By Megan Hernbroth
It seemed all downhill after the Chicago Wolves won the opening face-off against the Abbotsford Heat on Feb. 4. The Wolves dropped to a 4-3 loss in an overtime shoot-out.
“We played really well,” Jaime Sifers, defenseman, said. “From the puck drop, we really came out strong.”
The first period started strong for the Wolves, but fell quickly with a penalty off of center Jason Krog for hooking. The Wolves played a successful penalty kill with a clear and strong shot blocking.
Following the penalty, the team kept momentum strong with aggressive offense, but defense had dwindling aggression towards the end of the period, with a few sloppy passes. Andrew Kozek redeemed the team with the opening goal at 16:45 in the first, with an assist by Fredrik Pettersson.
Andrew Zubarev kept the defense playing strong with a slide block, but had a hard time getting off the ice following a stoppage of play. The Wolves closed out the first period ahead by one and with 11 shots on goal.
“The turning point [of the game] was when we took the lead,” Sifers said.
The second period opened with the Wolves on a penalty kill, Mannino strong in the crease. Offense did not disappoint, with forward Tim Miller checking strongly against the Heat. Jon Rheault of the Heat scored, but was followed closely by a verbal altercation between teams. They remained hostile for the remainder of the game, with shouts and fight attempts after many stoppages of play.
The Wolves emerged again victorious on a penalty kill, followed closely by a strong shot on goal. They were rewarded a power play after a Heat penalty, with all scoring attempts consisting of far slapshots. The power play ended with no score, but the team was given a second chance with another power play, but wasted the two minutes with passing. The period ended on a power play, a missed opportunity of a breakaway chance by right wing Spencer Machacek.
Starting the third period, the Wolves were seeing red as the tension on ice grew with a lot of verbal back and forth exchanges. Darren Haydar scored a 1-on-2 goal, assisted by Andre Deveaux, bringing the Wolves back up in front.
The Heat responded with a short poke-in goal by Stefan Meyer, assisted by Quintin Laing and T.J. Brodie. Playing keep away, the Wolves wasted another power play, but had a few wide shots on goal. Meyer scored for the Heat again quickly, to moans of the crowd.
Haydar responded with yet another goal, with a shot off the post after some deliberation of the officials. The third period ended with a tied score, 3-3, driving the Wolves into overtime.
The Heat began the five-minute period with a power play, turning into a five on three situation for the Heat after more Chicago penalties. The Wolves spent most of the period killing penalties, leading the game into a shootout.
Mannino kicked out the first Abbotsford shot, and Leland Irving saved the retaliating Chicago attempt by Kozek. Nigel Dawes is the first to find the back of the net, but Matt Keith of Abbotsford responded with a successful shot. Greg Nemisz of Abbotsford also proved successful, ending the game with a quick shot on goal finding the back of the net.
“We really tried to make it hard for their defense,” Sifers said. “We had a lot of strong shifts, and it was nice to see.”
When asked about the hostility between teams, Sifers was glad the aggression did not escalade.
“There wasn’t too much after the whistles,” Sifers said. “No one wants the bad penalties, so we kept to ourselves.”