UPDATE: At the end of the 2nd, the Chicago Wolves are trailing Utica 3-2 after all five goals were scored in the 2nd period.
Saturday, May 2, 6 p.m.
Utica Memorial Auditorium
Regular Season Record:47-20-7-2
Game 1: 3-2 W (2OT) at Chicago (April 22)
Game 2: 1-2 L at Chicago (April 24)
Team Record: 40-29-6-1
Game 1: 2-3 L (2OT) vs. Utica (April 22)
Game 2: 2-1 W vs. Utica (April 24)
2014-15 Postseason Series: 2-2
The Wolves have played in a decisive Game 5 during a conference quarterfinals/division semifinals series four times, posting a 3-1 record in those tilts. Only one came on the road: a 2002 win against Grand Rapids, with Chicago advancing en route to its first Calder Cup.
With another game extending beyond regulation on Friday night (the third time in four contests this series to do so), the Chicago Wolves notched their first extra-session win of the postseason to stave off elimination. Defenseman JOEL EDMUNDSON’s game-winning power-play marker at 2:19 saw the overtime scales tip in Chicago’s favor for the first time in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, as both of their losses have come past the 60-minute mark. With the first-round matchup knotted 2-2, whichever team captures Game 5 advances.
It has proved difficult to gain an advantage for either team as the squads have been so evenly matched all season. Their head-to-head records in 2014-15, regular season and postseason, stand at 4-2-2-0 with each club recording one shutout apiece and Utica holding a slight goal differential of 18-17. Six of the eight matchups have been one-goal contests, with four requiring overtime to declare a winner.
As the Wolves forced a decisive game in the series, they continued to rely heavily on goaltender JORDAN BINNINGTON to help keep the Utica offense in check. The netminder stopped 30 or more shots for the fourth straight game, kicking out 35 of 38 Friday as Chicago continued a trend of getting outshot in the playoffs.
By The Numbers
5-2– The Wolves’ all-time record in Game 5 of conference quarterfinals/division semifinals series, all coming against AHL competition. This includes a 3-2 mark at home and 2-0 on the road.
.625 – The Wolves’ winning percentage (20-12) all-time in postseason elimination games, including last night’s victory. The mark breaks down to 12-7 at home and 8-5 on the road. They are 16-7 both under JOHN ANDERSON and during their AHL tenure and 12-5 under ANDERSON while in the AHL. Their .696 winning percentage in elimination games is the highest all-time in the AHL among teams with at least five such games.
7-2 – The Wolves’ record in winner-take-all games in the Calder Cup Playoffs, including 5-2 at home, 2-0 on the road, and 6-0 under head coach JOHN ANDERSON. The two losses came in the 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals against San Antonio (with goaltender Jacob Markstrom) and the West Division Final in 2010 against Texas.
Follow The Action
Tonight’s game begins at 6 p.m. and can be heard for free or watched for a small fee on www.ahllive.com.
In a winner-take-all game, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done during your 72 games in the regular season. It doesn’t matter what you did in the postseason games prior to Game 5. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done wrong or even right. It’s a whole new game.
The Wolves entered Friday night’s game in hostile territory, knowing that scratching and clawing for a win was all they needed to do. Once they did that, they once again would have to wipe the slate clean because Game 5 is all that would matter. The mental challenge both of these teams have encountered is what playoffs are about, but the Wolves have taken the brunt of it after losing two of the three overtime games in dramatic fashion. They finally caught a break and could breathe a sigh of relief, but just for the night.
No one player will win tonight’s game, and that’s why it will take a team effort and a mistake-free game played by the entire Wolves’ roster if they want to upset the top dog in the Western Conference in back-to-back games — something that hasn’t happened to the Comets at home since Dec. 12-13 and both were in overtime.
Just like the Wolves, no single player will determine how this game and series will end. It’s easy to point to goaltender Jacob Markstrom as tonight’s x-factor for the Comets.
Neither team has outplayed the other in this series, yet each of them have had periods or stretches where it has seemed so. Consistency becomes the key factor in Game 5 for both teams. Every shift has to be better than the last. Each team will see their fair share of scoring chances, but whoever can capitalize on the few chances they’ll see against these two, hot goalies will determine tonight’s winner.
Scoring goals has been a hard thing to come by in this series up until Game 4. Each shift tonight will have extra pressure and whoever can eliminate that thought and focus on just doing the small things will win and advance to the Western Conference Semifinals.