As the story has gone all season for the Chicago Wolves, every bit of momentum they manage to gain ends up erased by factors outside of their control.
The Wolves got back key players from injury or, in the case of Pyotr Kochetkov, back from the NHL, games are played with consistent lineups, players develop chemistry, the team they’re chasing in the standings (Iowa) goes on a losing streak, and the Wolves even make a few additions at the trade deadline, adding players like Zach Senyshyn and Jack Dugan to help add some experience to the lineup.
But then Pyotr Kochetkov — and most recently, Jack Drury — get called up to the Carolina Hurricanes... and then Iowa goes on a winning streak... and then the Wolves keep losing to Grand Rapids.
At the end of the day, all those positive improvements the Wolves made have left them in the exact same place as they were last week: struggling to stay ahead of the Grand Rapids Griffins, and seeing any playoff hopes fade by the day as the teams ahead of them continue to pull away.
Game 55: Chicago Wolves 5, Rockford IceHogs 1
The Wolves did turn in a crucial win over the Rockford IceHogs, whose recent run of injuries and NHL call-ups have left them struggling. The IceHogs did make some big additions at the trade deadline, including adding veteran forward Rocco Grimaldi in a trade with the San Diego Gulls. But they’ve lost six of their last ten games and currently have slipped to fifth in the Central Division.
The IceHogs were unable to generate much offense on Saturday, with their only goal coming midway through the third. The Wolves scored both on the power play and shorthanded, in addition to three even strength goals. Zach Sawchenko withstood an active first period, with Rockford putting ten shots on net.
Neil Shea, a 23-year old forward who recently wrapped up his NCAA career before signing an ATO with the Wolves, scored his first professional goal. Shea spent two years at Northeastern, followed by two years at Sacred Heart. He’s not a stranger to the Chicago area, as he played for the USHL’s Chicago Steel in the 2018-19 season. Wolves head coach Brock Sheahan served as the Steel’s associate head coach that season.
Scoring: Zach Senyshyn, 2 G, 1 A; Max Lajoie, 1 G, 1 A; Joseph LaBate, 1 G; Neil Shea, 1 G; Griffin Mendel, 1 A; William Lagesson, 1 A; Nathan Sucese, 1 A; Jamieson Rees, 1 A; Mackenzie MacEachern, 1 A
In net: Zach Sawchenko, saved 24 of 25, 0.960 sv%
Game 56: Chicago Wolves 1, Grand Rapids Griffins 3
Ryan Dzingel scored in his first game back since November 20, which was also his first goal of the season. However, that represented the total offense output for the Wolves, who lost a crucial game to the Griffins. The Wolves spent significant time in the penalty box, hampering their ability to sustain much momentum during the game. While their league-best penalty kill was strong overall, the game-winning goal turned out to be Danny O’Regan’s second period power play goal.
The Wolves started slow, mustering just 13 shots combined in the first and second periods. They took control in the third period, outshooting the Griffins 16-7, but were unable to solve Alex Nedeljkovic for a tying goal.
Scoring: Ryan Dzingel, 1 G; Ryan Suzuki, 1 A
In net: Zach Sawchenko, saved 22 of 24, 0.917 sv%