Welcome to Wolves Roundup, a weekly report of highlights, notes and transactions from the Chicago Wolves’ previous week of competition during the 2016-17 season.
Central Grudge Match with Grand Rapids
This week, the Chicago Wolves and Grand Rapids Griffins reignite their long-standing rivalry in the American Hockey League’s second season, the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs.
For the Wolves, the road to the Central Division Finals was treacherous as they needed all five games in the best-of-five series to punch their ticket to Round 2. Chicago twice came back from one-game deficits and strung together back-to-back victories in Games 4 and 5 for the series win.
On the other hand, the Griffins swept the Milwaukee Admirals in three games but two of those contests needed extra time: Games 1 and 3. Game 2 saw the Griffins top the Admirals 5-2 with a pair of goals from Tyler Bertuzzi, the team’s top postseason scorer. Bertuzzi now has 16 goals in 26 career playoff games.
After being shut out 4-0 in Game 1 against the Charlotte Checkers, the Wolves rallied and finished the five-game set with 14 goals. Needing everyone to contribute, two of the Wolves top scorers wound up being rookies Samuel Blais and Adam Musil. Each averaged a point per game and appeared in all five games of the opening series
Musil — now with seven professional games under his belt — led the Wolves with three goals and two assists. Of his three tallies, two were game-winners and one was short-handed. The 20-year-old also left his mark on the faceoff dot, finishing the five-game set with a 51 percent success rate in the circle.
Blais contributed all season — finishing second among AHL rookies in goals with 26 — and continued that trend with two goals and three assists in the Central Division Semifinals. He and 2016-17 AHL MVP Kenny Agostino led the Wolves with 12 shots apiece through five games.
Coming into the Central Division Finals, Chicago will be looking to better its fortune against Grand Rapids. In the 10-game regular-season series, the Griffins dominated the Wolves and finished with a 8-2-0-0 record. Grand Rapids also outscored Chicago 38-27, which included a 7-1 victory at Allstate Arena on Dec. 15.
However, seven of 10 games were decided by a two-goals or less and three contests needed overtime to establish a victor. Grand Rapids prevailed in all three instances and won six of the seven two-goals-or-less tilts.
Since the teams last met on March 18, Grand Rapids posted a 7-5-0-1 record while Chicago posted a 7-2-1-2 and eeked out a 4-3 overtime victory over the Charlotte Checkers in the final game of the regular season to take the Central Division crown.
Wednesday, when the puck drops on Game 1 of the Central Division Final at Allstate Arena, the Wolves and Griffins will clash in a best-of-seven series and to the victor goes a spot in the Western Conference Finals of the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The 26-year-old wrapped up his first career round of playoff hockey with a goal and two assists through two games last week. His goal was just one of three power-play markers for the Chicago Wolves in the five-game series. It came during Wednesday’s decisive Game 5 in which Chicago tallied two man-advantage markers and a short-handed goal.
The Helsinki native backstopped the Chicago Wolves for the entire five-game Central Division Semifinals series against the Charlotte Checkers. Last week, he helped his team string together their first back-to-back victories of the postseason to make it to the Central Division Finals. During those two contests, the 22-year-old allowed just three goals and stopped 58 shots to finish with a a 1.50 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage.
The second-round NHL Draft pick struggled throughout the regular season, barely skating in 30 games between the AHL and NHL this season. However, in Game 4 of the Central Division Semifinals, Rattie finally found his scoring touch. The 23-year-old potted an empty-net goal, and then the Wolves’ first power-play of the postseason to push the club to a 5-1 series-tying victory over the Charlotte Checkers on Tuesday. Rattie finished the contest with three shots on net and a +1 plus/minus rating.
The former Providence College Friar stepped up in a big way during the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs. Games 4 and 5 marked just his ninth and 10th professional contests with the Wolves In Game 4, Walman’s early third-period goal served as the game-winner while in Game 5 he earned the primary assist on Kenny Agostino’s power-play tally.
ROUND 1 REWIND
- Chicago held on during a decisive Game 5 of the Central Division Semifinals to move onto the Central Division Finals against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
- Linemates Kenny Agostino and Andrew Agozzino each tallied a power-play goal while rookie Adam Musil netted a short-handed marker.
- Rookie netminder Ville Husso made 32 saves for his first North American postseason series.
- The Wolves scored four third-period goals to force Game 5 in the Central Division Semifinals.
- Right wing Ty Rattie netted two goals – including the first power-play goal of the series – while Samuel Blais, Jordan Schmaltz and Jake Walman also tallied.
- Rookie netminder Ville Husso made 26 saves in the win.
|Wednesday, May 3||vs. Grand Rapids*||Allstate Arena||7 p.m. CT|
|Friday, May 5||vs. Grand Rapids*||Allstate Arena||7 p.m. CT|
|Saturday, May 6||at. Grand Rapids||Van Andel Arena||6 p.m. CT|
|Monday, May 8||at. Grand Rapids||Van Andel Arena||6 p.m. CT|
|Saturday, May 13||vs. Grand Rapids*||Allstate Arena||7 p.m. CT|