What happens when you have seven players too hurt to go in a win-or-go-home Game 4 – players who contributed 106 goals during the regular season?
What happens when that leaves you with a lineup that combined for 118 goals during the regular season – a lineup that includes two players making their AHL postseason debut?
What happens when everyone in the room – healthy or injured, player or coach – has less than 24 hours to shed the anger and frustration of a 6-2 loss in Game 3?
Well, what happened to the Chicago Wolves on Wednesday night was a 5-2 victory that means there’ll be a winner-take-all Game 5 of the Central Division Semifinals at 3 p.m. Sunday at Allstate Arena.
“Rough game (Tuesday) night,” said Wolves first-line center and alternate captain T.J. Tynan. “But we’ve done a good job all year of just moving past it. Obviously it was do-or-die and we were a desperate team. We had a couple injuries (Tuesday) night and a couple guys stepped up. I was real proud of those guys.”
Jake Leschyshyn, a 20-year-old with three games of pro experience on his resume, stepped up and centered the fourth line in his first pro postseason game. Defenseman Josh Atkinson, who had just three games of AHL experience on his resume, came through on the blue line in his second pro postseason game (the first coming in the ECHL).
Then there were the veterans. Forward Tye McGinn has rediscovered his scoring touch at the perfect time. Before joining the Wolves in early January, McGinn had posted 12 goals in his previous 87 games. But in his last 24 games, McGinn has stacked up 13 goals – including a team-high three goals during this series. His beautiful give-and-go with 20-year-old rookie Cody Glass early in the third period turned into Game 4’s game-winner.
Stefan Matteau has made his presence felt throughout the series. Tynan. Curtis McKenzie. Zac Leslie. Go up and down the lineup. The rookie d-man pair of Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud combined for three points and a +4 plus/minus rating in Game 4.
“I think we played with a ton of passion (Wednesday) night,” said head coach Rocky Thompson. “There was a great passion and a focus on what we needed to do. Our special teams came up big and we got the lead and we were able to really be stingy. We got big saves when we needed to and that’s the name of the game.”
And now the next game’s name is Game 5. Despite the elation in the Wolves’ locker room Wednesday night, nobody forgot the fight isn’t over.
“The job’s not done yet,” Tynan said. “We’ve got one more to go. We’re in the same position, right? Win or your season’s done. And I don’t think anyone’s ready to be done with this group. We’ve got a great group of guys and it’s a lot of fun to play.”