Even in a normal American Hockey League season, weekday games are limited as most of the schedule is played out on the weekends. During the shortened 2020-21 season, weekday games are practically scarce, but that won’t stop us from bringing you all the Central Division updates.
The Cleveland Monsters, back in the Central for just this season, have yet to play after canceling their trip to Rockford last week due to the league’s COVID-19 protocol. On Monday, the AHL announced that those two games against the IceHogs will be made up on Feb. 22 and 23.
The Grand Rapids Griffins revealed that longtime announcer Bob Kaser underwent heart surgery to repair several blocked arteries and will miss the majority of the shortened season. Personally, I want to wish Bob a speedy recovery. I have had to pleasure of getting to know him over the past two seasons and he is one best in the business.
The Iowa Wild rescheduled their April 25 game against the IceHogs to April 24. No reason was given for moving the contest up a day.
Speaking of the IceHogs, defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk was recalled by the Chicago Blackhawks and assigned to their taxi squad. He scored a goal in his professional debut against the Chicago Wolves last Saturday. Defenseman Anton Lindholm was sent back down to Rockford in a corresponding move.
The Texas Stars were loaned defenseman Julius Honka by the Dallas Stars. He has not played in North America since the 2018-19 season when he appeared in 29 NHL with Dallas. He has been playing in his native Finland ever since. He was originally drafted by the Stars with the 14th overall pick of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Monday, Feb. 8
After splitting a pair of games in Iowa over the weekend, these two teams finished off their three-game season-opening series with an overtime thriller. For the first time in the series, Texas opened the scoring when Tye Felhaber picked up his second goal of the season while on the power play. Gabriel Dumont’s second goal in as many games evened the score before the first intermission.
The Stars had the only goal of the second period when Josh Melnick converted on another power-play opportunity. Dumont struck again, off a turnover, eight minutes into the third period to even up the score.
In overtime, it was rookie defenseman Thomas Harley who became the offensive hero for the Stars. The 19-year-old skated the puck below the goal line and banked a backhand shot off the skate of goaltender Dereck Baribeau for his first professional goal. Baribeau was a hard-luck loser making 27 saves on the night. Stars netminder Colton Point made 30 saves to pick up his second win over the Wild in as many starts.
Tuesday, Feb. 9
The youth movement in Chicago continued as they improved to 3-0-0-0 with a 5-2 win over their intrastate rivals. Seth Jarvis opened the scoring with a power-play goal late in the first period to give him three goals in his first three AHL games.
D.J. Busdeker scored his first professional goal, while on the power play, at 13:55 of the second period to tie the game. Rockford had eight power-play opportunities on the day but this was the only goal they scored. Philip Tomasino, who had an assist on Jarvis’ tally, scored his first AHL goal to give the Wolves a 2-1 lead. Two minutes later, Rem Pitlick scored on a breakaway for the second straight game.
Tomasino and Pitlick both found the back of the net again in the third period. Chris Wilkie scored a shorthanded goal for the IceHogs in between the two Chicago goals, but they were unable to get any closer. Jeremy Helvig made 23 saves for his second win over the IceHogs in as many games. Scott Darling, who won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2015, gave up five goals on 27 shots.
“Obviously it’s a very different year and, technically, I’m shouldn’t be eligible to play in the AHL,” Tomasino said after the game. “I am lucky to get this chance and be here. My goal was to play in the NHL this year. That didn’t happen, but the AHL is a phenomenal league. I definitely feel comfortable, but, at the same time I have a long way to go.”
Thursday, Feb. 11
The Wolves won their first four games to start the season for the fourth time in their 27-season franchise history. Meanwhile, the Griffins were playing for the first time since their loss at Chicago last Friday night’s season opener.
Once again, it was Jarvis who scored the first goal of the game. The 13th overall pick of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes leads the league with both four overall goals and three on the power-play.
David Cotton scored his first professional goal with a wraparound that beat goaltender Kevin Boyle to the far post, to double the Wolves lead. Kyle Criscuolo, who scored the Griffins’ only goal on opening night, got Grand Rapids on the board about three minutes later.
Defenseman Dennis Cholowski tied the game early in the third period with a power-play goal, by getting down low and sweeping home a loose puck. Just over a minute later, Cotton scored his second of the day by finishing off a 3-on-1 rush thanks to a nice feed from Ryan Suzuki. Tanner Jeannot iced the game with a shorthanded empty-net goal with less than two minutes to play. Chicago goaltender Beck Warm made 36 saves in his AHL debut for his first professional win.
“All of our coaches here are proud of the guys and the effort,” head coach Ryan Warsofsky said after the win. “The biggest thing to me is that we have two affiliations and we’ve become one team. That has been the best sight to see. Whether it’s on the bench or on a practice day, you would never know that there are two organizations here. For it to come together this soon is really good to see.”
Three Stars of the Mid-Week
For our second straight post, Jarvis finds himself in the First Star slot again. In his two games, he scored two power-play goals and added an assist. Both of his goals opened the scoring and set the tone in a pair of Wolves’ victories. He leads the AHL in goals, power-play goals and points.
Not bad for a 19-year-old who wouldn’t even be allowed to play in the league under normal circumstances. He is a prime example of why the Canadian Hockey League and NHL need to change their agreement. Going back to the Western Hockey League will do nothing for Jarvis’ development. He belongs at the pro level.
Dumont provided all the offense in the Wild’s loss on Monday. His three goals on the season have him tied with Pitlick of the Wolves for second in the league. The 30-year-old veteran of 523 AHL games will provide plenty of veteran leadership to a young Iowa team, especially while some of the top players from the 2019-20 season are up on the Minnesota Wild’s taxi squad.
Warm looked like a calm and cool veteran on Thursday afternoon, instead of a 21-year-old rookie whose last WHL start came nearly a year ago. The young netminder was tested early by the Griffins, but he was quick to answer the bell. He made 36 saves to pick up the win in his AHL debut.
“It was definitely nice to have some action right at the start of the game,” Warm said during a postgame media call. “I was ready for this game. It was a long offseason, so I had a ton of time to prepare. The team played extremely well in front of me and shut it down in the third period.”
Central Division Standings
Wolves – 4-0-0-0, 8 pts
Stars – 2-1-0-0, 4 pts
Wild – 1-1-1, 3 pts
Griffins – 0-2-0-0, 0 pts
IceHogs – 0-2-0-0, 0 pts
Monsters – 0-0-0-0, 0 pts
Upcoming Weekend Schedule
Friday, Feb. 12: Rochester Americans @ Monsters; San Jose Barracuda @ Stars
Saturday, Feb. 13: Griffins @ Monsters; IceHogs @ Wild; Barracuda @ Stars