opened the game’s scoring on the man advantage at 7:29 in the first, one-timing the faceoff win by Wade Megan past IceHogs goaltender Matt Tomkins to give his team the lead through twenty minutes.
Ever Mr. Special Teams, T.J. Tynan made it 2-0 Wolves 3:24 into the second shorthanded, good for his third shorthanded goal of the season. Tyler Sikura got one back for his team just 1:01 later, capitalizing on a poor change by the Wolves.
Tomas Hyka recorded Chicago’s second power-play goal of the night at 10:21 of the middle frame. Hyka’s eighth of the year came on a tic-tac-toe kickstarted by Brett Sterling to Stefan Matteau.
The IceHogs pulled within a goal with just 1:34 to play in the season as Darren Raddysh and Luke Johnson created a give-and-go chance which resulted in the latter beating Wolves goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo on the power play.
Though Kaskisuo had not played for two weeks, he was not worried about being rusty.
“[Not playing] has given me time to work a little harder. Work on [my] physique and lift some weights, hit the bike, because you’re not worried about playing a lot so you don’t have to save anything for games.”
Chris Casto would then score his first goal of the season five minutes into the third as he caught his own rebound on a 3-on-2 rush into the IceHogs zone. Hyka’s second of the night came a minute later after Kevin Lough broke the puck in and dropped it to Beau Bennett whose crisp pass right to the tape of Hyka gave Chicago a 5-2 lead.
“It was a really smart play by Beau,” said Hyka. “I was just waiting to come to the net and Beau had the really good view. Three guys were looking at him. I was just trying to go to the net and I got a great pass from him. I got an open net. I’m really glad I scored because last game I had the open net and didn’t score.”
Megan would cap off the night’s scoring with just 2:07 left on the clock. His wrister deflected off the skate of an IceHogs player and went top shelf to seal the win.
Kaskisuo made 29 saves in the victory and the Wolves improved to 14-12-5-2 on the season.
“It’s a lot easier now than it was when things were going south,” said Kaskisuo. “That’s when it was tough. When it was five, six, seven games we lost in a row. That’s when the pressure is on.”
Head Coach Rocky Thompson is hopeful his two power play units from this weekend will carry their success from tonight into the future.
“I was very disappointed in our very first power play. Our guys took control. Little bit of confidence. Great win by Megan to Pirri and he pounded it. We had some good looks after that on the other one and we ended up scoring – Hyka scored a great goal and it really had to do with our entry on the power play. When we could get in and got set up then it was what we thought it could potentially be, so that was nice.”
As for where he sees this team going in the new year, Rocky said,
“Everyday we just want to get a little bit better. That’s been kind of our motto in the process, we just want to continue to improve. We like our 5-on-5 game, we think our goaltending is doing a great job now for us and it’s really helped solidify our team… We really want to improve on our power play. We feel that if we can get our power play to where it should be, that now we’re a real, real dangerous team.”
Kaskisuo is elated with his team’s play to end the year.
“Great. That’s my job when I play is to win the game for us and I’ve been able to do that lately. Turn my season around a little bit after those losses we had as a team. Season keeps on going, just use this momentum and get the positives out of it and go again the second half.”
The Chicago Wolves begin their 2018 slate of games at noon on January 1st at the Iowa Wild. As always, be sure to follow @SinBinWolves on Twitter for current news and game updates.