The injury bug has come big-time for the Chicago Wolves, who are looking to maintain their hold on the Central Division despite injuries to some of their key players. Ryan Suzuki missed all of this week’s action after being injured in the March 6 game against Iowa. Jack Drury and Sam Miletic were both injured in this week’s game against Milwaukee. Josh Jacobs was injured playing against Grand Rapids on Sunday.
While the Wolves don’t release specific information on injuries, Ryan Warsofsky did confirm on Sunday that none of these injuries are day-to-day. Jacobs and Drury were both described as week-to-week, and Miletic will be “done for a while,” which sounds serious. (As a barometer here, remember that Eetu Makiniemi’s injury status was described as “week-to-week” back in December/January.) “This is going to be a good opportunity for Kyle Marino, [Ivan] Lodnia, [Stelio] Mattheos to play some more minutes. This is what they’ve wanted, so here’s your opportunity. We need some guys to step up.”
Game 52: Wolves 4, Grand Rapids 2
You want depth scoring? You’ve got depth scoring. The Chicago Wolves have struggled at times this season with being a one-line team. As Stefan Noesen, Andrew Poturalski, and CJ Smith dominated the early weeks of the season, other players didn’t even need to find the back of the net for the Wolves to win. But as Poturalski cooled off — one goal in his last 10 games as of the time of writing — others have had to step up. Ryan Warsofsky has been juggling his lines recently to try to find the right balance, and in this game, the new-look fourth line of Spencer Smallman, Sam Miletic, and Stelio Mattheos made an immediate impact.
Defenseman Josh Jacobs got the Wolves on the board first off of a pass from CJ Smith early in the first period. The Smallman/Miletic/Mattheos trio scored the next two goals for the Wolves thanks to some hard work in the corners to maintain possession of the puck.
Grand Rapids’ first goal came on a sequence where goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov lost his stick on a Griffins power play. The second came off of a rebound late in the third period.
This was the Wolves’ eighth win over the Griffins this season.
Scoring: CJ Smith, 1 G, 1 A; Spencer Smallman, 1 G, 1 A; Sam Miletic, 1 G, 1 A; Josh Jacobs, 1 G; Stelio Mattheos, 2 A; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 A; Andrew Poturalski, 1 A; Stefan Noesen, 1 A
In net: Pyotr Kochetkov, saved 20 of 22, 0.909 sv%
Game 53: Wolves 1, Admirals 2 (SO)
Or maybe we spoke too soon about depth scoring. In a tightly played game against the Milwaukee Admirals — excuse me, the Milwaukee Fish Fry — the Wolves struggled to generate much offense. A Stefan Noesen goal in the first period stood as the only Wolves tally during regulation.
The Admirals pushed hard in the second period, outshooting the Wolves 12-9. They got on the board early in the second thanks to former Wolf Tommy Novak, who scored after a flurry of activity on an odd-man rush.
Chances were high in overtime for both sides, with the Wolves recording six shots to the Admirals’ three. For the second time this season, the Wolves thought they’d scored in overtime, as an Andrew Poturalski wrap-around attempt appeared to go in. There was no goal called on the ice, however, and the call was upheld upon review.
Stefan Noesen scored the lone tally in the shootout, while Cole Schneider and Graham Knott scored for Milwaukee to give the Admirals the win.
The Wolves also lost Jack Drury and Sam Miletic to injury early in this game, putting them two forwards short for more than two periods. This game marked Pyotr Kochetkov’s first loss in the AHL.
Scoring: Stefan Noesen, 1 G; Jamieson Rees, 1 A; Andrew Poturalski, 1 A
In net: Pyotr Kochetkov, saved 26 of 27, 0.963 sv%
Game 54: Wolves 1, Grand Rapids 2 (OT)
The Wolves entered this game the winners of eight straight against the Grand Rapids Griffins. After 60 minutes and 20 seconds, the Griffins finally walked away with two points thanks to a quick overtime goal from Turner Elson. The Griffins won the opening faceoff and never relinquished control of the puck. Elson got behind the Wolves defense and was in alone against Lyon to record the game winning goal.
Elson OT Winner What a way to end the week pic.twitter.com/BdRp106Ajj— Grand Rapids Griffins (@griffinshockey) March 13, 2022
For the second consecutive game, the Wolves’ only offense came from Stefan Noesen, who scored on the power play in the first period off of a tight angle shot. Noesen leads the AHL with 32 goals on the season.
Overall, the Wolves seemed to lack some urgency in this game, allowing Grand Rapids to control play for longer than usual. The Griffins’ lone goal in regulation was also scored on the power play, with Chase Pearson converting on a spin to the net.
Goaltending was the story of this game, however, with Alex Lyon and Cal Pickard both putting on excellent performances for their teams. “If we don’t have [Lyon], we don’t get a point. He was outstanding. We could have been down 6-1 after the second period, so he was really good in this game.”
This season, the Wolves have outscored the Griffins 32 to 13 and outshot them 322 to 221. This was the first time this season that the Griffins outshot the Wolves (30-27) and just the third game this season where the Wolves surrendered a power play goal to them.
Defenseman Josh Jacobs left the game early in the first period after a hit. Max Lajoie briefly left the game as well in the second period, but returned, sporting some bruising around the eye, and finished the game.
Scoring: Stefan Noesen, 1 G; Andrew Poturalski, 1 A
In net: Alex Lyon, saved 28 of 30, 0.933 sv%