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 return to Allstate Arena for Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals and continue the quest for the organization’s fifth league championship.
STAYING COOL DURING THIS HEAT WAVE
The weather forecast calls for a high temperature of 100 degrees in Rosemont on Tuesday when the Chicago Wolves host the Stockton Heat in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals at Allstate Arena. Also, as you may have heard, the Heat enter Tuesday on a two-game winning streak as they claimed Games 4 and 5 in overtime on their home ice.
So what are the Wolves thinking as they prepare for this heat wave and this Heat wave? Just stay cool.
“We’re excited,” said Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski after Monday’s optional practice at Allstate Arena. “We just had a great meeting in (the dressing room). Everybody’s super-positive. We needed to win one game when we were out there (in Stockton) and we got that done…we have a 3-2 lead with two home games in front of us and we’re trying to end this tomorrow night.”
Considering the fact that the Wolves and the Heat posted the top two records during the regular season — and because both ranked among the AHL’s top five teams in scoring offense, scoring defense and penalty-killing during the regular season — they were destined to play tight game after tight game.
This marks just the third postseason series in Wolves history that they’ve played three overtime games — joining the 2010 West Division Final against Texas and the 2015 Western Conference quarterfinal against Utica.
Chicago and Stockton haven’t just saved their ties for the end of regulation. Through the first five games, the Wolves have owned the lead for 94 minutes and 20 seconds, the Heat have led for 20 minutes, 12 seconds and the teams have been knotted for 209 minutes, 4 seconds (that’s 65 percent of the whole series).
“We knew this was going to be a heavyweight bout,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “Two teams that are taking big right hands at each other and trying to knock each other out and win a series. They’re a good team. They’re offensive, they’re well-coached, they’ve got great structure. Their goaltender has been really good, especially the last two games. We’ve got to find a way to get some more traffic in front of him and get some more goals, at the end of the day.”
CALDER CUP UPDATE
The Chicago Wolves aren’t the only team one win away from the Calder Cup Finals. The Atlantic Division champion Springfield Thunderbirds carry a 3-2 lead into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight.
Just like in the Western Conference Finals, the Thunderbirds and North Division champion Laval Rocket have needed overtime to decide Games 1, 4 and 5. 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 three games of a best-of-7 postseason series nine times. The Wolves never have lost a series that they’ve started with a 3-0 lead.
The veteran Wolves forward remains the AHL’s leading goal-scorer and point-producer in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Leivo delivered his 10th postseason goal in 12 games during Game 4 at Stockton, then added his ninth assist in Game 5. He also shares the team lead in plus-minus rating (+9) with defensemen Cavan Fitzgerald and Josh Jacobs.
The rookie center from Winnetka shares second place with Springfield’s Will Bitten in postseason points with 16 — four more points than any other rookie. Drury also shares the Calder Cup Playoffs’ longest active point streak at 5 games (2G, 5A). During the trip to Stockton, he notched 1 assist in Game 3, 1 goal and 1 assist in Game 4 and 1 assist in Game 5.
The Wolves’ primary goaltender became the franchise’s first netminder since Jake Allen in 2014 to produce a postseason shutout when he blanked Stockton in Game 3 Wednesday. Lyon is tied with Laval’s Cayden Primeau and Stockton’s Dustin Wolf for the most postseason wins (8), but Lyon boasts the best goals-against average of the three (1.96).
- Suburban Chicago native Connor Mackey — son of former Wolves forward David Mackey — scored 14:27 into overtime to give Stockton the Game 5 victory in California.
- Center Spencer Smallman gave the Wolves the lead with a shorthanded goal while Richard Panik forged a 2-2 tie with his third-period power-play tally.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon registered 32 saves in 74-plus minutes.
- 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.
- 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.
THE WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS SCHEDULE
|Friday, June 3
|CHI 5, STK 4 (OT)
|Monday, June 6
|CHI 3, STK 2
|Wednesday, June 8
|CHI 3, STK 0
|Friday, June 10
|STK 4, CHI 3 (OT)
|Saturday, June 11
|STK 3, CHI 2 (OT)
|Tuesday, June 14
|Wednesday, June 15
|Game 7 (if necessary)
All games are streamed on AHLTV.