AHL Central News: Busy Weekend Despite Two Postponements

Even though the schedule was two games short than originally planned, there was still plenty of action within the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Central Division. The Chicago Wolves and Iowa Wild split a pair of games. The Cleveland Monsters flexed their muscle in New York and the Texas Stars suffered two more losses out west.

Off-Ice Business

The biggest news of the weekend came Friday afternoon when two more games were lost to COVID-19 protocol. The Grand Rapids Griffins had to postpone their games, Friday night at the Monsters and Saturday’s home game versus the Rockford IceHogs. No make-up dates were announced. Also, their game with the Wolves on Tuesday was rescheduled to Thursday.

The Griffins also had a handful of roster moves over the weekend. Brian Lashoff was part of the trade that sent defenseman David Savard to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was traded to the Lightning but will remain with the Griffins. On Saturday, center Joe Veleno was reassigned to the AHL by the Detroit Red Wings. He had 11 goals and 20 points in 46 games with the Swedish Hockey League’s Malmo Redhawks. On Sunday, Hayden Verbeek was assigned to the Griffins after he was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman Jon Merrill.

Joe Veleno Grand Rapids Griffins
Veleno is back in the AHL. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

On Sunday, the Carolina Hurricanes recalled Joakim Ryan and sent defenseman Joey Keane back down to the Wolves.

Liam Foudy was sent back to the Monsters by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. The next day, defensemen Gavin Bayreuther and Andrew Peeke were recalled by the Blue Jackets and assigned to their taxi squad.

The Minnesota Wild signed the former University of Minnesota-Duluth forward Nick Swaney to a one-year entry-level contract for the 2021-22 season. He will report to Iowa for the remainder of this season. He had 13 goals and 28 points in 28 games for the Bulldogs in 2020-21, who made it to the Frozen Four.

Weekend Recap

Friday, April 9

Wild 4, Wolves 1

The future sure looks bright for the Minnesota Wild as two of their top prospects took center stage on Friday night. The Wolves won the four previous meetings this season by a combined 24-5 score, but Iowa used a big night from the special teams to finally break through against the Central’s top squad.

The Wolves were without Tanner Jeannot, who is riding an eight-game goal streak, as he was recalled by the Nashville Predators. Connor Ingram became the sixth goaltender to start for Chicago this season. He had not played since Dec. 14 for Bjorkloven in Sweden’s HockeyAllsvenskan. This was his first AHL start since March 8, 2020, with the Milwaukee Admirals. It was great to see Ingram back on the ice after he left the Predators to join the NHL/NHLPA’s player assistance back on Jan. 25.

Defenseman Keaton Thompson got the Wild on the board just 54 seconds into the game by beating Ingram from the top of the left circle for his second goal of the season. About eight minutes later, Connor Dewar doubled the lead with a power-play goal from nearly the exact spot Thompson struck. The Wild had gone 0-for-20 on the power play this season against the Wolves for this tally. Iowa added another power-play tally late in the frame as Matt Boldy, who was making his professional debut, blasted a one-timer home from the right faceoff dot.

“Players like him, I’ve always said, are like chess masters,” head coach Tim Army said of Boldy. “They see the pieces moving and they know where they want the pieces to go. He has that mind that processes the game extremely well and quickly. Great hands. Great stick.”

For the second straight game, the Wolves found themselves down 3-0 at the first intermission. About seven minutes into the second period, David Cotton got the Wolves on the board by showing off his baseball skills and swatting a puck out of midair for his seventh goal of the season. Boldy showed off that he not just a goal scorer with just 22 seconds left in the frame. Leading the rush up the ice, he made a beautiful saucer pass to the high slot, where the rookie defenseman fired it home for his sixth goal. With the two assists, Addison now had four goals and nine points during his current seven-game point streak.

Neither team scored in the third period full of physical play and post-whistle pleasantries. Special teams made all the difference. In addition to the pair of goals on the man advantage, Iowa held the Wolves off the board on their seven power-play chances. They have now killed off a franchise-record 28 straight penalties, dating back to March 30.

Saturday, April 10

Monsters 9, Rochester Americans 2

After their Friday game with the Griffins was postponed, the Monsters took out some aggression in Rochester. They set a new franchise record with nine goals coming from nine different players. Three different Monsters had four-point nights in the blowout victory.

The Americans struck first as Griffin Luce scored just 97 seconds into the game. Tyler Angle’s power-play goal tied the game seven minutes later and Josh Dunne gave Cleveland a 2-1 lead 34 seconds later. Matthew Struthers scored his first goal of the season to double the advantage before Stephen Fogarty got one back for Rochester before the end of the opening frame.

From here, it was all Monsters. They got goals from Carson Meyer, Nathan Gerbe and Jake Christiansen in the final 7:30 of the second period to go up 6-2. The Americans took five minor penalties during the third period. Cleveland got power-play goals from Tyler Sikura and Foudy. They had to kill off one penalty during the final frame and Thomas Schemitsch scored a shorthanded goal.

Tyler Sikura Cleveland Monsters
Sikura was one of nine Monsters to score on Saturday. (Courtesy Cleveland Monsters)

Martiss Kivlenieks only had to make 12 saves to improve his record to 4-0-0-0. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen allowed five goals on 27 shots before being pulled for Billy Christopoulos, who gave up four goals on nine shots.

Wolves 5, Wild 4 OT

The Wolves got off to another slow start in Saturday night’s rematch in Iowa before pulling out the overtime victory to snap their brief two-game losing streak.

The physicality that began on Friday night carried over to Saturday with a total of 72 penalty minutes handed out, including 36 during the first period. Will Bitten had the only goal of the opening period, which extended the Wild’s streak of scoring first to seven straight games.

Damien Giroux’s power-play goal from the left circle doubled the lead early in the second period. Anthony Richard scored on a breakaway shortly after to get the Wolves on the scoreboard. Rookie Phil Tomasino banked a shot off the left post to tie the game just 37 seconds later.

Dominik Bokk’s seventh goal of the season gave the Wolves their first lead of the night less than three minutes into the third period. Sheldon Rempal scored a shorthanded goal to double the advantage about six minutes later.

Dominik Bokk Chicago Wolves
Bokk is putting it together in Chicago. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

With just 1:51 left in regulation and goaltender Derek Baribeau on the bench for an extra attacker, Boldy scored with a one-timer off a feed from Addison. The rookie defenseman picked up another primary assist when Mitchell Chaffee deflected Antoine Bibeau’s shot to force overtime just 42 seconds later. The goal was the first of his professional career to go along with his 12 assists.

The Wolves had a 4-on-3 power play for the first 1:25 overtime but were unable to score. However, just a few seconds after the man advantage expired, Sean Malone scored off a rebound to give Chicago the win.

Colorado Eagles 3, Stars 0

After splitting their two mid-week games, the Stars and Eagles got back together over the weekend to close out a four-game series.

Kiefer Sherwood was the hero for Colorado as he scored in the first period for the second straight game. He converted a one-timer off a great pass by T.J. Tynan for his seventh goal of the season. The second period was costly for Texas as they lost Nikita Sherbak and Jordan Kawaguchi to injury. Scherbak suffered a gruesome injury as he was cut in the face with the skate blade of Connor Timmons.

The Tynan-Sherwood connection struck again with another one-timer late in the third period while on a power play. Defenseman Dan Renouf capped off the scoring less than two minutes later with his first goal of the season. Goaltender Adam Werner only had to make 16 saves for his first shutout in 2020-21 and third of his AHL career.

Sunday, April 11

Eagles 4, Stars 1

The combination of Sherwood and Tynan was too much to handle again in the series finale Sunday afternoon as the Eagles took three out of the four games against Texas.

Texas struck first while the teams skated 4-on-4 about 13 minutes into the first period. Defenseman Thomas Harley carried the puck the length of the ice before sneaking it through goaltender Hunter Miska’s legs. Harley has five goals and 13 points, which leads all Stars’ defenseman and is third among all AHL rookie blueliners.

It was all Eagles after this. Two minutes after Harley’s goal, Sherwood scored on yet another one-timer set up by Tynan on the power play. Early in the second period, Sampo Ranta scored the eventual game-winning goal and the first of his professional career off a rebound. Tyan and Sherwood each added power-play goals assisted by the other before the end of the frame. Sherwood’s second tally came just five seconds before the intermission.

Hunter finished the night with 27 saves to earn his fourth win on the season. The Stars are now 2-4-2-0 in their last eight games.

Weekend’s Top Performer

Boldy was as good as advertised in his first two professional games over the weekend. The former Boston College star and the 12th overall pick by the Minnesota Wild in 2019 probably won’t spend much time in the AHL.

“When you envision your first pro game, you succeed and play well,” Boldy said on Friday night. “I thought I played well. Guys are closing out quicker and there are some really good hockey players out there. It’s a pretty good way to write it up. If you would have told me that a couple of weeks ago or when I was little, I would have taken it, for sure!”

Central Division Standings

Wolves – 15-4-0-1, 31 pts

Stars – 11-12-2-0, 24 pts

Wild – 9-9-4-0, 22 pts

Monsters – 9-5-1-0, 19 pts

Griffins – 8-6-2-0, 18 pts

IceHogs – 7-12-1-0, 15 pts

Upcoming Mid-Week Schedule

Tuesday April, 13: IceHogs @ Wild, Stars @ San Jose Barracuda

Wednesday, April 14: Monsters @ Americans, Stars @ Barracuda

Thursday, April 15: Wolves @ Griffins