ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Chicago Wolves faced the rival Rockford IceHogs Sunday afternoon at Allstate Arena looking to rebound from their 2-1 loss the night before.
Unfortunately for the Wolves, their first and second periods mirrored Saturday?s as they were held to just five and seven shots, respectively. Unlike Saturday, however, it would be the visitors who drew first blood.
The first period came and went with the Wolves having only one noticeable chance – a shot off the crossbar – while Oscar Dansk turned aside 14 shots, including making a series of three saves in the span of a second and a half, to give his team a fighting chance at winning the third game it was playing in three days.
One of the biggest steals Dansk made was when he easily stuffed William Pelletier on his penalty shot attempt at 3:55 of the second. While it was Philip Holm who tripped the left winger on his breakaway, every single Wolves player on the ice made a mistake which had led to that great chance for the IceHogs.
Dansk could only stall for his team so much, however, as Andreas Martinsen found Cody Franson at the faceoff dot from down low at 6:29 of the second and hit him for the first tally of the game. Franson’s quick wrister beat Dansk, who had faced over 20 shots on goal before allowing one through.
By the beginning of the third, the Wolves found themselves down 1-0 and trying to climb out of a 22-12 SOG deficit. Though the closest they would get was within eight shots, the refs gave them a second wind when they ruled the would-be second goal of the game for Rockford a kick-in attempt at 7:31. While the initial shot may have been kicked in, it was in fact Dansk who put the puck into the net when he went to close his leg pads for a whistle and inadvertently put it past the goal line.
Then, Franson slashed T.J. Tynan in a cheap shot that was easily called for a penalty. Tynan stayed on the ice to quarterback the power play and appeared out for blood, but it was Jake Bischoff who fired from the point and was tipped by Teemu Pulkkinen past Jeff Glass for the tying goal at 12:52 of the third. Pulkkinen?s goal energized a lifeless Chicago team who was able to fight for at least one point and send a game into overtime they should have lost three times over.
With the assist, Bischoff now has three points (2G, 1A) since returning from injury, putting him on a much higher point-per-game pace than he was at previously.
“It’s definitely a little luck, said Bischoff. I’m trying to pick my spots a little better I think. Try to save some energy and when there’s an opportunity to jump [into the play], jump. I think just getting a little smarter. Starting to learn how this league works a little better and also a little of luck.”
The two teams began the overtime period trading chances until Brandon Pirri took a hooking penalty at 1:45. Chicago came out strong to kill the penalty, and executed a long change with relative ease. However, while shorthanded, Chris Casto anticipated the clear out of the Wolves’ zone too early and left two bodies in front of Dansk. It was easy for Franson to find Chris DiDomenico wide open for the game-winner and to send the visitors home with two big points as they hunt down the Central Division?s final playoff spot.
Dansk made an impressive 37 saves in the losing effort, and is now 7-0-1-0 since rejoining the Wolves a month ago.
Head coach Rocky Thompson aptly sang the goalie?s praises after the game, saying,
“It was huge. You need that in these situations where you’re playing a very good team, a team that’s trying to get back into a playoff spot, who are right there, really. I thought he kept us in it without a doubt looking at our schedule, I was nervous.”
In order to start once again challenging the Manitoba Moose for the top spot in the Central Division, the Wolves have to improve on their jump from the first puck drop.
“I think it all starts [at] warm up, said Bischoff. Just be more focused before the game. Be prepared a little more I think everyone individually needs to figure out what they need to be ready to go for the start of the game and do that on a consistent basis.”
Unsung hero of the Wolves’ season Kevin Lough began the game at forward before being slotted back on the blueline halfway through the third by Rocky, who said,
“We were banged up on defense, so I didn’t know if some of the players who were playing on defense would be able to make it through the game, so I wanted to go with seven d. But our forwards had played a lot of minutes – Lough’s a guy who has good legs, he plays up the ice a lot, so we figured for maybe half the game we?ll see how it works out and I thought he did a good job up front. Our d were able to make it through the game that were coming in trying to play injured, but I still thought it would be beneficial for our team offensively, because we were trailing, to drop him back on d and to get some of the usefulness out of him on the back end and I thought it worked out well, actually.”
With the loss, the Wolves drop to 33-19-7-2 on the season and took three of six available points on the weekend against three Central Division opponents.
“Looking at the schedule, I was nervous, said Rocky. We were able to get that first win and obviously the next game, it was a tough way to lose last night and then coming here on a quick turnaround we were able to steal a point which I’m happy [about]. Our guys competed as hard as I felt they could’ve done considering the circumstances and I?m proud of their effort tonight.”
With the overtime loss, the Wolves are 4-0-2-1 against the IceHogs, having taken at least one point in every matchup this season. While the Wolves hold the edge in the series, they have lost every game requiring extra time.
The Chicago Wolves are off for a bit until they rematch against the Rockford IceHogs Saturday at the Allstate Arena for a 7 p.m. puck drop. As always, be sure to follow @SinBinWolves on Twitter for current news and game updates.