AHL Central News: Wolves Stay Perfect, Griffins Reload

The American Hockey League’s Central Division lost a game this week to a winter weather emergency in the Lone Star State. The first-place team remained perfect on the season while their intra-state rivals are still searching for their first victory. Let’s get you caught up on all the mid-week happening from the AHL Central.

Off-Ice Business

With just two games on the ice, there was much more action outside of the rink than in this past week.

Starting with the first-place Chicago Wolves, who got some new additions to the roster on Monday. Frederic Allard was loaned to the team by the Nashville Predators and David Warsofsky was sent down by the Carolina Hurricanes. Warsofsky, whose older brother is the Wolves’ head coach, was just acquired by the Hurricanes from the Toronto Maple Leafs for Alex Galchenyuk. On Thursday, center Morgan Geekie was reassigned to Chicago after nine games in the NHL this season.

The Cleveland Monsters welcomed the return of goaltender Matiss Kivenieks on Thursday. He had previously been on the Columbus Blue Jackets’ taxi squad. He has a 3.23 goals-against average and .892 save percentage in 77 career AHL games.

The Grand Rapids Griffins had a busy week, as far as roster moves were concerned, as a bunch of familiar faces returned to the team. On Sunday night, left wing Taro Hirose, defenseman Dylan McIlrath and goaltender Kaden Fulcher were all reassigned to the AHL by the Detroit Red Wings. Power forward Givani Smith returned to Grand Rapids on Tuesday, while Evgeny Svechnikov was recalled by Detroit in a corresponding move.

Givani Smith Grand Rapids Griffins
Smith returned to Grand Rapids. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

After having to play last Saturday’s game with just five defensemen, the Iowa Wild added some reinforcements. On Tuesday, they recalled blueliners Philip Beaulieu and Matt Register from their ECHL affiliate, the Allen Americans. The following day, defenseman Daemon Hunt returned to the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League. The Minnesota Wild’s 2020 third-round pick played in three of Iowa’s first four games.

The Rockford IceHogs had a familiar face return on Monday. MacKenzie Entwistle was reassigned from the Chicago Blackhawks taxi squad. He had 11 goals and 26 points in 56 games for the IceHogs last season, earning the Most Improved Player along the way.  On Thursday, they officially added one defenseman and then lost another one. First, they signed Michael Krutil to an AHL standard contract. The 18-year-old, a 2020 fourth-round draft pick by the Blackhawks, had been playing on an amateur tryout. Later that day, they learned Anton Lindholm, who was just reassigned by Chicago, will be out four to six weeks with a broken left thumb.

Mid-Week Recap

Tuesday, Feb. 16

San Jose Barracuda @ Stars, POSTPONED

The Stars were set to host the Barracuda for the rubber match of their three-game set, but Mother Nature had different ideas. With rare winter storms and freezing temperatures across the state of Texas, Tuesday night’s game was postponed. There has not been a rescheduled date announced yet. The Stars travel to San Jose in mid-April for three games, so it is possible this game is made up out west.

Wolves 3, IceHogs 2

The Wolves made the short 75-mile trip west to Rockford to take on the IceHogs for the third time this season. It was more of the same as Chicago stayed undefeated through five games by hanging on for a 3-2 road win.

Anthony Richard gave the Wolves a 1-0 lead, just 1:21 into the game, by finishing off a 2-on-1 rush. Ryan Suzuki, the Hurricanes’ 2019 first-round pick, scored his first professional goal to double the lead later in the first period. The Predators’ 2019 first-rounder, Philip Tomasino, scored the only goal of the second period as his third of the season increased Chicago’s lead to 3-0.

After getting just seven shots on goal in the first period, the IceHogs peppered goaltender Beck Warm with 32 shots over the final 40 minutes. Seven minutes into the final frame, Chris Wilkie and Isaak Phillips each scored their first professional goals just 19 seconds apart to get Rockford within a goal. The IceHogs had two power-play opportunities over the final 11 minutes, but they could not draw even. Warm made 37 saves to earn his second win in as many AHL starts.  

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“At least we are fighting back,” IceHogs head coach Derek King said. “We didn’t start the game on time. We had a good push in the second and then fell asleep again. I liked our third period, at least we gave ourselves a chance. The message to these guys is that you have to play for 60 minutes.”

Thursday, Feb. 18

Griffins 3, IceHogs 1

The IceHogs were back on home ice Thursday night as they hosted the Griffins, who were playing the final game of their four-game road trip to start the season.

Rockford stumbled out of the gates again, with just five shots on goal during the first period. In fact, they struggled to produce any kind of consistent offensive attack with just 13 shots all night.

Michael Rasmussen drafted ninth overall by the Red Wings in 2017, opened the scoring early in the first period. He camped out in front of the net and deflected Dennis Cholowski’s shot from the point past goaltender Matt Tomkins.

Defenseman Alec Regula, originally drafted by the Red Wings, evened up the score nine minutes later. Just a couple of seconds after a power play expired, while playing the “bumper” position between the dots, the young defenseman scored his first professional goal by slamming home a rebound past Kevin Boyle.

“It means a lot to get the weight off your shoulders,” Regula said about scoring his first goal. “It’s always good to score.”

The game remained tied until Riley Barber scored from the right circle, seven minutes into the third period. The first-year Griffin now has at least one point in every game this season with two goals and three assists. Chase Pearson iced the game with an empty-net tally with two minutes to play.

Mid-Week’s Top Performer

Hirose had a very successful AHL debut on Thursday night, by picking up two assists in Grand Rapids’ victory in Rockford. This was his first game with the Griffins since March 11, 2020 after starting the season with the Red Wings. He appeared in six NHL games, recording two assists, before being sent down to the AHL. He had five goals and 27 points in 35 games with the Griffins last season.

Central Division Standings

Wolves – 5-0-0-0, 10 pts

Stars – 3-2-0-0, 6 pts

Wild – 2-1-1, 5 pts

Griffins – 2-2-0-0, 4 pts

IceHogs – 0-4-1-0, 1 pt

Monsters – 0-2-0-0, 0 pts

Upcoming Weekend Schedule

Saturday, Feb. 20: Monsters @ Griffins; Wild @ Wolves

Sunday, Feb. 21: Wild @ Wolves

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