STOCKTON HEAT (0-1)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (1-0)
ON TO THE NEXT 100
When rookie forward Jamieson Rees pounced on a rebound and slid it past Stockton goaltender Dustin Wolf 2:26 into overtime Friday night, the Chicago Wolves grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference Finals series that continue with Game 2 tonight.
Friday’s triumph also enabled the Wolves to claim their 100th Calder Cup Playoffs win since joining the American Hockey League in 2001. They became the seventh team in AHL history to reach the century mark — and the only franchise to get to 100 that joined the league in this century. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who rank fifth on the all-time list with 106 wins, joined the AHL two seasons before the Wolves.
The new quest for the Wolves? Figuring out how to earn Calder Cup Playoff wins Nos. 101, 102 and 103 against a Stockton Heat squad that boasts many of the same qualities as the Wolves. The Heat built a 3-1 lead early in the second period of Game 1 before the Wolves battled back.
“They’re a good hockey team,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “They’re fast. They’ve got a lot of offense, so you’ve got to be aware when you don’t have the puck. We met (Sunday) morning and there’ll be some adjustments for Game 2.”
To be sure, the Wolves are expecting the Heat to redouble their efforts tonight. Similar to the way the Wolves never have posted back-to-back regulation losses all season, the Heat has posted a 19-4 record in games directly following a loss.
SUPERCHARGED POWER PLAY
All season long, the Wolves have outclassed their opponents in 5-on-5 play. But in Game 1, Stockton actually outscored the Wolves 4-2 at even strength. Chicago earned the victory due to its superiority on special teams. The Wolves converted on all three power-play chances against the team that won the AHL regular-season crown for penalty-killing (86.6 percent) — marking the first time in the team’s 257-game postseason history to go 100 percent on the power play.
Chicago’s top power-play unit — defenseman Joey Keane and forwards Jack Drury, Josh Leivo, Stefan Noesen and Andrew Poturalski — was on the ice for all three PPGs (two by Leivo and one by Noesen).
“It was probably the best (power-play effort) this year,” said head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “Just execution-wise, everyone’s on the same page. It took some meetings to kind of rap that into their heads a little bit. We worked on it quite a bit. It was really good in practice. I would say that was when ‘Eh, maybe we’ve got this thing kind of figured out a little bit more.’ This time of year, it’s important. We saw that (Friday night).”
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Friday’s win marked the fifth time the Wolves have taken Game 1 in the conference finals. In each of the first four times, the Wolves went on to win the series and advance to the Finals.
This Western Conference Finals series marks the 10th time out of a possible 26 opportunities that the Wolves have reached the conference finals. During the IHL days, Chicago capped that era with four straight appearances (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001). Since joining the AHL in 2001, the Wolves have earned six more appearances (2002, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2019 and 2022).
LAST TWO GAMES
- After a scoreless first period, the Admirals converted three consecutive power-play chances and never trailed in their Game 3 victory at Panther Arena.
- Rookie center Jack Drury scored nine seconds into the third period to slice the deficit to 2-1 while forward Josh Leivo notched one goal and one assist as both extended point streaks to six games.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon posted 21 saves.
- Josh Leivo scored one goal in each period — a pair of power-play goals and then an empty-netter — as the Wolves dominated Game 4 to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
- Defenseman Max Lajoie opened the scoring 3:56 into the night while Leivo and defenseman Josh Jacobs gave Chicago a 3-0 lead after one period; Stefan Noesen handed out two assists.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon stopped 17 of 18 shots to improve to 6-1 during the postseason.
By the numbers
1: The Wolves have five goaltenders on their roster, but they’ve only needed one to produce a 7-1 record in their first eight playoff games. Veteran Alex Lyon has become the first Wolves netminder to win seven out of eight postseason starts since 2008 — when Ondrej Pavelec went on a 9-1 spree from May 11 to June 4 when the Wolves finished off Rockford in the quarterfinals, defeated Toronto 4-1 in the Western Conference Finals and captured the first three gmaes of the Calder Cup Finals versus Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
3: Stockton’s roster features three players with direct ties to the Wolves. Forward Alex Gallant, who posted an assist in Game 1, was a regular in the lineup for the 2019 Wolves squad that reached the Calder Cup Finals. He ranked second on the squad with 102 penalty minutes. Forward Tyrell Goulbourne suited up for 53 of a possible 61 games for the 2019-20 Wolves. Heat defenseman Connor Mackey’s father, David, capped his 14-year professional career by helping the Wolves win the 2000 Turner Cup, when he produced 5 goals in 45 regular-season games. Connor attended Barrington High School, where he was coached by former Wolves great Steve Martins. Connor also played for Steve Maltais, the Wolves’ all-time leading scorer, for Team Illinois.
4: There are just four teams left in the chase for the 2022 Calder Cup — and the Wolves are the only franchise that also was a part of the final four in 2019 (the last time the Calder Cup Playoffs were contested). While Chicago and Stockton got the AHL’s semifinals started Friday night, the Laval Rocket (the North Division’s No. 3 seed) and the Springfield Thunderbirds (the Atlantic Division’s No. 2 seed), lapped the Western Conference with a pair of games over the weekend. Springfield took Game 1 with an overtime goal Saturday, but Laval responded with a 4-2 road win in Game 2 Sunday. The Eastern Conference Finals resume Wednesday at Laval.
5: Friday’s overtime win means the Wolves have won their last five postseason games that have required extra time. The streak began in Game 1 of the Central Division Finals when Cody Glass beat the Iowa Wild. Glass delivered another OT game-winner in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Diego Gulls. Daniel Carr scored in double-overtime of Game 4 against San Diego, then Stefan Matteau delivered in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals at Charlotte.
6: Just as the Wolves have relied on just one goaltender throughout the playoffs, they have counted on the same six defensemen for every postseason game: Jalen Chatfield, Cavan Fitzgerald, Josh Jacobs, Joey Keane, Max Lajoie and Jesper Sellgren. Collectively, they have contributed 6 goals, 20 assists and a +37 plus/minus rating. Keane, who quarterbacks the power play, leads in points with 7 assists while Lajoie has produced 3 goals in 8 games after posting 4 goals in 60 regular-season appearances. Another sign of how good this sextet has been? Head coach Ryan Warsofsky insists he has three more defensemen in Chris Bigras, Griffin Mendel and Tarmo Reunanen that he won’t hesitate to play — but the top six have been so solid.
16: If you’re looking for Wolves forward Josh Leivo, you’ll find the 29-year-old forward atop a bunch of Calder Cup Playoff statistical categories. Leivo owns the lead in points (16) and plus-minus rating (+9) and shares the lead with Rochester’s Arttu Ruotsalainen in goals (8) and power-play goals (4). Leivo also boasts the league’s longest point streak (8 games) as he has jumped on the scoresheet in every postseason game. “I think he has stepped up his game,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “Not just his scoring. His play away from the puck. His play with the puck. He’s kind of leading the way in how we need to play. He’s smart with his puck management, his decisions. He’s kind of being a little bit of a beast with the puck and without it.”
423: Since the Wolves played their first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 727 players have suited up for Chicago. When 22-year-old goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov made his NHL debut for the Carolina Hurricanes on April 23, he became the 423rd Wolves player to play in the NHL. That makes 58.2 percent of all Wolves players — and 70 percent of all Wolves goalies (49 of 70).
THE WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS SCHEDULE
|Game 1||Friday, June 3||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||CHI 5, STK 4 (OT)|
|Game 2||Monday, June 6||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Game 2|
|Game 3||Wednesday, June 8||Stockton Arena||8:30 p.m.|
|Game 4||Friday, June 10||Stockton Arena||9 p.m.|
|Game 5*||Saturday, June 11||Stockton Arena||8 p.m.|
|Game 6*||Tuesday, June 14||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Game 6 (if necessary)|
|Game 7*||Wednesday, June 15||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Game 7 (if necessary)|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.