By John Aubert, James B. Conant High School
It’s been an impressive year for the Wolves so far this season, holding the record 18-12-4, and being 2nd in the Midwest Division and now 5th place in the Western Conference with a 1-point lead over the San Antonio Rampage after their 3-2 overtime win against the Hamilton Bulldogs in their first game of 2015. A very impressive game considering the Bulldogs have not beaten the Wolves in the past two seasons.
This past December the Wolves hit a hard spot going 4-6-1 after an amazing start to a season. Consistency can be very challenging for an AHL team considering the fact that the rosters are always changing. NHL teams usually have injuries and are always in need of fresh content coming from their affiliates in the AHL, making it very challenging for coaches to make game plans and have line consistency. It can be very difficult for players to get used to fresh people on their lines. Having good chemistry can take a while, especially with guys who have very different playing types. Coaches are working 100 percent of the time trying to make the game simpler for the players, even though it can be very challenging.
Before Friday night’s game against the Bulldogs, the Wolves allowed 64 shots on goal in the two previous games to Rockford and Grand Rapids, about 30+ shots for each team. This hasn’t happened since mid-November vs. Utica and Rochester. This had many people asking questions. Is the defense not working hard enough? Is the offense not helping out on defense? Are they playing sloppy? When really all of those questions have a big fat no as an answer.
I had a chance to talk to Wolves head coach John Anderson about the 64 shots against in the past two games and another 30+ shots against on Friday night VS Hamilton. I asked him if they wanted to buckle down and play a defensive-first style of hockey considering the large amounts of shots let up. He followed with “You have two things you have to remember, we have a lot of guys out, a lot of guys called up, we have a lot of guys filling in different positions and we have guys coming back to the lineup from injuries that haven’t played in a while. Having being tight in the neutral zone, we’ve had to change our style a little bit because of who we have out there. All of those little things have been a contributing factor. We don’t like giving up 30+ shots on goal, we’re very seldom having 25. But sometimes our goalies have to step up for maybe seven or eight more shots a game.”
It definitely sounded like John was very confident in his team’s game despite all of the challenges they have seemed to face all season with their place in the standings and contributing player stats throughout this season standing right behind them. It sounded like the team is starting to gain confidence and chemistry together so they should be finding a winning mentality in the next couple weeks or so, if things go their way with consistency with players on the roster, and familiarity with each other.