CHICAGO WOLVES (3-1)
AT STOCKTON HEAT (1-3)
Saturday, June 11 | 8 p.m. | Stockton Arena | AHLTV | Facebook Live
The Chicago Wolves got so close to clinching their spot in the Calder Cup Finals, they could taste the organization’s eighth finals appearance in 28 seasons.
And among the reasons the Wolves were so close to sweeping the Stockton Heat in the Western Conference Finals? Their remarkable penalty-killing ability. After snuffing out three Stockton power-play opportunities in the third period of Game 4 Friday night, the Wolves stood 16 for 16 on PK in the series and owned 19 straight kills dating back to the Central Division Finals against Milwaukee.
Then, well, hockey happened. Trailing 3-2 in the waning moments, Stockton pulled its goaltender and center Glenn Gawdin swatted home a rebound with 49 seconds left to force overtime. Then, 5:35 into extra time, the Wolves’ Jalen Chatfield was whistled for holding. Perfection was on the line again.
The Heat won the subsequent faceoff and the puck never left their offensive zone — despite the best efforts of the Wolves’ penalty-kill unit. They dropped to the ice to block shots, they sent solid clearing passes that somehow the Heat kept from crossing the blue line. Finally, 68 seconds into the PK, Gawdin issued a shot from the high slot that sent two Wolves to the ice for the block. The puck deflected off a defender and into the net for a 4-3 Stockton victory.
Going into these Western Conference Finals, all of the objective numbers and the subjective observations suggested the Chicago Wolves and Stockton Heat were an evenly matched pairing. Not much has happened in the first four games to change that assessment.
Two of the games have been decided in overtime. A third was tied until 17.2 seconds remained in regulation. The other one was a scoreless tie until the final minute of the second period. Every game has been tied after the first period.
Here are the new totals through four games: The Wolves have led for 80 minutes, 25 seconds. The Heat have led for 13 minutes, 47 seconds. The teams have been tied for 154 minutes and 57 seconds — otherwise known as 62.2 percent of these games.
DON’T WE KNOW YOU?
When Stockton center Glenn Gawdin was 20 years old and an unsigned draft pick of the St. Louis Blues organization, the Chicago Wolves signed him to an amateur tryout contract (ATO) at the Blues’ behest on April 23, 2017. Gawdin joined the Wolves during the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. He spent a brief amount of time in Chicago as a “black ace,” but ultimately never signed with the Blues and has spent his four-year pro career in the Calgary Flames organization — largely with Stockton.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
With their next win, the Wolves will be headed to their eighth league finals appearance: the 1998, 2000 and 2001 Turner Cup Finals and the 2002, 2005, 2008, 2019 and 2022 Calder Cup Finals.
If the win comes tonight at Stockton, then the 2022 squad would join the 2000 Turner Cup champs as the only team that wrapped up every series on the road on the way to the Finals. That team won at Long Beach and Houston before facing Grand Rapids in the finals.
LAST TWO GAMES
FRIDAY, JUNE 8: (AT) STOCKTON 4, CHICAGO 3 (OT)
- Stockton center Glenn Gawdin scored with 49 seconds left in regulation to force extra time, then notched a power-play goal 6:43 into overtime of Game 4 to prevent a Wolves sweep.
- Forwards Jack Drury, Andrew Poturalski and Josh Leivo scored to stake the Wolves to a 3-1 lead early in the third period while Stefan Noesen contributed two assists.
- Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov rejected 34 of 38 shots.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6: CHICAGO 3, (AT) STOCKTON 0
- The Wolves pulled within one game of the Calder Cup Finals as they broke open a scoreless game with three goals in the final 21 minutes in Game 3 at Stockton Arena.
- Forward Richard Panik delivered the game’s first goal at 19:16 of the second while forwards Ivan Lodnia and Stefan Noesen added tallies in the third; Panik and Noesen earned one assist apiece.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon stopped 23 shots to earn his first postseason shutout.
By the numbers
2: Friday’s Game 4 marked the first time this season that the Chicago Wolves owned a two-goal lead in the third period and did not finish the night with a victory. The Wolves took a 3-1 lead on Josh Leivo’s goal 4:56 into the third period, but Stockton responded just eight seconds later with Justin Kirkland’s rebound goal to cut the Wolves’ lead back to 1.
3: For just the third time all season, the Chicago Wolves did not win Friday night after leading at second intermission. The Wolves entered Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals with a 39-0-1-1 record during the regular season and playoffs when holding a lead at the 40-minute mark. What were the other defeats? On Nov. 20, the Wolves owned a 2-1 edge at home versus Rockford, but the IceHogs scored 1:44 into the third period to tie before winning in a shootout. On March 13, the Wolves held a 1-0 lead against the Grand Rapids Griffins, but the visitors scored 5:20 into the third period and 20 seconds into overtime to claim the win.
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 is one game away from becoming the first AHL team since the 2009-10 Hershey Bears to reach back-to-back Calder Cup Finals, the Eastern Conference Finals are knotted 2-2 heading into tonight’s Game 5. Like the Stockton Heat, the Laval Rocket rallied from a two-goal deficit to earn an overtime home win Friday night.
5: The Wolves’ five-game winning streak during postseason overtime games came to a halt Friday night as they suffered their first extra-time defeat since the longest game in franchise history — the triple-overtime contest against the Rockford IceHogs on April 26, 2018, that needed 117 minutes and 22 seconds to settle. Wolves goaltender Max Lagace produced a franchise-record 72 saves in the 4-3 verdict. Now the Wolves a 21-23 all-time record in postseason overtime games.
6: The Wolves have relied 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, 22 assists and a +41 plus/minus rating. Keane, who quarterbacks the power play, leads in points with 7 assists while Lajoie has produced 3 goals in 11 games after posting 4 goals in 60 regular-season appearances.
10: Wolves forward Josh Leivo delivered his AHL-leading 10th postseason goal early in the third period Friday night. The 29-year-old Ontario native also paces all AHL skaters in points (18) during the playoffs and shares the lead in power-play goals (4). Former Wolves forward MacKenzie MacEachern, now playing for the Springfield Thunderbirds, has delivered 1 goal, 4 assists and a +6 plus/minus rating in the last two games to pass Leivo on the plus/minus list at +11. Leivo shares second with teammates Josh Jacobs and Cavan Fitzgerald and Laval’s Will Bitten at +10.
14: Alex Lyon became the 14th goaltender in Wolves history to register a postseason shutout — and the first to do so since Jake Allen on May 1, 2014 — when he stopped all 23 shots he saw during Game 3 Wednesday night. Lyon joined the club that also features Allen, Stephane Beauregard, Fred Brathwaite, Michael Garnett, Kari Lehtonen, Drew MacIntyre, Peter Mannino, Norm Maracle, Pasi Nurminen, Ondrej Pavelec, Richard Shulmistra, Andrei Trefilov and Wendell Young.
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.||CHI 3, STK 2|
|Game 3||Wednesday, June 8||Stockton Arena||8:30 p.m.||CHI 3, STK 0|
|Game 4||Friday, June 10||Stockton Arena||9 p.m.||STK 4, CHI 3 (OT)|
|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.