The week before the Christmas break was supposed to feature six games within the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Central Division, but thanks to the resurgence of COVID, only two of those games took place. However, the Milwaukee Admirals took full advantage by winning both of those contests. They have won seven of their last nine games and find themselves in the fifth and final Calder Cup Playoff spot.
Off Ice Business
In league news, the 2022 AHL All-Star Classic set to take place in Laval, Que, on Feb. 6-7, has been canceled. This is the second straight year that COVID has caused the cancelation of the All-Star Classic in the Montreal suburb. The AHL said they “remain committed to bringing the All-Star Classic to Laval in the future.”
A day after tying a franchise record by winning their 12th straight game, the first-place Chicago Wolves got even stronger. On Sunday, forwards Jack Drury, Josh Leivo, Andrew Poturalski, and C.J. Smith were reassigned to the AHL by the Carolina Hurricanes. Stefan Noesen was not returned to Chicago because he was entered into the NHL’s COVID protocol.
Related – Wolves’ Smallman Becoming Key to Success
The Wolves were scheduled to play a two-game set at the Cleveland Monsters on Wednesday and Thursday. However, those games were officially postponed on Tuesday due to league COVID-19 protocols affecting the team. No makeup dates have been announced yet.
On Thursday, the Grand Rapids Griffins released center Josh Dickinson, left wing Max Humitz and defenseman Gordi Myer from their professional tryouts (PTO).
The Winnipeg Jets recalled forwards Kristian Reichel and C.J. Suess from the Manitoba Moose on Sunday. Both were in the lineup for that evening’s game versus the St. Louis Blues.
On Tuesday, the Dallas Stars reassigned forward Riley Tufte and defenseman Thomas Harley from the Texas Stars.
The Week in Review
Tuesday, Dec. 21
Moose @ Stars – PPD
Milwaukee got back into the win column on Tuesday after dropping two straight to the Wolves last weekend. Goaltender Connor Ingram continued his excellent play by picking up his first shutout of the season and 13th of his AHL career.
The game remained scoreless through 40 minutes, despite a plethora of chances on both sides. The two teams each had 21 shots on goal heading into the third period, but Ingram and Collin Delia were up to the task.
Admirals’ captain Cole Schneider scored the only goal they needed less than five minutes into the final frame. While on a power play, he slid behind the defense and beat Delia with a backhand shot for his team-leading 11th goal of the season. Rocco Grimaldi scored an empty-net goal in the final minute to ice the game.
Ingram made 29 saves, while Delia was the hard-luck loser following a 26-save performance.
Wednesday, Dec. 22
Wolves @ Monsters – PPD
Moose @ Stars – PPD
Wednesday night was Devin Cooley’s turn to shine in net as he made a season-high 38 saves to pick up his third win of the season. Two of his three victories have come at the expense of the Griffins.
Turner Elson scored the game’s first goal 13 minutes into the second period. He knocked home a one-timer for his ninth goal of the season, tying Kyle Criscuolo, who set up the play, for the team lead. Elson extended his goal-scoring streak to a career-high four games, while the primary assist gave Criscuolo points in eight straight games.
The Admirals used power-play success to come back and win the game late. About eight minutes into the third period, Egor Afanasyev tied the game while on the man advantage by scoring off a Cole Smith rebound. The Griffins got a power play to close out regulation, but Cooley got the game into overtime by making several huge stops.
Griffins’ defenseman Ryan Murphy was called for hooking less than a minute into overtime. He was then given a game misconduct for arguing with officials. Grimaldi ended the game just over a minute later by beating goaltender Calvin Pickard to the glove side for his 10th goal of the season.
Thursday, Dec. 23
Wolves @ Monsters – PPD
Monday, Dec. 27
Griffins @ Monsters, IceHogs @ Wild
Wednesday, Dec. 29
Colorado Eagles @ Wild,
Thursday, Dec. 30
IceHogs @ Admirals, Abbotsford Canucks @ Moose
Friday, Dec. 31
Eagles @ Wild, Canucks @ Moose, Admirals @ Griffins, Wolves @ IceHogs, Charlotte Checkers @ Stars
Saturday, Jan. 1
Griffins @ Admirals, IceHogs @ Wolves, Checkers @ Stars
Sunday, Jan. 2
Wild @ Moose, Griffins @ Wolves
Central Division Standings
Wolves 20-4-1-1 (42 pts, .808%)
Moose 15-9-1-0 (31 pts, .620%)
Wild 10-10-2-0 (23 pts, .500%)
IceHogs 11-11-1-1 (24 pts, .500%)
Admirals 12-13-2-0 (26 pts, .481%)
Griffins 9-10-3-1 (22 pts, .478%)
Stars 8-11-3-1 (20 pts, .435%)
(Standings determined by points percentage, top five teams qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs)
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.