Game 7: Wolves 1, Moose 5
The Wolves faced the Manitoba Moose for the first time since March 1, 2020, shortly before the AHL season ended early due to the pandemic. In that time, the Wolves changed NHL affiliates and turned over their entire roster and nearly the whole coaching staff. The Moose, meanwhile, feature many of the same returning players, including forward Kristian Vesalainen, who started the 2021-22 season on the Winnipeg Jets’ roster.
This game started ugly for the Wolves and got worse from there. Poor puck management cost the Wolves early, with the Moose capitalizing on errant passes and turnovers as well as uncontrolled rebounds off of first or second shots.
Andrew Poturalski and Sam Miletic both had golden opportunities in the first to score, missed chances which felt more significant as time went on and the Moose racked up points. Defenseman Jalen Chatfield scored the only goal for the Wolves early in the second period, but the team couldn’t find the back of the net again.
When asked about the puck issues, coach Ryan Warsofsky said, “We were chasing hard. They scored on the power play early. We just couldn’t get to our game. We were late with our races, with compete level, with puck management.”
Goaltender Eetu Makiniemi started his second consecutive game, although the start was originally supposed to be Alex Lyon’s. Lyon started warm-ups with the team but was pulled moments before the starting lineup was announced, due to the injury to Antti Raanta in that day’s Hurricanes game.
This was Makiniemi’s first loss, and the first time he’s faced serious adversity in an AHL game. “He comes into a tough spot, it’s not really on him,” Warsofsky said when asked about Makiniemi. “It’s not ideal, but it is what it is,” he said of the late substitution of Makiniemi for Lyon. “We need to be better … that can’t be a crutch or an excuse of why we played the way we played.”
Scoring: Jalen Chatfield, 1 G; Josh Leivo, 1 A; David Gust, 1 A
In net: Eetu Mäkiniemi, saved 25 of 29, 0.862 Sv%
Game 8: Wolves 4, Admirals 2
This game threatened to be a repeat of the previous night’s game, with two quick power play goals getting past Makiniemi. Less than a minute separated the first period goals from Matt Luff and Cole Smith of the Milwaukee Admirals.
Once again, the Wolves had excellent chances on net against the Admirals, with players like Jack Drury, Spencer Smallman, and Andrew Poturalski all missing the net early in the first period.
The Wolves got on the board near the end of the first period thanks to a shot from defenseman Artyom Serikov. The goal was Serikov’s first AHL goal and first professional North American goal. The 20-year old Russian defenseman signed as a free agent in the off season after one season in the KHL.
Penalties would be a recurring theme in this game. The Admirals had seven power play opportunities thanks to some undisciplined play from the Wolves. Additionally, for the second straight game, the Wolves failed to capitalize on any of their power plays, coming up scoreless after five attempts.
After the game, Warsofsky spoke of the need to stay more disciplined. “We want to play with emotion, but we want to control it. … It’s all about playing hard, playing physical, playing the way we need to play.”
The eventual game winner was scored by Jalen Chatfield, his third consecutive game with a goal. David Gust made the win a little more decisive with an empty net goal with just under three minutes left in regulation.
Of his newfound offense, Chatfield said that the team and the system are helping drive his scoring up. He worked a lot over the summer, he said, trying to improve his game. “At the end of the day, I Just want to come in here and be the best teammate and contribute the most I can,” he said.
To keep this game from escalating like the previous day’s loss against the Moose, Warsofsky spoke of the team’s resilience. “There was no panic. We knew we needed to get to our game. … Credit to the guys for sticking with it,” he said.
Of note, forward Ryan Suzuki missed both games this weekend with an undisclosed, but potentially minor, injury. The next time the Wolves take the ice is on Friday as they head up the road to Rockford.
Scoring: Jalen Chatfield, 1 G; Max Lajoie, 1 G; Artyom Serikov, 1 G; David Gust, 1 G; Joey Keane, 2 A; C.J. Smith, 1 A; Josh Leivo, 1 A; Stelio Mattheos, 1 A; Maxim Letunov, 1 A
In net: Eetu Mäkiniemi, saved 25 of 27, 0.926 Sv%