The Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone in the United States. Many National Hockey League experts like to use the occasion to mark when the playoff races become a real thing. Being in a playoff spot at this time of year is a good thing because more times than not you will advance to the postseason.
However, anything can happen in the American Hockey League’s Central Division. One team has separated themselves from the rest of the division, but the race for the other three Calder Cup playoff berths will be hotly contested.
Admirals Keep on Winning
The Milwaukee Admirals (17-3-1-2) are doing their best to run away and hide from the rest of the Central Division. They won all three of their games last week and are in the midst of a franchise-record 13-game winning streak. Their 37 points earned them a nine-point cushion within the division and are the most in the entire league.
History was made on Wednesday night when the Admirals won their 11th game in a row with a 6-3 win over the Manitoba Moose. The winning streak is the longest in the 50-year history of the Admirals franchise.
The game had a little bit of everything as the Admirals scored both on the power play and the penalty kill and also benefitted from a whacky own goal. Rem Pitlick opened the scoring on the power play, midway through the first period, with his seventh goal of the season; all coming in the last seven games. Yakov Trenin doubled the lead less than a minute later by splitting a pair of defenders and sniping home a wrist shot.
The Admirals got a little help for their third goal early in the second period. With a delayed penalty called on the Admirals, the Moose vacated their net for an extra attacker. A few seconds later, the standard strategy backfired when an errant pass ended up in their own net. Alex Carrier was the last Milwaukee player to touch the puck so he got credit for the early holiday gift.
A few moments later, Trenin struck for the second time on the night to increase the lead to 4-0. The Moose didn’t give up as they came back to score the next two goals of the game to cut the lead in half. Eeli Tolvanen scored the Admirals second power-play goal of the night with just over four minutes to play. Tanner Jeannot added a shorthanded, empty-net goal about two minutes later to increase the lead to 6-2. Manitoba scored a power-play tally to finish off the scoring in the final minute of play.
The Admirals spent the weekend in Texas and needed extra time to take down the San Antonio Rampage on Saturday night.
The Rampage started the scoring with a first-period power-play tally about seven minutes into the game. Anthony Richard finished off a pretty passing play for a power-play goal of his own to tie the game in the final minute of the first period.
Trenin broke the tie late in the second period by beating the goaltender to a loose puck and flinging it into an empty net. Jeremy Davies picked up his second assist on the night, early in the third period, when he found Tommy Novak all alone in the slot for the one-timer.
The home team fought back thanks to pulling the goalie to gain a 6-on-3 advantage to draw within one goal with just over two minutes to play. Troy Grosenick misplayed the puck behind his net and that led directly to the game-tying goal just 29 seconds later.
In the final minute of overtime, Colin Blackwell jumped on a loose puck at center ice and finished off the breakaway chance with his sixth goal of the season.
The Admirals were back on the ice Sunday afternoon, this time at the Texas Stars. For the second game in less than 24 hours, they needed more than 60 minutes to continue their winning ways.
Another big night for Trenin began late in the first period. Davies’ shot from the point went wide, but the puck bounced off the end board right to Trenin at the right post where he deposited for his 12th goal of the season.
The Stars forced overtime midway through the third period. Trenin won the game with a minute to go in overtime by finishing off a 2-on-1 rush with Blackwell.
On Monday, Novack was named the CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month for November. His big month began on Nov. 6 when he had a goal and three assists against the Moose. He finished the month with three goals and 13 points in 12 games.
Player of the Week:
This was a no brainer as Trenin continues to put up huge numbers. The 22-year-old center had five goals and two assists in his three games last week. He leads the team and is third in the AHL with 13 goals. His 25 points have him tied for fourth in overall scoring, just two points out of the top spot. His huge week earned him CCM/AHL Player of the Week honors on Monday.
The Week Ahead:
Tuesday, Dec. 3 @ Stars; Friday, Dec. 6 vs Iowa Wild; Saturday, Dec. 7 @ Rockford IceHogs
Wild Stumble into December
The second-place Wild (12-6-2-2) spent their holiday week in the state of Texas with a pair of games at the Stars and finishing up with a stop in San Antonio. They were only able to grab one win on their road trip and have 28 points on the season, nine points behind the Admirals.
The Wild began their three-game week through the Lone Star State on Tuesday with a 7-3 loss at the Stars. The two teams combined for six goals in a crazy first period.
The Stars jumped out to an early 2-0 lead with a pair of goals in the first 3:36 of the game. Gerry Mayhew started his big night by deflecting a Brennan Menell shot for a power-play goal midway through the opening frame. The Stars responded with a pair of goals just 37 seconds apart. Mayhew scored again to cut the Texas lead to 4-2 before the end of a crazy first period.
Things settled down a bit in the second period with the Stars scoring the only goal of the stanza. Brandon Duhaime’s third of goal of the season, just 89 seconds into the third period, cut the deficit to 5-3. The Stars squashed any momentum by scoring just 18 seconds later. They added a seventh and final goal before time mercifully ran out for the Wild.
These two teams got back together for a rematch on Saturday night which saw the Stars coming out with a 4-3 victory.
Sam Anas opened the scoring with his fifth goal of the season less than five minutes into the game. The goal marked just the seventh time in 21 games where the Wild struck first. The Stars took it to the Wild in the second period with three straight goals to take a 3-1 lead into the final frame.
Luke Johnson scored his second goal since returning from injury, less than five minutes into the third period, with a wraparound shot. The Stars had a quick answer as they jumped ahead 4-2 less than a minute later. Anas scored again by crashing the net and putting back a rebound to cut the Stars’ lead to 4-3 with just under nine minutes to play. Unfortunately, that was as close as they would be able to get.
After the game, the Wild got on the bus for the short trip to San Antonio for Sunday’s game against the Rampage. They salvaged two points on the week after a come-from-behind 3-2 victory.
Goaltender Dereck Baribeau’s AHL debut got off on the wrong foot as the first shot he saw got in behind him just nine seconds into the game. The Rampage doubled their lead before the end of the first period, but Baribeau settled down and stopped all 21 shots he faced in the final 40 minutes of play.
Five minutes into the second period, Nico Sturm chipped the puck ahead to give himself a partial breakaway and he went glove side for his fifth goal of the season. Johnson scored on the power play, just 23 seconds into the third period, to even things up for the Wild.
Just past the midway point of the third period, Sturm scored the eventual game-winning goal. Anas made the play possible with a fantastic behind-the-back pass to Sturm on the left side where he went five-hole for the first multi-goal game of his AHL career. The win was the Wild’s first in the state of Texas in exactly two years, with their last win coming in San Antonio on Dec. 1, 2017.
Player of the Week:
Anas was one of four players last week to score two goals. He led the way four assists to average two points per game on the week. He has six goals and 13 assists to lead the Wild with 19 points. The 26-year-old winger only scored 38 points last season, in 60 games, and he is already halfway there in just over a third of the games.
The Week Ahead:
Wednesday, Dec. 4 @ Rampage; Friday, Dec. 6 @ Admirals; Saturday, Dec. 7 vs Tucson Roadrunners
Rampage Settle for .500 Week
The Rampage (9-7-5-2) took three out of a possible six points last week on home ice. They currently sit in third place with 25 points but are only two points from being knocked out of a playoff spot.
Revenge was on the menu Tuesday night as the Rampage got even for last Sunday’s loss to the IceHogs with a 3-2 victory.
Mike Vecchione got things rolling with a power-play goal before the game was even four minutes old. Mitch Reinke, in his first game since Oct. 25, picked up his first of two assists on the night when Vecchione put home the rebound off his shot from the point. This marked the third straight game in which the Rampage have scored within the first four minutes of play.
The IceHogs tied the game less than four minutes later. They took their only lead of the evening with a power-play tally early in the second period. Jordan Kyrou drew the Rampage even, while on a late second-period power play when his shot from the right circle found its way into the Rockford net.
Defenseman Jake Walman’s third goal of the season proved to be the difference. With under seven minutes to play, Walman jumped on a turnover just outside of the offensive zone then blasted home a slap shot from the top of the left circle.
It wasn’t all good news for the Rampage as Klim Kostin left the game with an upper-body injury. Kostin, who was just reassigned by the St. Louis Blues on Monday, took a big, open-ice hit from IceHogs’ defenseman Ian McCoshen late in the second period. He skated directly to the locker room and did not return. He is considered week-to-week at this point.
The Rampage was able to steal a point away from the first-place Admirals on Saturday night with a dramatic 4-3 overtime loss. They are now 0-for7 in games decided past regulation this season.
Walman crept down to the left circle to open the scoring, seven minutes into the game, to send the stuffed animals flying on Teddy Bear Toss Night. Tanner Kaspick thought he had doubled the lead a few moments later, but the goal was waved off because he touched the puck with a high stick.
The Admirals tied the game in the final minute of the first period. They took a 2-1 lead late in the second period and increased their lead to two goals with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
The Rampage had a rare three-man advantage late in the game as the Admirals had two men in the penalty box and goaltender Ville Husso was on the bench for an extra attacker. The bold move paid off when Walman set up Vecchione’s team-high 14th goal of the season with just over two minutes remaining in regulation.
Just 29 seconds later, Nolan Stevens took advantage of a misplayed puck behind the net and quickly passed it out front to Joey LaLeggia, where he fired it into an open net for this first goal of the season. The life was taken out of the building when Milwaukee won the game, in the final minute of overtime, by converting on a breakaway chance.
On Sunday morning, the Blues announced that they were reassigning defenseman Derrick Pouliot back to the AHL. He was unable to make it back in time for that afternoon’s 3-2 loss to the Wild, which snapped the team’s four-game point streak.
Ryan Olsen started the scoring right off the opening faceoff by finishing off a 2-on-1 rush just nine seconds into the game. The goal broke the franchise record for the fastest to start a game by 10 seconds.
Stevens doubled the lead late in the first period by getting open at the backdoor and slamming home a nice pass by Andreas Borgman for his second goal of the season.
The Wild came back to get on the board about five minutes into the second period. They tied the game with a power-play tally just 23 seconds into the final frame. Iowa grabbed the lead just past the halfway mark of the third period. The Rampage was unable to score the equalizer over the final 9:57 of the game.
Player of the Week:
The Rampage has benefitted from having multiple offensive-minded defensemen on the roster over the past couple of seasons. Walman led the way last week two goals and four points in his three games. He stepped up when Pouliot was recalled to the NHL. He currently has 13 points on the season which ties him for fourth in scoring with forward Austin Poganski.
“We have a great defensive group; all of us can score,” Walman said after Saturday’s overtime loss. “I think it shows in our points. We have a great group of guys – on forward and D – so when a guy goes out of the lineup, it’s easy to fill their spot.”
The Week Ahead:
Wednesday, Dec. 4 vs Wild; Saturday, Dec. 7 @ Toronto Marlies; Sunday, Dec. 8 @ Marlies
Moose Find Success Away from Home
The Moose (12-11-0-0) spent another week away from home. After getting off to a rough start in Milwaukee, they went on to win their next two games. They are holding onto the final playoff spot in the Central with 24 points.
The team’s seven-game road trip continued on Wednesday night with a trip to Milwaukee. The first-place Admirals were too much to handle in a 6-3 defeat.
The red-hot Admirals attack scored a pair of goals, less than a minute apart, to build a 2-0 lead midway through the first period. They added two more tallies in the first half of the second period to take a stranglehold on the game.
However, the Moose did not just roll over and play dead after falling behind 4-0. They fought back to cut the lead in half, starting with Seth Griffith’s late second-period goal. Andrei Chibisov scored his fifth goal of the season by going upstairs early in the third period. The Admirals responded with a power-play goal and an empty-net, shorthanded tally to open up a 6-2 lead.
Derek Hulak picked up his first goal with the Moose in the final minute of play to finish off the scoring. Jansen Harkins had two assists on the night to bring his season total up to 18, surpassing his previous career-high of 17.
The Moose got back into the win column with a 4-2 victory at the Griffins on Friday night. C.J. Suess opened up the scoring just five minutes into the game. Emile Poirier picked up his first helper on the season with the primary assist.
The second period saw the Moose take over the game with three goals in the first 13 minutes of the frame. Jonathan Kovacevic doubled the lead with a goal right off a Harkins face-off win. Andrei Chibisov’s sixth goal of the season gave the Moose a 3-0 lead a couple of minutes later. Harkins was credited with the secondary assist to become the first player in the AHL to have 20 assists this season. Suess lit the lamp for a second time for his team’s fourth and final goal on the evening.
The Griffins got on the board with a power-play goal late in the second period. They added a second goal with five minutes left in the third period but were unable to get any closer.
Goaltender Griffen Outhouse made his first career AHL start and made 26 saves for his first-ever AHL win.
On Saturday morning, defenseman Cameron Schilling was recalled by the Winnipeg Jets. The 31-year-old veteran has four goals and 11 points in 22 AHL games this season. Later that evening, the Moose took the ice in Chicago to take on the Wolves for the third time this season.
The first period ended in a scoreless tie despite both teams getting a handful of quality scoring chances. Poirier got the scoring started with his fourth goal of the season just over seven minutes into the second period. Suess won a puck battle and found Poirier headed to the net for the 1-0 advantage.
Less than two minutes later, defenseman Jimmy Oligny came back to haunt his former team with his first goal of the season to double the lead. The Wolves answered back with a power-play tally late in the period to get on the board. They forced overtime with another strike on the man-advantage with about eight minutes to play.
It took the Moose all of 18 seconds to earn the extra point in overtime. Harkins took the puck below the goal line and all three Wolves players followed him and he was able to pass to a wide-open Kovacevic in front of the net for the easy game-winner.
“I think in the video you can see I kind of took my time with it,” a very smiley Kovacevic said of his overtime tally. “I wanted to make sure I put it home. I had one earlier this year – actually in Chicago on the exact same net – and I missed the wide-open net. I kind of had flashbacks, so I took my time with it and put it home.”
Mikhail Berdin made 18 saves to become the first AHL goaltender to win 10 games in a calendar month since Jack Campbell went 11-1-1 for the Ontario Reign in December of 2016.
Player of the Week:
Harkins continues to play the best hockey of his career as he added another five assists during the week. He leads the AHL with 21 assists and is tied for the overall lead in scoring with 27 points. This even more impressive when you consider Harkins only had two goals and an assist during the entire month of October. He was named the CCM/AHL Player of the Month for putting up four goals and 20 assists during November. He is just the fifth player since the 2009-10 season to score 24 points in a month.
The Week Ahead:
Tuesday, Dec. 3 @ IceHogs; Friday, Dec. 6 vs Wolves; Saturday, Dec. 7 vs Wolves
IceHogs Dominating at Home
Taking advantage of home ice has been key to the IceHogs (11-8-0-1) recent surge up the standings. They won both of their home games this past week to jump ahead of a couple of teams. They are currently in fifth place with 23 points, just one point behind the Moose for the final playoff spot.
The IceHogs were unable to sweep their two-game set in San Antonio as the Rampage used a strong third period for a 3-2 victory. The home team got on the board less than four minutes into the game, but Reese Johnson answered just over three minutes later with his fourth goal of the season.
Rockford has been slowing improving on the power play of late after a miserable start to the season. Jacob Nilsson gave the IceHogs a 2-1 lead, while on the man-advantage, early in the second period. The tally was his second in as many games and fifth of the season. The Rampage scored a power-play goal of their own with just over a minute left in the frame to even the score at 2-2.
The IceHogs were under attack for most of the third period as they were outshot 18-8. Goaltender Kevin Lankinen was great with 37 saves on the night but was victimized for the game-winning goal, late in the third period, after an IceHogs turnover.
“Our goaltending hasn’t been the problem, they’ve been keeping us in games,” head coach Derek King said after the game. “We’ve been doing some very good things. We’ve been playing some solid hockey. We came out flat for some reason. I don’t know what it is. I am going to figure it out and we’re going to have to talk about it.”
The following day, forward Anton Wedin was recalled by the Chicago Blackhawks as they are dealing with some injuries up front. He made his NHL debut versus the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night. Wedin has four goals and 11 points in 17 AHL games.
There was plenty of news made off the ice on Friday before the IceHogs hosted the Wolves. First off, King named Tyler Sikura team captain following the departure of Kris Versteeg. Then moments before the IceHogs took to the ice for their pregame skate, McCoshen was recalled by the Blackhawks after Duncan Keith was injured earlier in the afternoon. Forward Matt Highmore was reassigned to the AHL.
Once the puck finally dropped, the IceHogs continued their dominance of the Wolves with a 4-2 victory; their fifth in five games so far this season. Eight different players found the scoresheet in a balanced attack for the win.
John Quenneville opened the scoring late in the first period when his wrist shot banked off the right post and went in for his fourth goal of the season. Alexandre Fortin, who had the primary assist in the opening goal, cashed in off of a juicy rebound to double the lead early in the second period. Quenneville picked up the secondary assist for his first helper in an IceHogs uniform.
Just over two minutes later, Dylan Sikura tied his brother Tyler for the team lead in goals, with eight, by scoring while the teams skated at four-on-four. The Wolves got on the board midway through the second period, but Brandon Hagel answered exactly three minutes later with a breakaway goal off a turnover. The Wolves added a power-play before the end of the middle frame and the 4-2 score held up through the third period.
Goaltender Matt Tomkins made 31 saves for the victory. He has four wins on the season and three of them have come against the Wolves.
The hot streak on home ice continued with a 3-1 victory over the Griffins on Saturday evening. The IceHogs now have won eight of their last nine games at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
The Griffins scored the lone goal of the opening period and held on to their 1-0 lead until late in the second frame. Tim Soderlund scored his first career AHL goal to tie the game by being in the right place at the right time. A Lucas Carlsson shot from the point hit off the end boards and went right to Soderlund’s stick at the side of the net where he fired the puck home.
Defenseman Joni Tuulola’s first goal of the season, midway through the third period, proved to be the game-winner as he drove to the net and tapped in a great feed from Phillipp Kurashev. McKenzie Entwistle added an empty-net goal late in the game to secure the victory for the IceHogs.
Lankinen rebounded nicely from his loss in San Antonio with 29 saves. He has lost in regulation just once and has given up three goals or fewer in seven of his eight starts. On Monday, he was recalled by the Blackhawks to back up Corey Crawford against the Blues, after Robin Lehner fell ill. He was returned to Rockford following the game.
Player of the Week:
The IceHogs used a balanced attack this past week with their nine goals coming from nine different players. 15 different players found the scoresheet and we had an eight-way tie for the team lead in points with two. We will split the honor between Quenneville and Fortin who have been playing very well with Tyler Sikura. They both had a goal and an assist and set the tone against the Wolves on Saturday night.
“All three of us are different players, but it comes together nicely,” Quenneville said of his line. “Ty is such a hard player. He wins every single battle and he makes a lot of skilled plays on the ice too. He’s so reliable. Forts is so fast. He makes plays by jumping in through holes. I love how we are playing and we have good communication too.”
The Week Ahead:
Tuesday, Dec. 3 vs Moose; Friday, Dec. 6 @ Griffins; Saturday, Dec. 7 vs Admirals
Griffins Continue Downward Trend
The struggling Griffins (9-12-1-1) have just six points in their last 10 games as their roster is in constant flux. They were unable to earn any points last week and are now tied for sixth place in the Central with 20 points.
The Griffins were in Chicago on Wednesday night where their losing streak hit three games after a 5-2 defeat to the Wolves. The home team built up a 3-0 lead with two late first-period goals, including one on the power play, and a third midway through the second period.
Chris Terry got the Griffins on the scoreboard, with six minutes left in the middle frame, by getting to a blocked shot and firing it through heavy traffic for his 10th goal of the season. The Wolves got that goal back with less than two minutes to play in the period.
There was a sense of urgency to begin the third period as the Griffins dominated the opening minutes of play. They had 12 of the first 13 shots on goal in the final stanza. Dominic Turgeon cut the Wolves’ lead down to 4-2 with a one-timer from the slot about five minutes into the third. That would be as close as the Griffins would get as Chicago scored the final goal of the game in the final minutes of play.
Goaltender Calvin Pickard got some good news on Thanksgiving morning when he was recalled by the Detroit Red Wings. However, his first start did not go well and Red Wings reassigned Pickard back to the Griffins on Sunday.
The losing streak hit four on Friday night as the Moose spoiled the annual Teddy Bear Toss with a 4-2 victory. The visitors had the lone goal of the opening period and then scored three straight goals in the middle frame to build up a four-goal advantage. After the fourth Manitoba goal, netminder Filip Larsson was pulled in favor of Pat Nagle, who was just recalled from the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL.
Terry sent over 2,000 teddy bears and stuffed animals onto the ice when he scored a power-play goal with just over a minute to go in the second period.
The Griffins dictated the play for much of the final period, but could not find the back of the net. Finally, with five minutes remaining, Turgeon scored his second goal in as many games by one-timing home a great pass from Terry.
“I think our compete level, at times, is ok,” a frustrated Terry said about the recent struggles. “It seems like we make one big mistake and it’s in the back of our net. Tonight, it felt like we made three or four of them and then the rest of the game we were in the o-zone. There are some things that have been talked about for a while now that are just really biting us in the butt.”
On Saturday morning, the Red Wings reassigned defenseman Jonathan Ericsson to the Griffins, for his second stint in the AHL this season. His stay wasn’t very long as he headed back to Detroit the following day.
Later that evening, the Griffins were in Rockford to take on the IceHogs and were defeated 3-1 in a hotly-contested game.
Defenseman Brian Lashoff opened up the scoring just over six minutes into the game when his shot made it through heavy traffic and into the back of the net. The veteran blueliner now has two goals on the season.
They held on to their 1-0 lead until late in the second period when the IceHogs got a fortunate bounce off the end boards to tie the game. The Griffins came out firing in the third period but were unable to cash in on their early opportunities. The IceHogs broke the tie with about 11 minutes to play and grabbed a late empty-net goal for some insurance.
Pat Nagle made 26 saves in his first AHL start this season. It was the fourth start he has made for the Griffins since the 2014-15 season.
Player of the Week:
Terry and Gustav Lindstrom each finished the week with three points. Terry’s two goals and an assist now have him tied for the AHL lead in scoring with 27 points. Since he gets a lot of press already, we give the honor to Lindstrom. The 21-year-old defenseman had an assist in all three of the Griffins’ games. He entered the week with just one assist in 20 games so the offensive outburst was unexpected.
The Week Ahead:
Wednesday, Dec. 4 vs Wolves; Friday, Dec. 6 vs IceHogs
Wolves Will Take Points Any Way They Can
The Wolves (9-13-2-0) found a little bit of traction this past week with three points in three games. They are sitting in a tie for sixth place with 20 points, trailing the Moose by four points for the last playoff spot.
The Allstate Arena has not been a friendly home to the Wolves of late, but they figured things out on Wednesday night. Their 5-2 win over the Griffins was their first win on home ice since Oct. 26. It also avenged the 8-5 loss they suffered to Grand Rapids on opening night.
The game got off to a sluggish start, but the Wolves offense came to life with a pair of late first-period goals. Tye McGinn sparked a struggling power-play unit, with just over three minutes to play in the opening frame, by finishing off a nice passing play by Dylan Coghlan with his sixth goal of the season. Defenseman Jimmy Schuldt’s long-distance slap shot doubled the lead in the final minute of the period.
Jaycob Megna became the second Wolves defenseman to light the lamp, midway through the second period, to extend the advantage to three goals. The Griffins finally broke through on Oscar Dansk with six minutes to play in the middle frame. Curtis McKenzie scored just over a minute before the second intermission to give the Wolves a 4-1 advantage.
After the Griffins scored about seven minutes into the third period, McKenzie added a second goal, his team-high eighth of the season, late in the game to cap off the scoring.
“It was nice to see pucks go into the net,” McKenzie said while wearing his “Alpha Wolf” motorcycle vest for being the player of the game. “We still probably need to create a little more offense. I think we only had 22 shots, but we were getting better looks tonight.”
After the game, head coach Rocky Thompson confirmed that Gage Quinney suffered an upper-body injury and was not expected to play over the weekend. He did get some good news the following day when Valentin Zykov cleared waivers and was reassigned to the Wolves by the Vegas Golden Knights. Zykov led the AHL with 33 goals during the 2017-18 season when he was a member of the Charlotte Checkers.
The Wolves could not capitalize off the momentum from their big win as the lost, 4-2, at the IceHogs of Friday night. The visitors found themselves in a 3-0 hole six minutes into the second period when they tried to mount a comeback.
Jermain Loewen, the first Jamaican-born player to ever be drafted by an NHL team, picked up his first AHL assist midway through the second period. He got the puck to Ben Jones who fired off a quick wrist shot that went in on the blocker side.
The IceHogs answered with a breakaway goal shortly after that. Brandon Pirri drew the Wolves to within two goals with a power-play goal late in the game. Zykov picked up his first point with the Wolves by setting up Pirri’s one-timer from the left circle.
The Wolves returned home to face the Moose on Saturday night and about two hours before puck drop, they learned that Nicolas Roy was recalled, again, by the Golden Knights. Roy’s travels continued when he was sent back to Chicago Monday night after Vegas acquired Chandler Stephenson from the Washington Capitals.
The Wolves needed to mount a comeback to earn a point in a 3-2 overtime loss in the Moose’s third trip to Chicago on the season. After neither team found the back of the net in the first period, the Moose built a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals, less than two minutes apart, midway through the second period.
The Wolves were able to draw even thanks to their power-play unit. McKenzie cut the lead in half, while on the man-advantage, by finishing off a nice passing play with Zykov and Pirri. McKenzie provided a great screen on Schuldt’s shot from the point that allowed the Wolves to even things up with just over eight minutes to play.
Unfortunately, they went chasing the puck behind their own net which led directly to Manitoba’s game-winning goal 18 seconds into overtime.
Goaltender Garret Sparks, who was reassigned by the Golden Knights on Friday, made 17 saves. He found out the following day that he was heading right back Las Vegas.
Player of the Week:
McKenzie is a player who rarely tries to steal the spotlight or the headlines. He plays well in all facets of the game and is a valuable part of both the penalty kill and power play in Chicago. McKenzie led the way with three goals and six points last week. He leads the Wolves with nine goals and is second in overall scoring with 18 points. He has been the one constant this season as the Wolves have had to deal with a lot of injuries and NHL recalls.
“It means a lot, without a doubt,” head coach Rocky Thompson said of McKenzie’s leadership on such a young team. “It takes the pressure off them too. We’ve got a really good room, a really good character group of guys.”
The Week Ahead:
Wednesday, Dec. 4 @ Griffins; Friday, Dec. 6 @ Moose; Saturday, Dec. 7 @ Moose
Stars Finally Being Rewarded
Things are starting to look up for the Stars (6-13-1-2) with seven points over their last four games. They are still in last place of the Central with 15 points, but their recent play has them trending in the right direction as they try to dig themselves out of an early-season hole.
The Stars are one of the lowest-scoring teams in the AHL this season, but the firepower has been on display of late. After scoring six goals versus the IceHogs last Saturday night, they had another offensive explosion in a 7-3 win over the Wild on Tuesday.
Michael Mersch started off a crazy first period with his sixth goal of the season just two minutes into the game. A minute and a half later, Anthony Louis scored his first goal with the Stars since being acquired from the Checkers to double the lead.
Shortly after the Wild got on the board, Rhett Gardner went bar down for this fourth goal of the season. Joel L’Esperance increased the Stars’ lead to 4-1 just 37 seconds later by following up on his own blocked shot. The Wild narrowed the advantage to 4-2 before the first period expired.
Joel Kiviranta gave the Stars a 5-2 lead, about six minutes into the second period, by backhanding a rebound into the net for his second goal of the season. The Wild added a third goal early in the third period, but Nick Caamano answered just 18 seconds later with a wraparound goal off a rebound. Caamano added another goal, his fourth on the season, to cap off the scoring about six minutes later.
Defenseman Joel Hanley was reassigned to the AHL by the Dallas Stars on Saturday afternoon after clearing waivers. He picked up two assists in his eight games in the NHL before returning to Texas. Later that evening, the Stars pushed their winning streak to three games with a hard-fought victory over the Wild.
The Stars were trailing 1-0 at the start of the second period, but they found their offensive groove by scoring three goals over the next 20 minutes. Defenseman Reece Scarlett tied the game with a booming slap shot from the point early in the period. L’Esperance gave them a 2-1 lead, less than five minutes later, by banking the puck off the goaltender from below the goal line. Robertson increased the lead to 3-1 by scoring off a nice pass from Emil Djuse.
The Wild got one of those goals back early in the third period, but Kiviranta responded with his second goal in as many games just 29 seconds later. Iowa added a third goal later in the frame, but they were unable to draw even. Landon Bow made 32 saves for his fifth win of the season.
“It’s a way different feeling than being on the other side of it,” Scarlett said of stringing together three wins. “It’s good. We’re playing the right way and we’re getting rewarded for it. We’re moving the puck well. We’re breaking out the puck well and that translates to more o-zone time and more goals.”
The Stars welcomed in the Admirals on Sunday and while they couldn’t end their record-setting winning streak, they were able to earn a point in a 2-1 overtime loss.
The Admirals scored their lone goal of regulation during the first period and held onto the 1-0 lead until midway through the final frame. Adam Mascherin tied the game by taking a feed from Gardner and using a crafty backhand shot to score his second goal of the season.
The Stars had more scoring chances early in overtime, but it was the Admirals who grabbed the second point with a minute to go in the extra time.
Player of the Week:
Gardner has been doing his job by scoring goals in between his stints in the NHL. He picked up his seventh goal of the season, which has him tied for the team lead, but the story of his week was his work passing the puck. Gardner picked up four assists on the week which was as many as he had in his previous 12 games heading into Tuesday’s game.
The Week Ahead;
Tuesday, Dec. 3 vs Admirals; Friday, Dec. 6 @ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins; Saturday, Dec. 7 @ Penguins
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.