All good things must come to an end: in this case, it’s the Wolves waltzing through the AHL without a care in the world. Since the Wolves’ seven-game winning streak ended, they have only won one of four games played and gained just one point in the standings.
While the current struggles of the Wolves run deeper than just the absence of one or two players, the impact of losing players to the NHL, taxi squads, or — in Seth Jarvis’s case — the WHL, can’t be ignored.
Jarvis, the Wolves’ leading scorer, left on March 2 to return to the Portland Winterhawks. The Wolves have lost both games since his departure. Morgan Geekie, who scored five points in two games, returned to the Hurricanes in February. Rem Pitlick, Jeremy Davies, and Tanner Jeannot have all been recalled to Nashville. Jarvis, Pitlick, and Davies still lead the Wolves in overall points, goals, and assists respectively, despite missing several games.
Such is the reality of life in the AHL, but as the saying goes, life comes at you fast, and coach Ryan Warsofsky and the Wolves must now adjust to their new normal.
Game 10: Cleveland 4, Chicago 3 (SO)
Although the Wolves outshot the Monsters 19-11 in the first period, including 12 shots before Cleveland even registered their first, it was the Monsters who came away with a 3-1 lead, including a goal on their first shot of the game. While the Wolves scored 12 seconds later to tie the game, penalties and poor play away from the puck made this game an uphill battle for the home team.
The Monsters would not score again in regulation, and goals from Frederic Allard and Ryan Suzuki tied the game up. The game went all the way to a shootout, where Monsters forward Justin Scott was the only player to score. David Cotton, Tommy Novak, and Dominik Bokk were all unable to convert for the Wolves.
Plenty of highlights from Friday's battle with Cleveland...just not enough to earn more than one point. Enjoy good stuff from @max_lajoie, @fredallard3, @philtomasino26, @RSuzuki61, Bibeau and more in this @Hefty Highlight Reel.#WeAreTheWolves pic.twitter.com/XNhThBq1l5— Chicago Wolves (@Chicago_Wolves) March 6, 2021
After the game, the team’s compete level without the puck was cited by Warsofsky as an area of improvement for the future. “We played a good hockey game, battled back. Really good start to our game,” Warsofsky said. “I thought we got away from it at times. Our play away from the puck probably isn’t what we want.” He went on to explain: “If we don’t compete away from the puck, playing in the offensive zone is not going to happen.”
Scoring: Max Lajoie, 1 G 1 A; Frederic Allard, 1 G 1 A; Ryan Suzuki, 1 G; Phil Tomasino, 2 A; David Cotton, 1 A; Patrick Harper, 1 A
In Net: Antoine Bibeau, 0.870 Sv %, saved 20 of 23
Game 11: Cleveland 3, Chicago 1
Dominik Bokk scored his first AHL goal on Saturday, which stood as the Wolves’ only tally in their rematch against the Monsters. Bokk scored when Monsters goalie Matiss Kivlenieks elected to cover an approaching Sean Malone; Malone passed to Bokk, who had an empty net to shoot into. The goal was one of the few highlights of an otherwise disappointing game for the Wolves.
Warsofsky was disappointed in the game overall, but did cite Bokk as a player who has improved and competed harder from game to game. While the ever-changing roster contributes to the consistency issues, Warsofsky was reluctant to place too much focus on that, instead pushing players to spend every game with a “next man up” mentality.
Overall, though, Warsofsky wants to see his team play with more desperation or urgency: “Even when we were winning games, I didn’t think our effort was there for 60 minutes. I think it comes and goes. I think guys need to figure out that you have to be in better shape. I think we need some more desperation in our game at times.”
Warsofsky’s closing remarks to media summed up the Wolves’ weekend games perfectly:
“We’re learning right now as a group that when we don’t work, we’re just a very below average American League hockey team.”
Monsters goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks stopped 78 of 82 shots in back-to-back games in his first appearances after coming off of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ injured reserve list.
Scoring: Dominik Bokk, 1 G; Sean Malone, 1 A; Lukas Craggs, 1 A
In Net: Beck Warm, 0.912 Sv %, saved 31 of 34