The Chicago Wolves have been eliminated from playoff contention with five games remaining in the regular season.
San Jose Barracuda’s 4-3 overtime loss to the San Antonio Rampage Wednesday evening, which earned San Jose a point in the standings, ended the Wolves’ playoff hopes.
Chicago has appeared in the American Hockey League Calder Cup Playoffs in four of the past six years.
It was a disappointing conclusion to an impressive start of the season. The Wolves ranked among the best in the league with a 8-1-1-1 record through their first eleven games of the season. But after that, they were a model of inconsistency.
“It’s frustrating,” said Wolves captain Pat Cannone. “It’s been a rough season. We like the group that we have, but we haven’t been getting the bounces we’ve wanted.”
In the large remaining portion of the season, where they went 30-20-4-4, there were five three-game losing streaks. The season consisted of the Wolves taking a couple steps forward and three steps back. Injuries were among the biggest factors of how their season went.
“We just had so many injuries and so many things go against us every night,” said Chicago head coach John Anderson. “It’s hard to become consistent when you’re always changing your lineup. That’s just part of the American League. If it was from a lack of effort, I couldn’t see it. We were not cohesive enough as a team. If we made any mistakes, [the puck] would end up in our net.
“It would get better, get worse, get better, get worse. Just because of the influx in players and playing different positions. It was very difficult.”
Special teams was a concern for Chicago, too. Entering Friday’s game against the Grand Rapids Griffins, they rank 24th in the league in power plays (15.2-percent) and 28th in penalty killing (79.5-percent).
“When you have different guys coming in and out of the lineup, try to run a power-play,” said Anderson. “I’ll give you an example. We ran a power-play, and all of a sudden someone gets called up, so we had to change it the day of the game. You’re praying to goodness the [replacement] gets it.”
There is some positive that comes out of this unfortunate result, however. Players like Ivan Barbashev, Andre Benoit, Jordan Caron, Ty Rattie and Jeremy Welsh could get called up by the St. Louis Blues for their playoff run. Additionally, the Wolves can give Mark Cooper, Bryce Gervais and Justin Selman, who are all on amateur tryout agreements (ATO), their first taste of the professional hockey, and Jared Nightingale and Travis Walsh, who are both on professional tryout agreements (PTO), a chance to make the team next season.
“We’re getting to see some guys for next year,” Anderson said. “You get some good young players in to fill some holes. So we’re getting some looks at guys. I guess it’s rewarding, but winning is the best reward.”