It’s one of the trickier questions in sports. And, really, life itself. How do you learn to hold on to those moments when you win and make them a part of your essence, yet teach yourself to discard those moments when you lose so they don’t cling to your being?
The Chicago Wolves walked that thin line throughout the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Rochester. They rallied for a one-goal win one night, then suffered a one-goal loss the next night. They enjoyed a blowout win on Thursday, then suffered a blowout loss on Friday.
The Wolves weren’t building on their wins and Rochester wasn’t dwelling on its losses. Which feelings and thoughts would carry over into Sunday’s decisive Game 5?
As it turned out, the Wolves didn’t let any negative vibes from Friday’s 7-2 Game 4 loss make it to Sunday. They ditched them Saturday morning at a brief practice.
Defenseman Brent Regner, who scored the game-tying power-play goal in Sunday’s 4-2 triumph, discussed after the game how the Wolves looked at each other Saturday morning and decided to forget the Game 4 loss.
Nonetheless, Regner admitted the Wolves became a little frustrated when Rochester took a 2-1 lead during the second period of Game 5. “They had us on the ropes for a bit there,” he said.
Then Jake Allen came up with a save that turned the game and the series around. With Rochester on the power play and eight minutes left in the second period, Luke Adam sent a pass from the point to Nick Crawford below the right circle. Crawford one-timed a blast that had Adam so certain of a score, he started to raise his hands in celebration. But Allen kicked out his left leg at the last second to reject Crawford’s shot to the boards — and Adam dropped his hands and looked to the sky as if to say, “How did that happen?”
Wolves television analyst Billy Gardner recognized the significance of the save right away.
“That might be the difference in the game with that huge stop by Jake Allen,” Gardner said on the U-Too 26.2 broadcast. “He somehow got his left leg against the post to keep it out.”
“That really boosted our confidence,” Regner said. “A great play like that for us. It’s great to play in front of Jake. I’ll block any shot for Jake because he’ll do the same for me. Everybody was laying it on the line tonight. It was great to see.”
By the end of the second period, the Wolves rallied for the pair of power-play goals that made the difference and sent them to the Western Conference Semifinals against Toronto.
But Allen and Regner weren’t the only ones blocking shots for the Wolves. As they could see the finish line, guys known more for their scoring and finesse were throwing themselves in the way of Rochester’s attempts to tie.
“Guys like Michael Davies blocked two shots there right at the end,” said Wolves head coach John Anderson. “I think those are maybe the first two he’s blocked, but that’s the type of guys that we need to step up and do the little extra things that they don’t normally do. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. (Shane) Harper blocked one. Guys were stepping up. The guys with the most icepacks on (after the game) usually win.”
Sure enough, a postgame spin around the Wolves locker room found a lot of players wearing icepacks…and a lot of players wearing smiles. They lingered in front of their lockers for a long time after Game 5, sharing sodas and thoughts about what they did to win the Western Conference Quarterfinals.