STOCKTON HEAT (2-3)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (3-2)
GONNA BE A SCORCHER
According to NOAA.gov, which publicizes the National Weather Service’s official forecasts, it will feel like 102 degrees outside Allstate Arena when Game 6 begins at approximately 7:10 p.m. today. And while the official temperature will be much cooler inside the rink, the battle between the Chicago Wolves and the Stockton Heat figures to be at least as torrid as the outdoor Real Feel.
The Wolves and the Heat have taken turns pushing each other into unfamiliar conditions. When the Wolves claimed the first three games of this Western Conference Finals, it marked the Heat’s first three-game losing streak all season.
And when the Heat earned overtime wins on back-to-back nights over the weekend to prolong this series, it marked the Wolves’ first two-game losing streak since March 12-13. On Friday night, Stockton became the first Wolves opponent all year to rally from a two-goal deficit in the third period and claim a victory.
“They ain’t going away easy,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky with a smile. “We knew this was going to be a heavyweight bout. 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 (Dustin Wolf) 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. It’s a good team. We’ve got to be ready to go (Tuesday).”
These teams have been a remarkable match since Game 1 began June 3. They have been separated by three goals for only 32 seconds (the final 32 seconds of the Wolves’ 3-0 Game 3 win at Stockton). They have been separated by two goals for just 18:30. Otherwise, the Wolves and the Heat have either been tied (209:04) or within one goal (95:30) for 94.1 percent of the series.
“It’s been nothing short of dramatic every game, pretty much,” said Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski. “Everything has kind of came down to the wire. We knew nothing was going to be easy coming in. But now we have a 3-2 lead on our home ice. We like the spot we’re in.”
THE ROBERT W. CLARKE TROPHY
Since 1998, the Clarke Trophy has been the prize that goes to the AHL’s Western Conference champion. The same team has not won this trophy in back-to-back seasons since the Rochester Americans in 1998-99 and 1999-2000 (when the Western Conference had just 10 teams).
Because the AHL did not present the Clarke Trophy the last two seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wolves can become the second Western Conference team to earn the trophy in consecutive opportunities.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
If you’re thinking it’s pretty late on the calendar to be playing hockey, you’re not wrong. Today’s June 14 game represents the second-latest date in Wolves history.
The only game that was played later might be voted (by Wolves fans) as the greatest in franchise history. On June 15, 1998, Chicago and the Detroit Vipers were scoreless entering the third period before the Wolves scored three in third to claim their first league title.
LAST TWO GAMES
SATURDAY, JUNE 11: (AT) STOCKTON 3, CHICAGO 2 (OT)
- 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.
By the numbers
1: The Chicago Wolves’ penalty-kill units have surrendered just one goal in Stockton’s 23 power-play opportunities this series. Game after game, players such as Max Lajoie and Jalen Chatfield and Jack Drury use their bodies to block shot after shot as the Wolves have been invested all postseason. “Just the details and blocking shots and willingness to put our bodies on the line,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky in explanation of the team’s 95.7 percent kill rate. “We see our defensemen doing that. We see our forwards doing that. We’ve made some adjustments throughout the series that our guys are really tuning into.”
2: Friday’s Game 4 marked the only 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 in team history, the Wolves have played three overtime games in the same postseason series. In the 2010 West Division Finals, the Texas Stars claimed two of the three OT games to win the series in seven games. In the 2015 Western Conference quarterfinals, the Utica Comets claimed two of the three OT games to win the best-of-5 series in five games.
4: There are just four teams left in the chase for the 2022 Calder Cup. The Eastern Conference Finals were pushed to Game 7 Monday night when Laval, the North Division champion, earned a 5-1 win at Springfield. The Atlantic Division champion Thunderbirds host Game 7 at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Wolves are one game away from becoming the first AHL team since the 2009-10 Hershey Bears to reach back-to-back Calder Cup Finals. “I think you’ve got to enjoy where we are right now,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “We’re one of four teams. We’re playing deep into June. There’s only two NHL teams left. There’s not many professional hockey players still playing. Have some fun with it. Learn from the experiences that we’re going through right now. Hopefully we look back and (the two overtime losses) are just a part of our story.”
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, 23 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 12 games after posting 4 goals in 60 regular-season appearances.
10: Wolves forward Josh Leivo continues to lead all AHL skaters in postseason goals (10) and points (19). The 29-year-old Ontario native has scored at least 1 point in 11 of the Wolves’ 12 Calder Cup Playoff games as he notched a goal in Game 4 and an assist in Game 5. Former Wolves forward MacKenzie MacEachern, now playing for the Springfield Thunderbirds, has passed Leivo on the plus/minus rating list as he paces all postseason players with a +12 heading into Tuesday’s play. Leivo is tied for third at +9 with teammates Josh Jacobs and Cavan Fitzgerald.
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. Lyon’s 1.96 goals-against average ranks No. 1 among goaltenders still in the playoffs and No. 3 overall.
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.||STK 3, CHI 2 (OT)|
|Game 6||Tuesday, June 14||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Game 6|
|Game 7*||Wednesday, June 15||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Game 7 (if necessary)|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.