Calder Cup Finals, Game 1: Wolves 4, Thunderbirds 5 (OT)
Wolves fans may feel a bit of deja vu with this game. The team’s overtime loss in game one of the Calder Cup Finals followed a very similar playbook to their game four loss to Stockton in the prior series. A two goal lead in the third period evaporated, with one goal against coming within seconds of the Wolves tally, and the eventual tying goal coming in the final minutes of the period. Even the overtime game winners for the opposition came around the same time period, in a frame where the opposition largely dominated play.
The Wolves got off to a good start, with Jack Drury scoring on a power play halfway through the period. Andrew Poturalski teamed up with Drury to send a cross-ice pass his way, opening scoring for the home team. But the Thunderbirds scored twice — once on the power play and once seconds after killing a penalty — to give them the lead. This marked the first time in the postseason where the Wolves did not have either a lead or a tie game (including scoreless ties) after the first period.
Two Wolves goals in 17 seconds in the second period shifted momentum towards the home team. Richard Panik first flipped a backhand shot past goaltender Charlie Lindgren; then David Gust shot from a tough angle slide a puck underneath Lindgren for the lead.
2 goals in under 20 seconds and the @Chicago_Wolves are back on top. #CHIvsSPR | #CalderCup pic.twitter.com/YgQqXayGvD— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) June 19, 2022
An early third period power play goal from Stefan Noesen gave the Wolves a two-goal lead, but the momentum very quickly swung back in the opposite direction. Thunderbirds defenseman Tommy Cross unleashed a heavy shot which found its way through traffic to beat Lyon. Springfield kept up their pressure and found the tying goal with 1:28 remaining in regulation. Once again another shot from a defenseman found its way into the back of the net through heavy traffic.
Any chance the Wolves had to find a late-game winner was negated by Joey Keane taking a delay of game penalty for putting the puck over the glass. The penalty extend into the overtime frame, making it difficult for the Wolves to ever gain much momentum once the extra time began.
While the Wolves had a few chances, possession largely belonged to the Thunderbirds. Forward James Neal, whose early boarding penalty led to the first Wolves game, came down the ice with the puck, drawing the Wolves attention. With Joey Keane and Cavan Fitzgerald both shifting to cover Neal, space opened up for rookie defenseman Matthew Kessel, whose first professional goal stood as the game winner.
After Neal draws the defenders to him, Kessel steps in and buries it for Chicago's first loss at home this postseason pic.twitter.com/rQYDB56f3I— Andrew Rinaldi (@FPHWolves) June 19, 2022
Springfield has been no stranger to overtime in the playoffs, winning two of three overtime games in their series against the Laval Rocket. Thunderbirds head coach Drew Bannister attributed that overtime success to their playing style: “Our game as a whole, it wears teams down. We’re heavy on the forecheck, we’re heavy on the cycle. [...] Our guys just continue to stick with it and believe in what we do and so far it’s worked for us.”
For the home team, Ryan Warsofsky wasn’t pleased with the effort he saw from all of his players in a game that the team should have won: “I don’t think we had our best tonight. I think we had some guys who were just kind of passengers and maybe got surprised by the speed of the game and the intensity,” he said. As always, he doesn’t want to dwell on the loss and emphasizes moving on and preparing for the next game, which is crucial for a turnaround time of just over 24 hours.
He was pleased with the special teams, given that the power play converted twice and the penalty kill only surrendered one goal on five chances. But a loss is a loss and there’s always room for improvement. Warsofsky specifically cited puck management as something that needs to improve for game two. The Wolves had several turnovers, both in the neutral zone and in their own zone, which allowed Springfield to generate high quality chances. Cutting down on those mistakes will certainly help keep pressure off of both Alex Lyon and Pyotr Kochetkov.
Scoring: Jack Drury, 1 G, 1 A; Stefan Noesen, 1 G, 1 A; David Gust, 1 G; Richard Panik, 1 G; Josh Leivo, 2 A; Joey Keane, 1 A; Jalen Chatfield, 1 A; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 A; Andrew Poturalski, 1 A;
In net: Aley Lyon, saved 30 of 35, 0.857 sv%