Game 18: Wolves 2, Wild 0
With three consecutive games against the rival Iowa Wild on the schedule, losing two top defensemen seemed like it could be a pretty big blow for the Wolves. Jalen Chatfield and Max Lajoie have played big minutes all season for Chicago, and having them up with the Hurricanes left some significant gaps in the roster for the AHL squad.
The Wolves recalled defenseman Daniel Brickley, signed to an AHL deal in the offseason, from the ECHL. Josh Jacobs and Artyom Serikov, both in and out of the lineup all season, drew back in for this first of three games.
And the Wolves defense, an issue all season long in terms of allowing odd man rushes and opposing players to get in up close to the goaltender, shut things down for not just this game, but — spoilers for the rest of this article — for all three games against the Wild.
In the first period against the Wild, the Wolves limited their opponent to just one shot on goal. Jesper Sellgren opened scoring for the Wolves at just 1:57 in the period as well, recording his first goal of the season and first AHL regular season goal. (He also scored three for the Charlotte Checkers in the 2019 Calder Cup run.)
While the Wild pushed back hard throughout the rest of the game — 13 shots in the second and 16 in the third — Alex Lyon was up to the task, turning away every shot he faced. Early in the third period, Sam Miletic gave the Wolves an insurance goal to help secure the win.
Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky had been looking forward to this Iowa series since the start of the season; the Wolves and Wild often clashed in explosive, physical games last year, and Warsofsky was eager to renew the rivalry. The Wild are also one of the top teams in the Central Division, and Warsofsky loves to see how his team stacks up against serious competition. The Wolves showed in this game that, for as gifted as they are on offense, they can also shut another team down when they put their minds to it.
Scoring: Jesper Sellgren, 1 G; Sam Miletic, 1 G; David Gust, 1 A
In net: Alex Lyon, saved 30 of 30, 1.000 Sv%
Game 19: Wolves 2, Wild 1
The Wolves headed to Iowa over the weekend to continue their three-game series. This game was far more evenly matched in terms of shots, and the Wild actually opened scoring this time on the power play, with Wild prospect Matt Boldy with the tally. The Wild had four power play opportunities in the first period, including three nearly consecutive instances. With how the Wolves’ penalty kill has struggled, it’s impressive that the Wild didn’t run up the score here.
That ultimately ended up being the Wild’s undoing in a way, as they failed to score again. The Wolves scored in the second and third periods to secure the come-back win. Jack Drury netted the eventual game-winner just 47 seconds into the third period off of a smart pass from captain Andrew Poturalski. Poturalski’s point incidentally was his 250th career point in the AHL.
Scoring: Max Letunov, 1 G; Jack Drury, 1 G; Dominik Bokk, 1 A; Jesper Sellgren, 1 A; Andrew Poturalski, 1 A; Stefan Noesen, 1 A
In net: Eetu Mäkiniemi, saved 23 of 24, 0.958 Sv%
Game 20: Wolves 4, Wild 0
The Wolves finished their strong performance in Iowa with another win, their sixth consecutive victory. This is the Wolves’ longest win streak of the year to date, surpassing a five-game win streak held from October 22 through October 31.
Forward David Cotton, returning to the lineup after injury for the first time since November 13, opened scoring for the Wolves off of a cross-ice pass from Dominik Bokk.
Jack Drury scored for the second consecutive game to make it 2-0 for the Wolves. Additional goals were scored by Stefan Noesen and Josh Leivo, who has continued a strong run of play recently. Leivo put a team-leading 10 shots on goal in this game.
The Wolves dominated the game not just in terms of goals but in shots too. The Wolves more than doubled the Wild’s shots, finishing with a 43-20 edge. But perhaps the most significant aspect of this game was the Wolves’ discipline. Just take a look:
That’s right, the Wild racked up 55 penalty minutes as their game crossed the line frequently in terms of discipline. The Wolves have struggled this year with staying on an even keel, often finding themselves goaded on by an opponent who wants to change the game. This time, they let the Wild dig themselves deeper into penalty trouble. And while the Wolves only came away with one power play goal, the fact that they didn’t let their own game get away from them speaks to a step in the right direction for this team’s maturity and ability to focus on their own game at hand.
Around these parts this is what you'd call a standard Wolves/Wild game https://t.co/rLQq7gujPB— Sarah Avampato (@WriteSaidSarah) December 5, 2021
Goaltender Alex Lyon’s back-to-back shut-outs also tied a franchise record this weekend. This was Lyon’s second shut-out of the season and the Wolves’ third shut-out overall.
Scoring: Josh Leivo, 1 G, 1 A; Jack Drury, 1 G, 1 A; David Cotton, 1 G; Stefan Noesen, 1 G; C.J. Smith, 2 A; Dominik Bokk, 1 A; Josh Jacobs, 1 A; Jamieson Rees, 1 A; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 A;
In net: Alex Lyon, saved 20 of 20, 1.000 Sv%