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Wolves experience first loss of season, but bounce back big

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The Wolves learned their lesson after one sloppy game against the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Courtesy of Chicago Wolves

The clock is ticking on some of the Chicago Wolves’ young players, as the WHL’s start date looms and talks continue regarding the OHL’s return to play. This has been a strange year for the AHL, with so many 18 and 19-year-olds able to play thanks to the late starts from the WHL and OHL. For evidence, look no further than Seth Jarvis leading the AHL in points, with 11 in nine games. Jarvis’s seven goals are second in the league and lead all rookies.

Sure, the NHL’s taxi squads are currently the home of some of the usual top talent in the AHL. Many AHL teams are much younger and more inexperienced than they would be in a normal season. Players like Jarvis and company aren’t exactly facing the same caliber of competition as they would in a standard AHL season. But we’re still getting the chance to watch these young players grow in front of us. It’s a tantalizing glimpse into the future for the Carolina Hurricanes, especially when players like Jarvis and Ryan Suzuki team up to create a goal.

They’re not quite ready for prime time yet, but they’re putting on a show to let us know that they’re coming, sooner rather than later.

Game 8: Grand Rapids 4, Chicago 1

All good things must come to an end, and that includes the Chicago Wolves’ winning streak. After seven games that left even the most seasoned fan wondering exactly how long the Wolves could push the streak, the team came out flat against a determined Grand Rapids squad.

The Griffins had gone undefeated since dropping their first two games of the season to the Wolves. From the very first puck drop, the Griffins had the Wolves on their heels. While the first period was fairly even in terms of shots, the Griffins outshot the Wolves 26-16 over the final two frames. The Wolves struggled to carry the puck into the offensive zone, and when they did get there, they were largely unable to generate any dangerous shots on Griffins goaltender Kevin Boyle.

Griffins forward Riley Barber turned in a quick goal in the first, and Dominik Shine and Barber both scored in just about the first two minutes of the second to give the Griffins a 3-0 lead. While Rem Pitlick scored for the Wolves just 42 seconds into the third period, the team was unable to sustain any offensive pressure as the Griffins continued to push them out of the dangerous areas on the ice.

Scoring: Rem Pitlick, 1 G; Sheldon Rempal, 1 A; Frederic Allard, 1 A

In Net: Antoine Bibeau, 0.886 Sv %, saved 31 of 35

Game 9: Chicago 8, Grand Rapids 4

The Wolves didn’t have to wait long to get another chance at the Griffins as they closed the two-game series out at home on Sunday. Coach Ryan Warsofsky emphasized the importance of a fast start, and his players answered the call. Forward Phil Tomasino, playing in his first game since returning from injury, scored 48 seconds into the first period.

While the Wolves are currently the most penalized team in the AHL, their penalty kill has been outstanding, going 20 straight kills over slightly more than four games without surrendering a goal against. The Griffins put an end to that streak as well, with Taro Hirose scoring on the power play at 10:29 in the first.

Four goals were scored over a period of just around six minutes in the first period, with the Wolves and Griffins trading tallies. Thanks to a pair of goals from Jamieson Rees, the Wolves ended the first frame up 3-2, and controlled the game the rest of the way en route to an 8-4 victory.

Rees’ two quick goals in the first period showed off the depth of his skills as a player. The first goal came on a tip in from a Jeremy Davies shot; the second saw Rees get the chance to use his skating and puck handling to score.

After the game, Rees described the many different aspects of his playing style. “I think I’m a pretty quick player once I get going,” Rees said, “and I think I have the ability to make some nice plays in the offensive zone and play a gritty game, play tough, hard to play against, and compete hard.”

Both Rees and Warsofsky acknowledged that the team just wasn’t ready to compete in their previous loss against Grand Rapids.

As Rees put it: “We were ready to play. I don’t think we showed up ready to play Friday night. We showed up tonight and we were ready to snap back and show them that that’s not the team we are.”

Warsofsky was proud of his team’s commitment to playing hard in Sunday afternoon’s game.

“That was a good response from our team,” he said. “We played a lot harder, with more structure. Really good effort, obviously. To score the eight is nice, but to be honest, we were really looking for more of the response and how we were going to respond from really not skating, not showing up, the other night in Grand Rapids.”

A somewhat unsung hero of the Wolves’ success has been first year goaltender Beck Warm, who has shown no difficulty in adjusting to the pro game after finishing his WHL career. With his win, Warm joins a very small group of goaltenders who began their careers with at least a 4-0-0 record. (Fellow netminder Jeremy Helvig will accomplish the same if he wins his next outing.)

When asked about what’s made Warm’s transition to the AHL so successful, Warsofsky had nothing but praise for the young netminder. “We see a lot of goalies struggle coming to the American League, and he’s done a great job, surprised everyone in our organization,” Warsofsky said. “He’s got a pro mentality, the way he prepares off the ice, and even on the ice. He’s surprised a lot of people and he’s done a great job here, and it starts to give us a chance to win every night.”

Scoring: Jamieson Rees, 2 G; David Cotton, 1 G 1 A; Seth Jarvis, 1 G 1 A; Rem Pitlick, 1 G 1 A; Sean Malone, 1 G; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 G; Phil Tomasino, 1 G; Anthony Richard, 2 A; Jeremy Davies, 2 A; Frederic Allard, 1 A; Cole Smith, 1 A; Joey Keane, 1 A; David Warsofsky, 1 A; Ryan Suzuki, 1 A; Tommy Novak, 1 A; Sheldon Rempal, 1 A; Dominik Bokk, 1 A

In Net: Beck Warm, 0.879 Sv %, saved 29 of 33