Last season, the Chicago Wolves teamed up with the Milwaukee Admirals, given that the Admirals organization decided to opt out of the COVID-shortened season. The two historical rivals combined to build a team that, had there been any actual playoffs, would have been a legitimate contender for the AHL’s Calder Cup. Instead, they won their cobbled-together division and then immediately disbanded, given that life (and the divisions) were going back to normal this year.
And, well, everything sure is normal between these teams. In a home-and-home series, the Wolves and Admirals racked up penalties and post-whistle scrums just like old times. Like any classic sports rivalry, the personnel may change frequently but the collective dislike for one another will never change.
Game 2: Wolves 3, Admirals 2
In the Wolves’ first trip to Milwaukee, rookie goaltender Eetu Mäkiniemi recorded his first professional North American win, stopping 41 shots. Mäkiniemi , a Hurricanes 2017 draft pick, has spent his career to date in Finland prior to joining the Wolves, but the 22-year old netminder looked like a seasoned pro in his debut.
The Admirals attempted to make this one interesting, scoring twice in the closing minutes of the third period, but were unable to find the equalizer before time expired. New Wolves Jalen Chatfield and C.J. Smith, both AHL veterans, led the way with four shots on goal each and recorded two of the Wolves’ three goals. Additionally, Hurricanes prospect David Cotton began to build off of his strong rookie season, with his first goal of the season opening scoring for the team.
Despite being outshot in each period of the game, the Wolves had more high-quality chances and were able to get the best of goaltender Devin Cooley (who, of course, got his first AHL start last season as a member of the Wolves).
Scoring: Jalen Chatfield, 1 G; David Cotton, 1 G; C.J. Smith, 1 G; Andrew Poturalski, 2 A; Stefan Noesen, 1 A; David Guest, 1 A; Ryan Suzuki, 1 A; Jack Drury, 1 A;
In net: Eetu Mäkiniemi, saved 41 of 43, 0.953 Sv%
Game 3: Wolves 6, Admirals 1
Both of these teams played the night previous in Milwaukee, but from watching it, you never would have realized the Wolves were one of them. From puck drop, the Wolves played an up-tempo game, peppering the Admirals with shots. Admirals goaltender Devin Cooley played for the second consecutive night, an unexpected move sparked by the call-up of goaltender Connor Ingram to the NHL.
It took most of the first period for the Wolves to open scoring, but when they did, the goals came in quick succession: three goals went in in 93 second, leaving the Admirals reeling by the end of the period.
Captain Andrew Poturalski, a familiar name to Charlotte Checkers fans, was highly active all night, showing off his physical, energetic style of play that’s made him both a fan favorite and a successful AHL player. He ended the night with a goal and an assist, three shots, and involvement in a good number of post-whistle shenanigans.
The Admirals would ultimately get on the board with just over a minute left to play, spoiling Alex Lyon’s shutout bid. Former Wolves Cody Glass and Jeremy Davies picked up assists on the Admirals only goal.
Ultimately, six different players scored for the Wolves and 15 players registered points. Stefan Noesen led the team with six shots and earned himself first star of the game off of an overall strong performance.
The Chicago Wolves now lead the Milwaukee Admirals 2-0 with 2:08 left in the first period.— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) October 24, 2021
Stefan Noesen scoops up Cavan Fitgerald's rebound and snipes it through Devin Cooley's five-hole.#MILHockey #WeAreTheWolves @FPC_AHL pic.twitter.com/zweQc7JO5k
Wolves forward C.J. Smith, who has three goals in three games, said that the Wolves’ loss against Rockford last weekend showed them what they need to do to win in the league.
“I think last weekend was a wake-up call for us to know how hard this league is. You just have to compete all the time,” Smith said after the game.
Smith is primarily playing on a line with Poturalski and Noesen, all three veteran players with some NHL experience as well, which also positions them well as leaders in the room.
Facing off against former teammates and colleagues isn’t something that the team spends much time thinking about.
“We’re not really talking about it, to be honest,” said coach Ryan Warsofsky. “Teammates and coaches, that’s in the past. We’re just trying to stay in the moment.”
Last year featured players and coaches from two different teams learning from each other, but this weekend officially closed the book on the very unique 2021 AHL season.
Hear from Coach Warsofsky after tonight’s win!— Chicago Wolves (@Chicago_Wolves) October 24, 2021
Our post game sound: pic.twitter.com/hGRA0S7dmZ
Scoring: Andrew Poturalski, 1 G 1 A; Stefan Noesen, 1 G 1 A; C.J. Smith, 1 G; Stelio Mattheos, 1 G; Maxim Letunov, 1 G; David Gust, 1 G; David Cotton, 2 A; Jalen Chatfield, 1 A; Max Lajoie, 1 A; Jack Drury, 1 A; Spencer Smallman, 1 A; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 A; Artyom Serikov, 1 A; Josh Jacobs, 1 A; Sam Miletic, 1 A
In net: Alex Lyon, saved 18 of 19, 0.947 Sv%