AHL Central News: Wild Catch Wolves For First

The Chicago Wolves have sat alone in first place of the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Central Division for the past couple of weeks. They are still atop the standings, but they have some company as the Iowa Wild have caught them, sharing an identical 7-3-1 record and .682 points percentage. Let’s take our weekly look back and the action on the ice and all the news off it.

Off-Ice Business

The Wolves had a busy week for transactions. On Monday, goaltender Alex Lyon was recalled by the Carolina Hurricanes as Antti Raanta dealt with an injury. He got the start on Saturday night versus the St. Louis Blues and picked up the win before returning to Chicago on Sunday. The team recalled center, Stephen Harper, from Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL on Tuesday. Two days later, Jamieson Rees was loaned to the Wolves after missing the first month of the season with an injury. He had eight goals and 14 points in 29 games for Chicago last season.

The Grand Rapids Griffins released left wing Max Humitz from his professional try-out (PTO) on Monday. He picked up an assist in two AHL games this season. He returned to the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings.

The Wild had plenty of transactions this week to go along with their three games. The moves started on Sunday night when the Minnesota Wild reassigned forwards Adam Beckman and Connor Dewar back to the AHL. To make room for them, Kris Bennett and Riese Zmolek were sent down to the Iowa Heartlanders of the ECHL. On Tuesday, forward Cody McLeod was suspended one game for a boarding incident during the Nov. 5 game versus the Griffins. He missed Wednesday night’s contest at the Rockford IceHogs. Finally, on Friday, Kyle Rau was reassigned to the AHL by Minnesota.

Kyle Rau Minnesota Wild
Rau was back in Iowa this week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Manitoba Moose sent defenseman Trent Bourque to the Newfoundland Growlers of the ECHL on Wednesday. He played in 19 games for the Moose last season but has yet to crack the lineup this season. The following day, goaltender Philippe Desrosiers joined Bourque in the ECHL as he was reassigned to the Trois-Rivieres.

Before heading out to Iowa on Saturday, the Nashville Predators recalled forward Cole Smith from the Milwaukee Admirals. In a corresponding move, Rocco Grimaldi, who just cleared waivers, was reassigned to the Admirals.

On Wednesday, the IceHogs had a pair of defensemen returned to them from the Chicago Blackhawks as Isaak Phillips and Wyatt Kalynuk were sent back down to the AHL. Cliff Watson was sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL to make room on the crowded blue line. On Saturday, Rockford traded forward Chris Wilkie to the Belleville Senators for future considerations. He dressed in just one game this season after scoring eight goals and 13 points in 22 games last season.

The Texas Stars had a very busy week, starting on Tuesday when they hired John Peterson as their new play-by-play voice. On Thursday, the Dallas Stars recalled forward Riley Tufte and reassigned defenseman Thomas Harley. Texas received forwards Blake Comeau and Tanner Kero on loan the following day while forward Jacob Peterson headed to Dallas.

The Week in Review

Wednesday, Nov. 10

Moose 4, Admirals 3 (OT)

It’s not often you can get outshout 60-16 in a game and still earn a point. That is precisely what happened to the Admirals on Wednesday night, thanks to the Herculean efforts by goaltender Connor Ingram.

The Moose struck first with an early power-play goal, just 1:36 into the contest. David Gustafsson was credited with his third goal of the season by redirecting an Austin Poganski shot past Ingram.

David Gustafsson Manitoba Moose
Gustafsson had a big week for the Moose. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Admirals scored three straight goals to start the second period. Cole Schneider got things going for the Admirals with a power-play goal at 2:36 by tipping a Marc Del Gaizo shot into the net. Eight minutes later, Smith fired the puck over Mikhail Berdin’s shoulder for his third goal in four games. Egor Afanasyev doubled the lead just over a minute later by scoring off a rebound off a Cody Glass shot. Jeff Malott cut the deficit down to one before the end of the middle frame by driving hard to the net.

Related – Glass & Predators Benefitting From Patience

Defenseman Leon Gawanke evened the score up with a power-play goal less than three minutes into the third period. The Moose outshot the Admirals 22-3 during the final frame, but Ingram came up time and time again to get the game to overtime and earn a point for his team. In the extra session, Glass was called for hooking halfway through. With just a couple of seconds left on the power-play, Gawanke struck again to give the Moose the overtime victory. He had an assist on Malott’s second-period goal to finish the evening with three points. Berdin made 13 saves to earn his fourth win on the season.

Wild 4, IceHogs 3 (OT)

The Wild and IceHogs met for the first time this season in northwestern Illinois and the visitors used some late-game magic to pull out an overtime victory.

Just over 11 minutes into the game, defenseman Dakota Mermis opened the scoring with a one-timer past Malcolm Subban for his first goal with the Wild. Late in the first period, veteran Brett Connolly tied the game with a power-play goal. Just over two minutes later, Josiah Slavin, who had an assist on the Connolly tally, gave the IceHogs a 2-1 lead with a shorthanded goal.

“It’s been awesome,” Slavin said about playing with Connolly. “I think over these past couple of games, we’ve learned how to play with each other and where each other is going to be on the ice. It’s been clicking for us, and we’ve been doing a good job.

Dewar, fresh off his first taste of the NHL, knocked home a loose puck early in the second period to even the score. The game remained tied until eight minutes into the third period when Kalynuk, playing in his first game of the season, scored from the left point. With goaltender Dereck Baribeau on the bench for an extra attacker, Nick Swaney scored off a rebound to force overtime with just 26 seconds remaining in regulation.

Midway through overtime, Connolly was called for tripping, and the Wild took full advantage of the 4-on-3 power play. Mason Shaw set up defenseman Joe Hicketts at the point where he rifled home the game-winning goal. The assist was Shaw’s third on the evening.

Friday, Nov. 12

Griffins 2, Moose 0

Goaltender Calvin Pickard was the man of the hour as he picked up his first shutout of the season, leading Grand Rapids to their third straight win.

Turner Elson scored the only goal the Griffins would need about five minutes into the first period. His tap-in goal was set up by a great no-look pass through the legs of a defender by rookie Jonatan Berggren, who extended his personal point streak of five games.

During the second period, the Moose brought the pressure with 14 shots on goal, but they could not draw even against Pickard. Riley Barber extended his point streak to four games when he doubled the Griffins lead with just 19 seconds left in the middle stanza. Taro Hirose picked up an assist on the play also pushed his point streak to four games in a row.

Calvin Pickard Grand Rapids Griffins
Pickard stole the show on Friday night. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Pickard made 34 saves for his fourth career shutout with the team, tying him for 10th in franchise history. He has won four straight starts and has allowed one goal or less in five of his seven games this season.

“His best attribute as a goalie is his competitiveness,” head coach Ben Simon said of Pickard. “When we won the game in Iowa, in overtime, he wasn’t happy with his play, but we won together as a group. With Picks playing three games in a row, there’s got to be a little bit of incentive there. If you win, the net’s yours.”

Wolves 4, IceHogs 1

The Wolves used a dominating first period to cruise to victory and avenge their opening-night loss to the IceHogs.

Chicago captain Andrew Poturalski opened the scoring just 49 seconds after the opening faceoff. While skating 4-on-4, Stefan Noesen found him with space at the near post, and he used his forehand to score his fifth goal of the season. Noesen doubled the lead midway through the period with a power-play goal off a deflection from a Max Lajoie shot. Defenseman Eric Gelinas pushed the lead to 3-0 about six minutes by sneaking down to the left dot and beating Arvid Soderblom with a wrist shot. The goal gave the Wolves five straight games with a goal from a blueliner. Chicago dominated the opening frame, outshooting Rockford 16-1.

Andrew Poturalski Chicago Wolves
Poturalski started the scoring in Rockford. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Eetu Makiniemi had his shutout bid ruined late in the third period when Connolly scored on a 6-on-4 power play. His goal from the top of the right circle extended his point streak to five straight games. Maxim Letunov iced the game with an empty-net goal about a minute later.

“We were casual. We didn’t seem like we were ready to start on time,” IceHogs interim head coach Anders Sorensen said after the loss. “The Wolves, give them credit, they came out hard and came after us, and we didn’t have a very good response.”

Colorado Eagles 2, Stars 1 (SO)

The Stars returned home after spending last week out west. However, the Eagles were not very gracious house guests as they left with a shootout victory.

Anthony Louis had the lone goal of the first period to give Texas a 1-0. He beat goaltender Justus Annunen from the right circle for his first goal of the season. The lead held up until the midway point of the third period when the Eagles finally got the puck past Oettinger. Andreas Wingerli’s third goal of the season eventually sent that game into overtime.

Stars forward Fredrik Karlstrom was awarded a penalty shot just over a minute into overtime, but his attempt sailed wide of the target. The game headed to a shootout after neither side scored during the five-minute overtime period. Mikhail Maltsev and Dylan Sikura scored to give the Eagles the extra point, while Jordan Kawaguchi and Riley Damiani were denied.

Saturday, Nov. 13

Moose 6, Griffins 2

The Moose’s offense was held off the scoreboard of Friday night, but they got goals from six different players on Saturday to snap the Griffins’ three-game winning streak.

Defenseman Jimmy Oligny gave Manitoba a 1-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game by hammering home a pass from David Gustafsson. C.J. Suess’ first goal of the season doubled the lead about three minutes later. For the second straight night, Berggren set up Elson for the Griffins’ first goal of the game. Defenseman D.J. King, son of Blackhawks interim head coach Derek King, picked up his first professional point with the secondary assist.

The Moose had a quick response and added two more goals before the end of the opening frame. Two minutes after Elson’s goal, Mikey Eyssimont beat Viktor Brattstrom with a wraparound shot. Malott extended the lead to 4-1 less than a minute later by sweeping home a rebound.

At the start of the second period, Brattstrom was replaced in the Griffins goal by Friday’s hero, Pickard. The rookie netminder surrendered four goals on 19 first-period shots. Grand Rapids outshot the Moose 10-2 during the sandwich stanza and cut the deficit to 4-2 midway through. While falling, Barber completed a pass to a wide-open Kyle Criscuolo at the side of the net for his second goal of the season.

Greg Meireles scored an early third-period power-play goal by cashing in off a rebound from a Malott shot. Late in the final frame, Cole Maier scored the night’s final goal by scoring off another rebound, this time off the stick of Evan Polei. The Moose got goals from six different players and had 13 skaters find the scoresheet. Arvid Holm made 14 saves to earn the win as Manitoba finished their six-game road trip with a 3-2-1-0 record.

Wild 5, Admirals 0

Wearing jerseys paying homage to the old Des Moines Oak Leafs, the Wild treated the home crowd to a big shutout victory over the rival Admirals.

Hicketts was the first of five Wild players to score when he shoveled a bouncing puck from the slot past Ingram late in the opening period. Two minutes later, Swaney scored his seventh goal of the season to double the advantage. He did all the work himself by forcing a turnover before beating Ingram to the post on a wraparound attempt.

During a late second-period power play, Dewar set up Beckman for a one-timer to increase the lead to 3-0. In the final minute of the frame, Marco Rossi scored his third goal of the season when he was left all alone in front of the net.

Admirals head coach gave Ingram the third period off in favor of Devin Cooley after giving up four goals on 26 shots. Cooley faced eight shots in the final frame, allowing just one in behind him. That goal was from Mitchell Chaffee early in the period, as he was set up at the right post by a great feed from Rau. Andrew Hammond stopped all 26 shots he faced to record his second shutout of the season.

Toronto Marlies 5, Wolves 1

On Friday night, the Wolves and Marlies got together for the first time since 2015, with Toronto improving to 8-3-3 all-time at the Allstate Arena.

For as good as their first period was on Friday, the Wolves’ effort in the opening 20 minutes on Saturday left much to be desired. Bobby McCann scored the opening tally for the Marlies just 2:29 into the game when the puck bounced off the end boards and right onto his stick at the right post. Just over two minutes later, Kurtis Gabriel scored his first goal of the season off a rebound to double the lead.

Sam Miletic got the home team on the scoreboard midway through the second period. He deked around a defender before shooting between the legs of goaltender Erik Kallgren for his first goal in a Wolves uniform.

The Marlies scored three times in the third period to pull away with the win. Their first goal came off the stick of Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, who finished off a nice give-and-go play with Josh Ho-Sang. Marc Michaelis pushed the lead to 4-1 with a shorthanded breakaway goal a few minutes later. Pavel Gogolev capped off the scoring with a late third-period goal from the high slot. Beck Warm made 20 saves in the loss, his first AHL start of the season.

“That wasn’t our best performance, by any means,” Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky admitted. “We need to learn from it. Our mental focus from the puck drop lacks at times. When things don’t go our way, we let it snowball out of control; we give up. That’s unacceptable.”

Stars 4, Eagles 3 (SO)

For the second straight night, Texas and Colorado needed a shootout to decide the winner, and this time the home team came out with the extra point.

Once again, the Stars struck first in the opening period. Oskar Back centered the puck from behind the net, and Karlstrom pushed it past Annunen for his third goal of the year. Less than two minutes later, Callahan Burke tied the score for Colorado. Later in the frame, goaltender Colton Point came way out from his crease to play the puck and started a 2-on-1 rush the other way that was finished off by Curtis McKenzie for a 2-1 lead.

McKenzie doubled the advantage just 51 seconds into the second period with a power-play goal by redirecting a Damiani shot into the net. Before the end of the frame, Sikura scored on a power-play to draw the Eagles to within one goal.

Defenseman Dennis Gilbert scored 18 seconds into the third period to even things up. The teams remained tied through the rest of regulation and overtime. In the shootout, Louis scored the lone goal in the first round. Point denied Maltsev, Sikura, and Sampo Ranta to earn his first victory of the season in just his second start.

Sunday, Nov. 14

Marlies 2, Wolves 1 (OT)

The Wolves had a much better effort in their rematch against the Marlies, but they ended up on the short end after running into a hot goaltender and some bad puck luck.

The Wolves scored the lone goal of the opening frame while on a late power play. Moments after Makiniemi denied Michaelis on a shorthanded breakaway, Letunov scored off a rebound from a Rees shot. The primary assist was Rees’ first point of the season in just his second game.

Toronto tied the score late in the second period when McMann’s centering pass hit off the skate of Curtis Douglas and got in behind Makiniemi. Chicago came out firing early in the third period, but they missed their target on a handful of prime scoring chances.

The game appeared to be heading to a shootout until the Marlies had one last rush in the final seconds of overtime. Alex Steeves got in behind the defense but was stopped on a breakaway. Moments later, Der-Arguchintsev scored from the high slot to win the game with just 1.3 seconds left in the extra session. Goaltender Michael Hutchinson stepped up to make 37 saves to earn his first AHL win on the season.

“I thought we worked harder,” Warsofsky said. “There are still some things we need to clean up, but that’s a good team. They have a lot of skill and can skate. Sometimes they were beating us at our own game. I thought the response was pretty good, for the most part. Even though we didn’t get the two points, it was a positive step in the right direction.”

Wild 4, Admirals 3

Iowa looked like they would run away with the weekend sweep; however, Milwaukee made things a bit close for comfort before the end of the day. The Wild did hang on to earn their third win of the week.

Things got going in the middle frame after the teams skated in a scoreless first period. Dewar opened the scoring just 26 seconds into the second period by finishing off a 2-on-1 while on the penalty kill for his second shorthanded goal of the season. Defenseman Calen Addison doubled the lead from the left circle while on a two-man advantage six minutes later. Hicketts scored on a 4-on-3 power play 93 seconds later to extend the lead to 3-0.

Calen Addison Minnesota Wild
Addison had a nice week in Iowa. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Before the end of the stanza, former Wild forward Mitch McLain got the Admirals on the scoreboard by redirecting David Farrance’s shot from the point while on the power play. He got his new team to within one goal with a second power-play tally 11 minutes into the third period. Exactly two minutes later, Rau scored off a rebound to increase Iowa’s lead to 4-2. The tally tied him with Zack Mitchell for third all-time in Wild franchise goals. Matt Luff quickly responded to bring the Admirals back to within a goal with five minutes to play in regulation. They finished the third period with a 15-7 shot advantage, but Baribeau held on for the win.

Who’s Hot

The Griffins currently have tw9 players who have scored in five straight games. Hirose has two goals and eight points in this span, and Barber has four goals and seven points. Meanwhile, Berggren has points in each of his six games, with three goals and seven points.

Jonatan Berggren Grand Rapids Griffins
Berggren has a six-game point streak. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Connolly also has a five-game point streak for the IceHogs, with three goals and eight points. The Moose offense continues to fire at all cylinders as they have put up at least shots on goal in all 13 games this season.

Who’s Not

When your offense has been struggling, as it has for the Admirals, you need your special teams to step up. That wasn’t the case this past week for Milwaukee, as their penalty kill unit surrendered seven goals in 16 attempts. The Admirals penalty kill unit still has a 78.6% success rate after the down week, the fourth-best in the Central Division.

The Week’s Top Performer

The Wild have caught the Wolves at the top of the division, and Hicketts was key to their undefeated week. The veteran defenseman scored in all three games and added an assist to finish the week with four points. Two of three goals were game-winners, including one in overtime at Rockford. He has 11 points on the season, which is tied for the team lead. He had 18 points in 32 games for the Griffins last season.

Upcoming Schedule

Wednesday, Nov. 17
Wolves @ Griffins

Thursday, Nov. 18
Admirals @ Moose

Friday, Nov. 19
Tucson Roadrunners @ Wild, Admirals @ Moose, Wolves @ IceHogs, Griffins @ Stars

Saturday, Nov. 20
IceHogs @ Wolves, Griffins @ Stars

Sunday, Nov. 21
Roadrunners @ Stars, Admirals @ Moose

Central Division Standings

Wolves 7-3-1-0 (15 pts, .682%)
Wild 7-3-1-0 (15 pts, .682%)
Moose 7-5-1-0 (15 pts, .577%)
Griffins 5-5-0-1 (11 pts, .500%)
Stars 5-6-0-1 (11 pts, .458%)
IceHogs 3-6-1-0 (7 pts, .350%)
Admirals 3-7-1-0 (7 pts, .318%)

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

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