The Iowa Wild now find themselves all alone in first place of the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Central Division after the Chicago Wolves slipped up over the weekend. Things are getting tight near the top of the standings as the Manitoba Moose continued to head in the right direction with two big wins. We are still less than a quarter of the way through the schedule, and this season is shaping up to be a real barn burner.
The Grand Rapids Griffins started their busy week by signing forwards Max Humitz and Brett McKenzie to professional tryouts (PTO) on Monday. The following day, they sent goaltender Victor Brattstrom to the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL and recalled Kaden Fulcher to take his spot. They also released defenseman D.J. King from his PTO and learned that Chase Pearson was hit with a one-game suspension for a butt-ending incident against the Moose on Nov. 12.
Before their game on Friday, the Wild paid tribute to late general manager Tom Kurvers by dedicating the press box at the Wells Fargo Arena in his honor. On Sunday morning, defenseman Calen Addison was recalled by the Minnesota Wild. Iowa recalled Riese Zmolek from the Iowa Heartlanders of the ECHL to take Addison’s spot on the roster.
Before heading north of the border, the Milwaukee Admirals signed center Graham Knott to a PTO while releasing Avery Peterson from his. Knott, a former second-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, has three goals and five points in 10 ECHL games for the Cincinnati Cyclones this season.
The Rockford IceHogs started their week by hiring former team captain Jared Nightingale as an assistant coach, who was on the coaching staff of the Saginaw Spirit in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Two days later, they recalled forward Kale Howarth, who had two goals and four points in five ECHL games with the Indy Fuel.
Finally, the Dallas Stars recalled forward Tanner Kero and reassigned Riley Tufte back to the Texas Stars on Sunday.
The Week in Review
Wednesday, Nov. 10
Chicago was in Grand Rapids for the third time already this season for a special School-Day Game Wednesday morning. The large and boisterous crowd was sent home disappointed after the visitors scored a big overtime win.
After a scoreless first period that saw both goaltenders, Alex Lyon and Calvin Pickard, make big stops, the Wolves struck early in the second period. Jack Drury drove hard to the net and dropped the puck back for Jamieson Rees, who fired it up and over Pickard. This was his first goal of the season in his third game after missing a month with a knee injury. The two teams had 57 combined shots after two periods (Wolves 34-23), but just one goal.
Midway through the third period, McKenzie drove to the net and tied the game in his Griffins debut. He played one game for the Wolves just before the 2019-20 season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Wolves became the final team to play beyond regulation last Sunday against the Toronto Marlies, and they were back in overtime for the second straight game following a scoreless third period. Captain Andrew Poturalski won the game for Chicago by skating through all three defenders before slipping the puck into the net for his seventh goal of the season. Pickard made 46 saves in the losing effort, the fourth-most made in an AHL game this season.
“Chicago gets a lot of zone time,” Pickard said after his Herculean effort. “They are a skilled bunch and played well. I got some shots early, which is nice. The 11 a.m. start is obviously a little different than what we are used to. I was very proud of the way we played today. Our penalty kill was huge after struggling lately. We will take the point and move on.”
Thursday, Nov. 18
The Moose returned home to Winnipeg on Thursday after a six-game road trip. They welcomed in the Admirals for the first of three straight games against Milwaukee on a five-game homestand.
Both teams had multiple power-play opportunities during the opening period, but neither team could take advantage as the game remained scoreless heading into the first intermission. The Moose exploded with four goals in the middle frame.
Midway through the second period, Mikey Eyssimont set up Nicholas Jones’s second goal of the season off an Admirals’ turnover. Less than six minutes later, top prospect Cole Perfetti scored his fourth goal of the season by redirecting a Leon Gawanke shot behind Connor Ingram. C.J. Suess extended the lead to 3-0 just over a minute later by scoring through the legs of Ingram. Perfetti picked up his second point of the period by making a drop pass to Austin Poganski, who pushed to advantage to 4-0 before the end of the stanza.
The Admirals made a goaltending change to start the third period, with Devin Cooley coming in to relieve Ingram, who allowed four goals on 22 shots. David Gustafsson scored his first of two third-period goals seven minutes into the frame while on the power play. Less than two minutes later, Mikhail Berdin’s shutout bid was spoiled by Matt Luff, who scored his fourth goal of the season with a wrist shot from the right circle. Rocco Grimaldi’s first AHL goal of the season cut the lead to 5-2 with under three minutes to play. Cole Schneider had the primary assist on the play for his 450th career AHL point. Gustafsson struck again 32 seconds later, from the slot, to finish off the scoring.
Manitoba got goals from five different players and had 11 players find the scoresheet. Perfetti led the way with a goal and three points.
“In the first, Berdin kept us in it with some big saves, and we were able to escape without a goal against,” Perfetti said in his postgame media session. “In the second, we played our game and took over. The shots weren’t as lopsided as last game. We were dominating in the offensive zone, and they didn’t have anything. From then on, they were trapped in the neutral zone and throwing pucks away. It’s nice to find that game. Hopefully, we can do that for all three periods tomorrow.”
Friday, Nov. 19
The Wild got a complete team effort in a blowout victory to open their weekend series against the Roadrunners.
Matt Boldy, playing in his first game of the season after suffering a broken leg in training camp, started his big night by setting up Kyle Rau’s opening goal. Late in the period, Rau scored again from the left circle to give 68 career goals, the third-most in Iowa franchise history.
Dominic Turgeon gave the Wild a 3-0 lead early in the second period by scoring his second goal of the season from the slot. Adam Beckman had the primary assist to give him a helper in three straight games. Less than four minutes later, while on the power play, Boldy fired home a shot from the right dot for his first goal of the season. Marco Rossi picked up his third assist of the game to give him a team-leading 11 on the season.
Boldy struck again less than seven minutes into the final frame to close out the scoring. Goaltender Andrew Hammond made 17 saves to earn his second straight shutout and AHL-leading third of the season.
The Moose and Admirals played their second game of a three-game weekend series in Winnipeg Friday night. The game was much of the same from the previous evening, as Manitoba jumped out early before Milwaukee could get their offense going.
Declan Chisholm scored his first goal of the season with less than five minutes left in the first period to give the Moose a 1-0 lead. Poganski doubled the lead about three minutes later by scoring on the power play. Chisholm struck again 12 minutes into the second period to increase Manitoba’s lead to 3-0.
Shortly after, Cody Glass began the Admirals’ comeback. Schneider set up the young center in the slot, where he fired a wrist shot past the glove of Arvid Holm for his first AHL goal of the season. They cut the lead down to one goal before the end of the frame. Matt Donovan forced a turnover, then found Knott in the slot for his first goal with the team. Egor Afanasyev tied the game midway through the third period with a power-play goal from the left circle.
Kristian Reichel prevented the game from going to overtime by scoring his second goal of the season with just 58 seconds left in regulation. With a delayed penalty coming against the Admirals, Holm headed to the bench for the extra attacker. Reichel beat Ingram with a wrist shot from the bottom of the left circle. Chisholm had the primary assist on the game-winning goal for his third point of the evening.
“I have been waiting for a goal,” a smiling Chisholm said after the game. “I’ve been grinding and trying to shoot the puck more. It’s nice to get a couple, and now I don’t have to worry about breaking the ice and getting the first one. I can just play my game and go forward from here.”
For the second straight Friday, the IceHogs welcomed in their foes from the Windy City. This was Rockford’s first game since last week’s meeting with the Wolves, who played three games before making the quick trip west.
Much like last week’s contest, the Wolves got the jump on their interstate rivals with an early first-period goal. Less than three minutes into the game, Spencer Smallman slid a pass across the crease to Dominik Bokk, who poked home the puck for this first goal of the season. Defenseman Josh Jacobs doubled the lead less than five minutes later when he scored from the top of the right circle.
Lukas Riechel turned the game around a few minutes later when he forced a turnover then drew a penalty on Joey Keane. Moments later, he set up Brett Connolly for a power-play goal to get the IceHogs on the board. The goal extended Connolly’s point streak to six games.
“Connolly’s a great player,” Reichel said. “He’s a great shooter, and I tried to set him up. We have good chemistry. I just want to learn from him.”
Just over a minute later, while on the penalty kill, Carson Gicewicz set up Josiah Slavin for a game-tying shorthanded goal. It was his second shorty of the season and fourth goal overall.
Midway through the second period, while skating at 4-on-4, Alex Nylander gave Rockford a 3-2 lead by scoring during a mad scramble in front of the net. It was his fifth goal of the season and third versus the Wolves. Less than a minute later, the Wolves drew back even when David Gust wired a quick wrist shot past Arvid Soderblom from the right dot.
The IceHogs regained the lead at 1:04 of the third period. Defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk carried the puck behind the Wolves’ net, then found Reichel out front, who buried his team-leading seventh goal of the season. Rees thought he tied the game midway through the final frame, but it was ruled the puck was played with a high stick. Rockford got late empty-net goals from both Evan Barratt and captain Garrett Mitchell to pull away.
“The guys did a great job,” said interim head coach Anders Sorensen. “We were down 2-0, and we had to respond. We got that power play, and Reichel made a heck of a play. The PK goal was huge for us. We were feeling good about ourselves and got on track after the start.”
The Griffins traveled down to Texas for their first meeting with the Stars since Feb. 29, 2020. They started the weekend series with a thrilling overtime victory.
Grand Rapids opened the scoring midway through the first period when Dominik Shine scored off a rebound. Taro Hirose doubled the lead less than three minutes later by blasting home a one-timer from the right circle for his third goal of the season. Joel L’Esperance had a quick response for the Stars when he scored on the power play about two minutes after Hirose’s goal. Veteran defenseman Brian Lashoff got that goal back for the Griffins before the end of the opening frame. He picked up his first goal of the season when his shot from the point found its way through traffic and into the net.
Adam Scheel took over for Colton Point in the Texas net to start the second period. Ty Dellandrea got the Stars to within a goal when he scored off the skate of a Griffins defender early in the stanza. Less than three minutes later, L’Esperance picked up his second goal of the night while on the power play to tie the game. Jeremy Gregoire scored on a 2-on-1 rush 39 seconds later to give the Stars their first lead of the night. Thomas Harley had the primary assist on both goals. Tyler Spezia drew the Griffins even late in the second period by splitting a pair of defenders and beating Scheel.
After eight combined goals through 40 minutes, neither team found the back of the net during the third period. Turner Elson won the game for Grand Rapids 90 seconds into overtime with a slap shot from the right circle. Pickard made 23 saves to secure his fifth win in his last six starts.
Saturday, Nov. 20
The IceHogs continued their comeback magic against the Wolves by winning their second straight game after trailing by two goals in the first period.
For the fourth time in four games against the IceHogs, the Wolves scored first. The Wolves opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal just 2:26 into the game. Poturalski forced a turnover at center ice, and Stefan Noesen danced around a defender before scoring on Collin Delia. It was his fourth goal of the season, all of which have come in the first period. Less than five minutes later, David Gust doubled the lead with a power-play tally. He put on the afterburners to blow by the Rockford defense and score his fifth goal of the season and second in as many nights.
Dylan McLaughlin scored the only goal of the middle frame to get the IceHogs on the board. With just 1:01 left before the second intermission, he got to the front of the net, where he banged home a rebound for his second goal of the season.
Early in the third period, Noesen took a needless crosschecking penalty on the way to the bench. Moments later, Andrei Altybarmakian shot wide, and Barratt was in the right place and the right time to put the bounce of the end boards into the Chicago net for the game-tying goal.
After a scoreless overtime period, the teams needed a shootout to decide who got the extra point. McLaughlin capped off his big night by scoring the only goal of the four-round shootout to give the IceHogs the win. Delia recovered nicely after a shaky start by making 31 saves in regulation and overtime for his first goal of the season.
The Wolves have gone up 2-0 in all four games against the IceHogs this season. The team who scored the third goal of the game has won all four meetings. Unfortunately for Chicago, Rockford scored the third goal in three of the four games.
“I think we are learning how to be more consistent, not just as a team, but as individuals,” Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky said after his team played six games in nine days. “You’re not going to feel your best for 76 games. It’s the human element in this that’s really difficult. Your ‘B game’ needs to impact the hockey game somehow, and we’re learning that.”
For the second straight night, the Stars and Griffins needed overtime to decide the winner. Texas had a successful Hockey Fights Cancer Night as they avenged the loss from the previous contest.
The Stars got an early first-period power play, and Riley Damiani opened the scoring with a shot from the top of the right circle. Later in the frame, Oskar Back scored off a rebound to stretch the lead to 2-0. Just before the first intermission, rookie Jonathan Berggren got the Griffins on the board with a wrist shot from the slot.
Texas forward Josh Melnick scored the lone goal of the second period when he stole the puck on a penalty kill and cashed in on a breakaway for the shorthanded goal. The Griffins cut the deficit to 3-2 with 4:30 left in regulation when Elson set up Kyle Criscuolo at the right post for an easy tap-in goal. Less than a minute later, Berggren scored his second goal of the night to force overtime.
Ben Gleason only needed 27 seconds of overtime to win the game for the Stars. The defenseman fired a shot from the left circle that beat Pickard for the game-winner. Scheel made 31 saves to earn his first AHL win of the season.
“It was nice,” Gleason said of his goal. “We’ve been in overtime the last four games, so we needed to get two points out of this game. We know these points are crucial. We are playing guys in our division, so it’s something we need for the playoffs. It was huge to get those extra two tonight.”
Sunday, Nov. 21
After a day off, Iowa and Tucson closed out their weekend series on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately for the first-place Wild, their offense struggled in the rematch.
The Roadrunners struck first less than six minutes into the game when Matias Maccelli beat goaltender Derek Baribeau on a 2-on-1 rush. Terry Broadhurst scored the eventual game-winning just over a minute later by putting a rebound back into the Iowa net. Late in the opening frame, Boldy scored his third goal of the weekend when he got to a loose puck in the high slot and fired it to the back of the net.
Tuscon goaltender Zane McIntyre was busy during the second period as the Wild outshot the Roadrunners 15-6 but could not draw even. He stopped six more shots in the third period for 31 total saves in the win. The Wild killed off all five of their penalties but failed to score on any of their three power-play chances.
On Sunday, the Admirals finally earned their first road win, snapping a franchise-record seven-game losing streak to start the season. It was also their first win in their last seven games as they desperately try to get back on track.
Grimaldi got things going just 1:25 into the game when he shot the puck just under the crossbar from the left circle. This was just the fifth time in 14 games where the Admirals scored first.
Ville Heinola tied the game just 42 seconds into the middle frame with a power-play goal from the right point. Schneider put Milwaukee back on top less than five minutes later when he scored off the rebound from a Grimaldi shot. Donovan doubled the Admirals lead just 50 seconds later with a goal from the slot.
Early in the third period, Cole Smith scored while on a 5-on-3 power play to extend the advantage to 4-1. Less than a minute later, Reichel scored a shorthanded goal to get one back for the Moose, but that would be as close as they would get. Grimaldi finished his big day by picking up a late empty-net goal with Schneider and Donovan getting the assists.
McKenzie had himself a heck of a first week with the Griffins. He had a goal and two assists in his first three games after signing a PTO. These were the first three points of his AHL career. He was held off the scoresheet in five games with the Providence Bruins during the 2018-19 season and one with the Wolves in 2019-20.
The Admirals set two records that they should not be proud of. They lost seven straight road games to start the season, a new franchise record before they finally beat the Moose on Sunday. They have also lost seven games in a row decided in overtime or a shootout, the longest such streak in AHL history.
The Week’s Top Performer
Boldy made an immediate impact after returning from a fractured left ankle he suffered in a preseason game with Minnesota. In his first regular-season game action this season, he scored two goals and added an assist in the 5-0 win over Tucson. He followed that up by scoring Iowa’s lone goal on Sunday. He showed off exactly why he was drafted 12th overall at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Wednesday, Nov. 24
Griffins @ Admirals
Friday, Nov. 26
Wolves @ Griffins, Admirals @ IceHogs
Saturday, Nov. 27
Wild @ Henderson Silver Knights, Stars @ Moose, IceHogs @ Wolves
Sunday, Nov. 28
Stars @ Moose, Griffins @ Wolves, Wild @ Silver Knights, Admirals @ IceHogs
Central Division Standings
Wild 8-4-1-0 (17 pts, .654%)
Wolves 8-4-1-1 (18 pts, .643%)
Moose 9-6-1-0 (19 pts, .594%)
Griffins 6-5-2-1 (15 pts, .536%)
Stars 6-6-1-1 (14 pts, .500%)
IceHogs 5-6-1-0 (11 pts, .458%)
Admirals 4-9-1-0 (9 pts, .321%)
(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.