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CALDER CUP PLAYOFF BLOG: Greetings from sunny Utica (just don’t work up a sweat)


April 29, 2015

UTICA, N.Y. – It’s a fact that a few Slap Shot scenes were filmed at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.

The building where the Chicago Wolves and Utica Comets meet tonight for Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals served as “Peterborough” in the movie, which is where the pregame fight and the national anthem scenes took place.

Funny, then, how Wednesday’s morning skate almost turned back the clock to the old-time hockey days. The Wolves practiced in two shifts and, while the second group was still on the ice, you could hear yelps from the locker room as the first group hit the showers. Turned out there was no hot water.

That had some Wolves suspicious that it was a bit of gamesmanship on Utica’s part – the old “no hot water in the locker room” trick. In this case, it turned out to be a trick on both teams. The Comets skated (and showered) before the Wolves and they had just as much hot water as the guests.

Somebody sent word that hot water would be available at noon, which encouraged some players to wait. When noon came and went without any heat, forward Benn Ferriero, who played for Utica last year, figured he’d walk over to his old quarters and find hot water. When told going to the Comets dressing room wouldn’t help, he was disappointed.

“Drat,” Ferriero said. Or something like that.

GETTING BACK IN THE SWING

With four preparation days between Game 2 and Game 3, it leaves a little too much time for coaches to reinvent the wheel. Of course, it’s easier to resist the temptation when you’re the team that won Game 2.

“Just small changes,” said Wolves head coach John Anderson, whose playoff Fu Manchu is coming in well. “We won the last game and the first one went into overtime, so we must have done something right. Conversely, Utica is probably thinking the same thing – that they’re not far away either. Both games probably could have gone either way.”

If anybody considered the Wolves to be longshots because they’re the No. 8 seed and Utica is the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, those thoughts are long gone. If the even nature of this Wolves/Comets series isn’t enough proof, look around the NHL and AHL at the meaninglessness of seeds.

In the AHL’s Western Conference, No. 2 Grand Rapids and No. 3 San Antonio are trailing 2-0. In the NHL, the top two Central Division seeds are done. Vancouver, the No. 2 seed in the Pacific, is done. Tampa Bay, the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic, hopes to complete a rally to beat Detroit.

Any predictions?

“The ice is good,” Anderson said. “It’s like an icebox in here. It’s going to be a hard, quick game.”

WELCOME BACK, “RATS”

There’s only one certain change to Chicago’s lineup tonight: Ty Rattie rejoins the fray after spending the last four weeks in the NHL.

“It was a lot of fun,” Rattie said. “It didn’t end up the way we wanted, but every time you go there, you learn as much as you can. Now I can come back and help the Wolves.”

Rattie was a “black ace” during the playoffs, which means he skated every day but did not play. His last game action was April 11, so John Anderson reminded Rattie that it’s not always easy to jump back into the fray and told him to be ready to go hard right from the start.

That doesn’t sound like it will be a problem for the 22-year-old, who finished third on the team in scoring during the regular season with 21 goals and 21 assists in 59 games. When he left the Wolves, he was riding a five-game point streak (4 goals, 6 assists, +6 plus/minus rating).

“It’s been a couple weeks, but I’ll have good legs and I’m excited to play,” Rattie said. “I’m excited to be back with all my friends. We’ve got a good team here. We’ve got something special.”

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