Welcome to Wolves Insider, presented by Rivers Casino: the weekly report that gives you the latest Chicago Wolves news as the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy winners head to California to continue the Western Conference Finals and further their quest for the organization’s fifth league championship.
LEAVE IT TO LEIVO
Chicago Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky can’t remember exactly when he did it. But at some point during this magical Wolves season, after one of Josh Leivo’s late-game heroics, Warsofsky gave Leivo the nickname “Showtime” during one of his brief postgame speeches to the team.
“I think it was maybe toward the end of the year when he had a hat trick,” Warsofsky said. “Or maybe the (Dec. 16) game against Manitoba with a couple seconds left. I can’t remember exactly. He just came into the room with his head high and he looked like a guy that when the moment’s high and the moment’s crucial, he wants the puck. You want guys like that. So I think he deserves that nickname.”
Leivo delivered another Showtime moment with the clock running out in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals Monday night at Allstate Arena. Stockton’s Glenn Gawdin owned the puck just inside the offensive zone, but Wolves defenseman Jesper Sellgren deflected his pass toward center ice. Leivo scooped up the loose puck at the Wolves Head logo, raced down the ice ahead of the pack and fired a low wrister precisely at the tiny target goaltender Dustin Wolf allowed.
“I looked up and kind of saw the hole right side low-block,” Leivo said. “I was going to think ‘deke,’ but once I saw that I just released it and fortunate to go in. I trusted myself and I believe in my shot and it worked.”
Leivo owns an AHL-high 9 goals (and 17 points) in nine games. The last Wolves player to score at least nine goals in the postseason was Anthony Stewart, who posted nine games in 13 games during 2010. No Wolves skater ever has averaged one goal per game in the postseason. Steve Larouche came closest when he stacked up 12 goals in 15 games for Chicago’s 2001 Turner Cup finalists.
Leivo hasn’t been this hot since December, when he produced 4 goals and 10 assists in six games to win AHL Player of the Month. But Warsofsky thinks Leivo’s current stretch is his finest.
“I think he has taken it up another notch — I really do,” Warsofsky said. “He has stepped up his game — and not just scoring. His play with the puck. His play away from 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. He has really pushed the pace and stepped up his game. He’s been a huge part of our team here throughout the playoffs.”
CALDER CUP UPDATE
While the Chicago Wolves need two more wins to reach their eighth league finals, the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Finals are knotted 1-1 heading into Game 3 Wednesday. The Atlantic Division champion Springfield Thunderbirds took Game 1 in overtime at home, but North Division champion Laval recovered to take Game 2.
Now the scene shifts to Quebec. To stay current on all Calder Cup Playoff developments, including Wolves tickets, visit ChicagoWolves.com/Playoffs.
During their 28-season history, the Chicago Wolves have won the first two games of a postseason series 19 times —including all three series during the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Wolves never have lost a series that they’ve started with a 2-0 lead.
The Wolves forward has become the most dominant player in the Calder Cup Playoffs. When he scored the game-winning goal with 17.2 seconds left Monday night, Leivo became the AHL’s postseason leader in goals (9) and points (17). He also shares the lead in plus/minus rating (+9) and power-play goals (4). He has scored a point in all nine Wolves games.
The rookie center from Winnetka continues to thrive in all situations. On Monday, he broke the Wolves’ postseason record for fastest opening goal by scoring just 17 seconds into Game 2. Drury ranks second on the Wolves in goals (6) and points (12) in the postseason while also delivering a +8 plus/minus rating. He’s tied for the most points among all AHL rookies.
After spending the last six weeks with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes (and earning three regular-season wins and one Stanley Cup Playoffs victory), the 22-year-old rookie returned to the Wolves and made his AHL postseason debut in Monday’s Game 3 win over Stockton. Kochetkov rejected 33 of 35 shots to improve his record to 14-1-1 in a Wolves uniform.
- Veteran forward Josh Leivo scored a breakaway goal with 17.2 seconds left to give the Wolves the dramatic Game 2 win at Allstate Arena.
- Rookie forwards Jack Drury and Noel Gunler scored goals while forward David Gust earned the only assist on both.
- Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov posted 33 saves to earn the win in his AHL postseason debut.
- Rookie forward Jamieson Rees corraled a rebound and fired it home 2:26 into overtime to give the Wolves in the Game 1 victory in Western Conference Finals play.
- Forward Josh Leivo produced two power-play goals and one assist while defenseman Jalen Chatfield added one goal and one assist as Chicago rallied from a 3-1 second-period deficit.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon posted 24 saves to improve to 7-1 in the postseason.
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.||CHI 3, STK 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.