Same song, second verse, a little bit louder and a little bit worse.
That’s been the story of the Chicago Wolves lately, as it’s been deja vu all over again, between COVID postponements and lackluster losses. The Wolves are continuing to struggle without key players like Tanner Jeannot and Rem Pitlick, both up in the NHL with the Nashville Predators. Hurricanes prospects Ryan Suzuki and Jamieson Rees continue to be out of the lineup for undisclosed reasons. And the stellar goaltending that bailed the Wolves out at the beginning of the season has come down to earth a bit, all of which has resulted in three consecutive losses for the Wolves.
The Wolves’ significant lead over the other teams in their division means that any cobbled together post-season plans, if they exist at all, aren’t in danger for the team, but the young team is starting to show its inexperience as it hits this rough patch in the season.
Some of the team’s issues could be placed on the fact that, prior to this weekend’s action, the Wolves played just two games in two weeks, before playing what will be three games in three days, once tonight’s action is completed.
The Wolves will look to get back on track tonight in Grand Rapids in the first of a two-game series there, before returning home on Friday.
Game 22: Cleveland 5, Chicago 4
The return of Predators prospect Phil Tomasino to the lineup could only do so much to help the Wolves, playing in their first game since their April 17 shoot-out loss to the Rockford IceHogs.
Tomasino’s goal in the first period came less than a minute after Cleveland opened the scoring in what would become a very back and forth game, with the teams trading goals the whole way through. Cleveland forward Tyler Sikura — a familiar Wolves foe due to his previous seasons with the IceHogs — scored twice and came close to completing the hat trick several times throughout the third period and overtime.
Cleveland’s overtime game winner came after an extended defensive shift for the Wolves, where an exhausted Frederic Allard played most of it without a stick, unable to even get close to the bench to grab a new one, let alone get off the ice. While Allard was eventually able to change, the goal was scored shortly thereafter off of a turnover in the neutral zone. A pass to David Gust went just out of his reach; Gust lost his footing trying to get a stick on the puck, allowing Cleveland to gain possession and score off of a Tyler Angle shot.
Scoring: Cole Smith, 1 G; Josh Healey, 1 G; Phil Tomasino, 1 G; Zach Solow, 1 G; Tommy Novak, 1 A; Dominik Bokk, 1 A; David Warsofsky, 1 A; Spencer Smallman, 1 A; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 A
In net: Beck Warm, 0.865 Sv%, saved 32 of 37
Game 23: Cleveland 4, Chicago 2
If you thought the Wolves would get revenge, well, think again.
Once again, the Wolves surrendered the opening goal of the game, with Tristan Mullin recording his second of the season a little over five minutes into the game. About forty seconds later, Brett Gallant scored his second of the year to give the Monsters a 2-0 lead. (Wolves fans may remember Gallant’s brother Alex, who played for the Wolves in the 2018-19 season; both brothers are enforcers and not exactly prolific scorers — Brett’s career high in goals is three.)
While Chicago attempted a comeback, with goals from Max Lajoie in the first and Anthony Richard in the third, the game continued to be the Tyler Angle show, as he scored twice, inclding what would eventually stand as the game winner in the second period. Six of Angle’s 10 goals this season have come against Chicago.
The Wolves had no problem generating shots against the Monsters — they took 30 shots in this game and 36 in Saturday’s — but have struggled to keep pucks out of their own net. A downturn in special teams is certainly contributed to this. The Wolves didn’t score at all on the power play in this set of games, while allowing two goals on the penalty kill.
Scoring: Anthony Richard, 1 G 1 A; Max Lajoie, 1 G; Frederic Allard, 1 A; Zach Solow, 1 A
In net: Connor Ingram, 0.864 Sv%, saved 19 of 22