The story of the Chicago Wolves as of late has been one step forward, two steps back. The power play will contribute, but the penalty kill will regress. The Wolves improve their overall possession time but struggle with goaltending. Young players start contributing more on offense, but the defense and goaltending give up goals that shouldn’t happen. This season is a work in progress for the organization, and the back and forth in improvements and challenges helps reinforce that.
The return of Jack Drury to the lineup will certainly help the Wolves. He’s collected assists in both games that he’s played so far, proving to be as reliable up the middle as he’s ever been. Drury helped set up the opening goal in both games that he’s played in and has already been a force on the power play. With the Wolves offense in general seeming to be turning the corner into greater reliability, having Drury back even if only temporarily, will help continue that trend.
One of the greatest concerns for the Wolves right now is a growing habit of giving up leads. Early in the season, it was rare that the Wolves played with a lead at all. But lately, they’ve been striking early but failing to hold the lead. In five of their last ten games, including both games this weekend against Rockford, the Wolves scored first but gave up the lead.
On Friday, they scored twice in the first period, with the goals separated by slightly over a minute, and they ended the second period with a 3-1 lead. Rockford took over the game in the third period, however, outshooting the Wolves 10-2 and scoring twice. The game tying goal came on the power play with five minutes left in regulation.
On Saturday, the Wolves came out of the first period up 1-0, scoring on the power play (the opening minute of a five-minute major) with four seconds left in the period. They outshot Rockford 12-6 in that period, but once again the IceHogs took over for the duration of the game. They killed off the remaining four minutes of the major penalty assessed to Adam Clendening and used that momentum to swing the game in their favor, scoring six unanswered goals in the second and third periods. The IceHogs nearly doubled the Wolves up in shots over the final 40 minutes, with a 15-9 advantage.
While communication seems to be improving between the Wolves players on the ice, the habit of letting a few small errors snowball into major issues (like on Saturday) needs to be the next focal point for the Wolves in terms of making improvements.
The Wolves have finally jumped out of last place in the Central Division, however. They sit ahead of Grand Rapids by one point. They trail the fifth place Iowa Wild by six points; the Wild happen to be their next opponent so a win can help close that gap.
Game 28: Chicago Wolves 3, Rockford IceHogs 4 (SO)
Josh Melnick gets the goal here but it’s a deflection of an excellent shot from Jack Drury.
Scoring: William Lagesson, 1 G, 1 A; Malte Stromwall, 1 G; Josh Melnick, 1 G; Ronan Seeley, 1 A; Max Lajoie, 1 A; Jack Drury, 1 A; Vasily Ponomarev, 1 A
In net: Zach Sawchenko, saved 34 of 37, 0.919 sv%
Game 29: Chicago Wolves 2, Rockford IceHogs 6
Another excellent setup from Drury here.
Scoring: Malte Stromwall, 2 G; Max Lajoie, 1 A; Jack Drury, 1 A; Vasily Ponomarev, 1 A
In net: Cale Morris, saved 15 of 21, 0.714 sv%