AHL Central News: Wolves, Moose Have Successful Holiday Weeks

While Thanksgiving was celebrated in the United States last Thursday, that didn’t stop the teams of the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Central Division from having an eventful holiday weekend. There is a familiar face back in first place all by themselves. A team from the north has moved into second place, while one of the teams who entered the week in first has dropped two spots in the standings. So, let’s get caught up with all the results, highlights, and news from the week that was in the AHL Central.

Off-Ice Business

The Chicago Wolves bolstered their forward corps on Wednesday by signing winger Ivan Lodnia to a Standard Player Contract. He was a third-round draft pick of the Minnesota Wild back in 2017 and spent the 2020-21 season playing in Russia.

Before their mid-week game, the Grand Rapids Griffins had to make some changes to their blue line on Wednesday. The Detroit Red Wings recalled defenseman Dan Renouf, which forced the Griffins to sign Blake Hillman to a professional tryout (PTO). Hillman had two goals and 13 points in 11 ECHL games with the Toledo Walleye this season. He has four games of NHL experience with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Iowa Wild recalled defenseman Adrien Beraldo from the Iowa Heartlanders on Friday. He had a goal and four points in nine ECHL games.

The Manitoba Moose sent a pair of players down to the ECHL on Tuesday. They assigned forward Bobby Lynch to the Newfoundland Growlers and defenseman Hayden Shaw to the Trois-Rivieres Lions.

The Milwaukee Admirals got some welcomed additions before their busy holiday week. On Tuesday, forward Mathieu Olivier was reassigned to the Admirals by the Nashville Predators. To make room, defenseman Dylan Blujus and forward Bobo Carpenter were sent to the Florida Everblades of the ECHL. The following day, the Predators reassigned forward Michael McCarron and loaned defenseman Ben Harper to Milwaukee for a conditioning stint.

The Week in Review

Wednesday, Nov. 24

Griffins 6, Admirals 3

While the scoreboard may not show it, Wednesday night’s game with the Griffins was one of the best efforts of the season for the Admirals. A couple of big mistakes and a pair of late empty-net goals made the game seem far less close than it was.

Related – 10 Red Wings Who Could Play at 2022 World Juniors

The Admirals came out flying and built a 10-0 shot advantage five minutes into the game, but goaltender Calvin Pickard was a brick wall in the crease. The Griffins got their legs under them and opened the scoring at 12:31 when Taro Hirose finished off a 2-on-1 rush for his fourth goal of the season. Less than two minutes later, rookie, Jonathan Berggren doubled the lead with a power-play goal from the slot.  

Anthony Ricard got the home team on the board early in the second period by scoring his second goal of the season off the rebound from a David Farrance shot. Rocco Grimaldi beat Pickard less than three minutes later to even the score with his third goal in the last two games. The Griffins had a quick answer as Dominik Shine put them back up by a goal less than a minute later with his second tally on the campaign.

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With less than eight minutes to play in the third period, the Admirals found themselves on a 5-on-3 advantage. Grimaldi set up defenseman Marc Del Gaizo’s game-tying one-timer. However, the Griffins had another quick response just over three minutes later. After winning a board battle, Berggren found Shine in front of the net, where he converted for his second goal of the night. Wyatt Newpower and Kyle Criscuolo wrapped things up with late empty-net goals. Criscuolo picked up two assists earlier in the night to finish with three points.

Friday, Nov. 25

Wolves 5, Griffins 3

The Wolves jumped out to a 2-0 lead in both their games last weekend only to drop the pair. On Friday night, they flipped the script by erasing a three-goal deficit in the third period to get back in the win column.

Jared McIsaac scored his first professional goal late in the first period to give the Griffins a 1-0 lead when his shot from the top of the circles made it through a screen. The goal gave Grand Rapids their first lead over Chicago in the last 252:50 of play, dating back to last season.

After the teddy bears were cleaned off the ice, Criscuolo doubled the lead just 52 seconds later. McIsaac scored the lone goal of the second period to make it a 3-0 game. Criscuolo provided a screen that allowed McIsaac’s backhand shot to get past Eetu Makiniemi.

Josh Leivo started the comeback 1:29 into the third period. While on the power play, Andrew Poturalski found him at the left dot, where he blasted home a one-timer for his first goal with the Wolves. Maxim Letunov finished off an odd-man rush to draw the Wolves to within one goal less than a minute later.

With Makiniemi on the bench for an extra attacker, Spencer Smallman’s one-timer tied the game with just 1:36 left in regulation. C.J. Smith gave the Wolves their first lead of the night just 12 seconds later after Stefan Noesen’s pass hit off Poturalski, and he swatted it past Pickard. Poturalski finished off the scoring with an empty-net goal for his fourth point of the period.

Admirals 5, Rockford IceHogs 2

Despite their early-season struggles, the Admirals were happy to be in Rockford on Friday night. They entered their first of 12 games against the IceHogs on a seven-game win streak and 17-game point streak versus their rivals from Illinois.

In what has been a disturbing trend for the IceHogs, they once again fell behind after a slow start to the game. Matt Tennyson scored his second goal of the season just 1:18 into the game by firing a quick wrist shot from the bottom of the left circle past Arvid Soderblom. Less than eight minutes later, Richard carried the puck around the IceHogs’ net and threw it out front, where McCarron swatted it home for his first AHL goal of the season. Rockford defenseman Alex Regula got his team on the board late in the opening period by scoring his first goal of the season with a rocket from the right point.

The Admirals scored the lone goal of the middle frame to go up 3-1. While on a late-period power play, Matt Luff found a loose puck during a mad scramble and shot it over multiple bodies in the crease for his fifth goal of the season.

Grimaldi continued his hot streak by putting the Admirals up 4-1 with just over six minutes to play. Mathieu Olivier added an empty-net goal moments after killing off an IceHogs power play. Rockford defenseman Ian Mitchell scored his first goal of the season with a one-timer from the top of the left circle, but it was too late to mount a serious comeback.

Goaltender Connor Ingram made 19 saves for his fourth win of the season. Since Karl Taylor took over as Admirals’ head coach in 2018, Milwaukee is 16-1-5-0 overall against the IceHogs and 10-0-2-0 in Rockford.

“The start, again, hurts us,” interim IceHogs coach Anders Sorensen said. “It’s something we have to figure out here quickly. As a group, we have to play a little bit quicker and on our toes. We have to simplify it earlier so we can get up and out of the zone quicker. Sooner or later, we are going to get through it.”

Saturday, Nov. 27

Wild 2, Henderson Silver Knights 1

The Wild made their first trip out to Nevada, and veteran goaltender Andrew Hammond stayed hot to give head coach Tim Army his 100th victory behind the Iowa bench.

Ben Jones put the Silver Knights up 1-0 late in the first period. He pulled the puck between his legs before beating Hammond with a wrist shot from the slot.

Iowa scored a pair of power-play goals in the second period to put themselves in front. The first came at 6:49 when Matt Boldy hit the post with a shot from the point, but Mason Shaw backhanded the rebound past Logan Thompson. Boldy picked up another primary assist about 12 minutes later after his shot bounced off the end boards and was deposited into the Henderson net by Will Bitten.

The Silver Knights outshot the Wild 10-4 during the third period, but Hammond stood tall. He has given up just a single goal in each of his last three starts. Henderson got a power play with just over two minutes left in regulation. They pulled Thompson for a 6-on-4 advantage for a full two minutes but couldn’t draw even.

Moose 4, Texas Stars 1

The Moose and Stars got together for the first time since Dec. 13, 2019, with Texas making their first trip to Winnipeg since Nov. 13, 2019.

Cole Perfetti got the Moose on the board late in the first period by finishing a nice passing play with Austin Poganski and David Gustafsson. Both teams had two power-play chances in the opening frame, but neither could convert.

Defenseman Jonathan Kovacevic doubled the Manitoba lead with his fourth goal of the season late in the season frame. Poganski picked up his second helper of the day early in the third period when he set up C.J. Suess, who beat goalie Adam Scheel for his third AHL goal this season.

Johnathan Kovacevic Manitoba Moose
Kovacevic had a big goal versus Texas. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Riley Damiani, who led the Stars in scoring last season, finally got a puck past Mikhail Berdin about seven minutes later. He scored his fourth goal of the season by driving hard to the net and making a nice move to slip the puck over the goal line. Evan Polei sealed the deal with a late empty-net goal.

“(The fans) were awesome and helped us get a couple of goals in the first and second, “said Poganski. “I’m going to give a lot of credit to them because without the crowd, we don’t pull this one off.”

The Moose are now 6-2-0-0 on home ice this season. However, this was the first game all season where they were held to less than 30 shots on goal.

Wolves 3, IceHogs 2 (SO)

The Wolves have jumped out to a 2-0 lead in each of the four games against the IceHogs this season. Despite the fast starts, they have lost three of those games, including both at the Allstate Arena. They were finally able to solve Rockford and beat them on home ice.

Chicago struck first again versus Rockford with a first-period power-play goal. Letunov won the faceoff following the penalty call and then headed straight to the net, where he deflected Smith’s shot from the right circle past Collin Delia.

The IceHogs evened the score just 33 seconds into the middle stanza. Defenseman Isaak Phillips received a pass from Evan Barrat and fired a tough-angle shot from just above the goal line that eluded Alex Lyon for his first goal of the season. Less than five minutes later, Jakub Galvas’ shot from the point hit a defender in front of the net and bounced past Lyon to give the IceHogs a two-goal lead. That made four straight goals by Rockford defensemen, all of which were their firsts of the season.

Isaak Phillips Rockford IceHogs
Phillips scored his first goal of the season Saturday. (Todd Reicher/Rockford IceHogs)

Smith, who was playing in his 200th career AHL game, tied the game with just over five minutes left in regulation by beating Delia with a wraparound shot. For the second straight Saturday night, these two rivals needed a shootout to decide a winner. And just like last weekend, there was just one goal scored in the three rounds. Leivo was the hero as he beat Delia clean in the final round to give the Wolves the extra point.

“We’re learning how to play for 60 minutes,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “Sometimes we do it. Sometimes we don’t, and we still find ways to win. It’s something we have to learn very quickly because we have big games coming up.”

Sunday, Nov. 28

Moose 5, Stars 3

Manitoba’s offense continued to roll in Sunday’s rematch with Texas as they keep pace with the top teams in the Central.

For the second straight game, Perfetti fired the opening salvo, who scored his team-leading sixth goal of the season while on a late first-period power play. Damiani, who scored the only Stars’ goal on Saturday, answered with a power-play goal of his own just over two minutes later. Anthony Louis skated the puck behind the Moose net and found Damiani in the right circle, where he beat Berdin.

The Moose only had four shots on goal during the second period, but they took control of the game by getting three of them behind Colton Point. Leon Gawanke set up Declan Chisholm’s goal midway through the frame to put Manitoba up 2-1. Chisholm doubled the lead less than for minutes later, with Perfetti picking up his third point of the day by getting the primary assist. Jeff Malott added a power-play tally by beating Point to the near point to extend the lead to 4-1. Point was pulled from the game and replaced by Scheel after surrendering the fourth goal.

Jeff Malott Manitoba Moose
Malott keeps producing for the Moose. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Just over a minute into the third period, Cole Maier snapped a shot past Scheel to give his team a four-goal cushion. The Stars had some fight left in them when Riley Tufte scored on a breakaway just past the halfway point of the frame. Nicholas Caamano added his second goal of the season to trim the lead to 5-3, but with just six seconds remaining on the clock, they could not get any closer.

“These two-game series are huge, especially as far as division points go,” Maier said after the win. “There were four points up for grabs this weekend. We knew that grabbing the first two were big, but it makes a big step when you can get all four. We knew that, and I’m sure they did too. As we saw from their effort tonight, they were hard on pucks and played a hard game. We were happy to come out with the win.”

Wolves 3, Griffins 1

The Wolves didn’t need a comeback to close out their perfect three-game weekend. They gave their head coach a complete 60-minute game and continued their success against their rivals from Michigan.

The Griffins came out with an early push, which included a power play and five out of the game’s first six shots. The Wolves withstood the initial wave and grabbed a 1-0 lead before the contest was even six minutes old. After the Griffins turned the puck over deep in their own zone, Smith quickly shot the puck towards the net, and Poturalski was there to tip it past Pickard. It was his ninth goal of the season and sixth against Grand Rapids. Chicago took a 1-0 lead and 15-9 shot advantage into the first intermission.

Related – Wolves’ Poturalski, A Perfect Choice for Captain

The Wolves continued to dictate play by outshooting the Griffins 18-6 in the second period. They doubled their lead to 2-0 with an early power-play goal. Noesen got to a loose puck in front of the net and dished it to his left, where Leivo deposited into the open net. About 12 minutes later, Noesen added a goal to his afternoon accomplishments. Riley Barber found himself alone in front of the net, but Makiniemi robbed him with his glove. The Wolves started the rush the other direction, and Noesen finished it off with his fifth goal of the season.

The Griffins spoiled Makineimi’s shutout bid during a 5-on-3 power play midway through the third period. Defenseman Ryan Murphy finished an excellent display of passing with Hirose and Criscuolo to net his third goal of the season. It was too little, too late as the Wolves clamped down for the final 8:27 of the game.

With his goal and assist, Poturalski now has 14 points against Grand Rapids. He set the franchise record for the points versus the Griffins in a single season, breaking the previous record of 12 shared by Kenny Agostino (2016-17) and Phil Tomasino (2020-21). The Wolves and Griffins still have seven more games against each other this season.

Andrew Poturalski Chicago Wolves
Poturalski has owned the Griffins this season. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

“I’ve got a couple of buddies over there, so it’s fun to joke with them,” a smiling Poturalski said after the victory. “I’m just going out and playing, and, for whatever reason, I’m getting good bounces against them. I’d love to keep playing them every night, for now!”

The Wolves are now 7-0-0-0 in games that Poturalski scores as he builds his early-season case for league MVP.

Silver Knights 6, Wild 5

The Wild looked like they would sweep their first visit to Henderson, but the Silver Knights had other ideas. As we learned Friday night in Grand Rapids, no lead is safe in the AHL.

The home team took an early lead when Colt Conrad beat Wild goaltender Dereck Baribeau from the left circle. Shaw scored his second goal of the weekend less than eight minutes later to even up the score. Just before the end of the opening period, Jonas Rondbjerg scored off a rebound while on the power play to give the Silver Knights a 2-1 lead.

During the second period, Iowa scored two power-play goals to take a 3-2 lead into the third period. Defenseman Dakota Mermis tied the game by blasting home a one-timer off a feed from Kyle Rau. Less than five minutes later, Connor Dewar found the back of the net with a wrister from the left circle. Mermis and Rau were credited with the assists.

The Wild added to their lead when Dewar scored again about seven minutes into the third period. When captain Cody McLeod scored two minutes later, the route looked to be on as the Wild led 5-2 with just over 11 minutes to play.

Some bad luck led to the start of the Silver Knight’s comeback less than four minutes later. While on the penalty kill, a clearing attempt took an unfortunate bounce off a stanchion and landed right on the stick of Pavel Dorofeyev, who buried the puck to trim the Wild lead to two. With Thompson on the bench for an extra attacker, Jones scored his second goal in as many games off a redirect with 2:49 left to play. Less than a minute later, and still with the Henderson net vacated, Rondbjerg scored again from just below the right dot to tie the game. Jake Leschyshyn stunned the Wild 42 seconds later by scoring off a rebound.

The Wild pulled Baribeau for the final 1:11 of regulation but could not find the equalizer. They finished the hard-luck loss with a 49-30 shot advantage.

IceHogs 2, Admirals 1

Rockford ended their week the same way they began it, by hosting the Admirals. They were able to secure the win this time around, but it came with a hefty cost.

Luff needed just 52 seconds to put the Admirals up 1-0 as he finished off a 2-on-1 rush with former IceHog Graham Knott. Kale Howarth tied the game just over two minutes late by redirecting Phillips’ shot from the left point past Ingram for his first career AHL goal.

“It was big,” Howarth said of his night. “I just wanted to get back in the lineup after missing the last two games and create some energy. I knew the guys were a little tired and I was fresh. So, I tried to get on the defense early and make something happen. That was my emphasis for the game.”

The game remained tied at 1-1 until just over four minutes into the third period until the IceHogs went on a power play. Alex Nylander scored his sixth goal of the season off a rebound from a Dylan McLaughlin shot.

The IceHogs were already without their second-leading scorer, Brett Connolly, who left Saturday with a lower-body injury. Late in the third period, leading scorer Lukas Reichel was injured on a scary and unnecessary play. He was tripped up as he was skating towards the far boards. On his way down, he was smashed into the boards face-first by Admirals’ defenseman Matt Donovan. Reichel needed help back to the dressing room and did not return. Sorensen did not have an update on him after the game.

The Admirals pushed hard for the remainder of regulation, but Soderblom was up to the task. He made 36 saves on the night, including 12 in the third period. This snapped the Admirals’ eight-game winning streak and 20-game point streak at the BMO Harris Bank Center. It was their first regulation loss in Rockford since Feb. 12. 2017.

Who’s Hot

Grimaldi has been on a hot streak since being sent down to Admirals earlier in the month. He had his point streak snapped on Sunday after scoring four goals and six points in his previous three games. Even though he did not register a point in the rematch with the IceHogs, he still had four shots on goal.

Poganski continues to be one of the critical parts of the offensive attack in Manitoba. He is on a six-game point streak and has two goals and 11 points in 11 games through the month of November.

Austin Poganski Manitoba Moose
Poganski has been a key to Manitoba’s success. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Wolves’ top line of Smith, Poturalski, and Noesen is one of the best trios in the entire AHL. They combined for five goals and 14 points during their three-win weekend. On the season, the line has 20 goals and 57 points in 17 games.

The Week’s Top Performer

Criscuolo had just two goals and three points in his first eight games of the season, but he has been hot of late. After getting a goal and an assist against the Stars last Saturday, he went on a tear this week. He scored two goals and finished with seven points to lead all players in the Central Division. He is on a four-game point streak heading into December.

Upcoming Schedule

Wednesday, Dec. 1
Stars @ Laval Rocket, IceHogs @ Admirals

Thursday, Dec. 2
Wild @ Wolves

Friday, Dec. 3
Admirals @ Cleveland Monsters, IceHogs @ Griffins, Stars @ Rocket

Saturday, Dec. 4
Moose @ Belleville Senators, Admirals @ Monsters, IceHogs @ Griffins, Wolves @ Wild

Sunday, Dec. 5
Moose @ Senators, Wolves @ Wild

Central Division Standings

Wolves 11-4-1-1 (24 pts, .705%)
Moose 11-6-1-0 (21 pts, .639%)
Wild 9-5-1-0 (19 pts, .633%)
Griffins 7-7-2-1 (17 pts, .500%)
IceHogs 6-7-1-1 (14 pts, .467%)
Stars 6-8-1-1 (14 pts, .438%)
Admirals 5-11-1-0 (11 pts, .324%)

(Standings determined by points percentage, top five teams qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs)

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