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Wolves clinch AHL Central Division, end season with big wins

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Despite COVID postponements, weird scheduling and an ever-changing roster, the Chicago Wolves came out on top of their division.

Courtesy of Chicago Wolves

The first season of the Carolina Hurricanes’ affiliation with the Chicago Wolves ended about as successfully as one could have hoped, for a season shortened and delayed and generally made very bizarre by the ongoing pandemic situation.

How weird was it? Hurricanes and Predators — now playoffs enemies — prospects playing together on one team, after the Milwaukee Admirals decided to sit out this season? Check. Players who would normally have been playing in their junior leagues, like Seth Jarvis and Jamieson Rees, getting crucial professional experience? Yep, got that too. The Hurricanes making a mid-season trade which resulted in sending a defenseman to the Wolves who just happened to be the younger brother of the Wolves’ head coach? Super weird, but it happened!

The Wolves started off dominant before struggling with roster changes, significant game rescheduling and the challenges associated with pushing a young team through a very strange season. But head coach Ryan Warsofsky has a steadying presence, helping players young and old navigate the season and to right the ship whenever the team struggled.

This season, Warsofsky emphasized the need to learn to be a professional to his young players. Whether it’s in-game, practice habits, conditioning, or general off-ice life, Warsofsky spoke all season long about the importance of developing young players. Development doesn’t stop as soon as a player steps off the ice and puts the stick down, and Warsofsky makes sure that his players know that.

As a team whose goal is to send players to the NHL, the Wolves had a successful season. For the Hurricanes, forwards Morgan Geekie, Sheldon Rempal and Drew Shore and defensemen Joakim Ryan and Joey Keane all saw NHL time. (And, of course, even Petr Mrazek suited up for the Wolves before returning to the NHL after an injury.) For Nashville, the Predators used defensemen Frederic Allard, Alexandre Carrier, Jeremy Davies, Rem Pitlick and Cole Smith, and forwards Tanner Jeannot and Sean Malone.

Game 31: Wolves 7, Griffins 0

After stumbling over a few chances to clinch the Central Division title, the Wolves finally clinched against the Grand Rapids Griffins, and they did it in epic fashion. David Cotton, who stepped up big in terms of offense as the season went on, recorded his first professional hat trick en route to a 7-0 win over Grand Rapids. Cotton’s 21 points this season place him 13th in scoring among all AHL rookies. First year goaltender Beck Warm, whose strong performance at the beginning of the season earned him an NHL contract with the Hurricanes, recorded his second shut-out of the season. This marks the fourth time in five seasons that the Wolves have won their division.

David Cotton, 3 G, 1 A; Sean Malone, 1 G 2 A; Sheldon Rempal, 1 G 1 A; Frederic Allard, 1 G; Max Lajoie, 1 G, Phil Tomasino, 2 A; Zach Solow, 1 A; Joey Keane, 1 A; David Warsofsky, 1 A; Anthony Richard, 1 A; Tommy Novak, 1 A;

In net: Beck Warm, saved 35 of 35, 1.000 Sv%

Game 32: Wolves 1, IceHogs 4

The post-division-clinching malaise is real; in a game which had absolutely no meaning for either team, the Wolves struggled to break through, allowing four goals before Wolves leading scorer Tommy Novak got on the board at the end of the third period. IceHogs goaltender Matt Tomkins had an excellent night, stopping 36 of 37 shots.

Scoring: Tommy Novak, 1 G; Brandon Hickey, 1 A; Luke Evangelista, 1 A

In net: Beck Warm, saved 20 of 24, 0.833 Sv%

Game 33: Wolves 3, IceHogs 1

The Wolves ended their season on a high note, coming out strong against the Rockford IceHogs for one last time. The team recorded their eighth win in 11 matches against Rockford this season. Warsofsky was pleased with the compete level he saw from the team in this game as everyone worked hard to secure a win.

Scoring: Jamieson Rees, 1 G 1 A; Sean Malone, 1 G; David Gust, 1 G; Marc Del Gaizo, 2 A; Tommy Novak, 2 A; Phil Tomasino, 1 A

In net: Antoine Bibeau, saved 27 of 28, 0.964 Sv%