CHICAGO WOLVES (1-1)
AT SPRINGFIELD THUNDERBIRDS (1-1)
Wednesday, June 22 | 6 p.m. | MassMutual Center | AHLTV
FIRST TRIP TO SPRINGFIELD
Considering Springfield, Massachusetts, has served as the American Hockey League’s headquarters for longer than the Chicago Wolves have been a thing, you’d think they would be more familiar with the town and the state. But in the Wolves’ 28 seasons, they have played just one game in The Bay State: A 6-1 victory over the Worcester IceCats on Jan. 24, 2003.
But maybe that extended absence makes this week’s trip to the MassMutual Center — located three short blocks from AHL offices — that much more exciting. Goodness knows Springfield hockey fans have been awaiting this day for a long time. Though the Springfield Indians claimed seven league titles over the years, the town hasn’t hosted a Calder Cup Finals game since May 24, 1991.
The Wolves are excited to continue their pursuit of a fifth league championship in front of East Coast friends and family who rarely get to see them in person. Head coach Ryan Warsofsky grew up about an hour away in Marshfield, Mass., so his parents and three brothers and several others are expected to be in the crowded “Thunderdome” this week.
Similarly, Boston native Cavan Fitzgerald and Harvard student Jack Drury are among those with Massachusetts roots who are expecting a healthy number of well-wishers in the crowd.
CONTROLLING THE PLAY
Today’s Game 3 marks the Wolves’ 16th contest of the postseason and they’ve only suffered one loss in regulation — and that was way back on May 25 in Game 3 of the Central Division Finals at Milwaukee. Yet their overall record during the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs (11-4) camouflages the Wolves’ dominance because they’ve had the misfortune of losing three of their last five games in overtime.
Perhaps it’s better to examine each game and sort out how often the Wolves have been leading versus how much they’ve been trailing:
The Wolves’ Game 2 victory over Springfield represented the eighth time during these playoffs that they never trailed — joining Games 2 and 3 against Rockford, Games 1, 2 and 4 versus Milwaukee and Games 3 and 6 against Stockton.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
For the fourth time in the Chicago Wolves’ eight trips to the league finals, they find themselves in a 1-1 tie heading into Game 3. In each of the three previous 1-1 starts, the team that claimed Game 3 went on to capture the Cup.
In 1998, the Wolves earned a 4-3 win at Detroit in a series that needed 7 games. In 2002, the Wolves blanked Bridgeport 4-0 at Allstate Arena and swept the rest of the way. In 2019, Charlotte picked up a 4-1 win in Rosemont and swept the rest of the way.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves pounced from the start with 2 goals in the opening 2:11 and a 4-0 lead in the first 10:12 to roll to the Game 2 victory and even the series.
- Josh Leivo scored twice while Richard Panik, Spencer Smallman, Joey Keane and Andrew Poturalski also scored and Stefan Noesen tied the team’s postseason record with 4 assists.
- Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov stopped 22 shots to earn the win.
- The Wolves held a 4-2 lead 29 seconds into the third period, but Springfield rookie defenseman Matthew Kessel capped a rally with the Game 1-winning goal 5:09 into overtime.
- Forwards Jack Drury, Richard Panik, David Gust and Stefan Noesen scored goals while Josh Leivo (2 assists) joined Drury and Noesen with 2 points apiece.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon posted 30 saves.
By the numbers
1: Chicago Wolves coach Ryan Warsofsky was handed his first fine by the American Hockey League on Tuesday afternoon as a punishment for his comments following Monday’s Game 2 victory. Warsofsky was frustrated by, among other things, a second-period dustup behind Springfield’s net that led to two roughing calls against the Wolves and one against the Thunderbirds when replays suggested the extra penalty could have gone against the visitors. Springfield used its subsequent 5-on-3 advantage to score a goal and cut Chicago’s lead to 5-1. It didn’t change who was going to win the game, but it angered Warsofsky’s sense of fairness and justice for his players. By the way, the size of the fine was undisclosed.
2: During the first two rounds of the Calder Cup Playoffs, veteran goaltender Alex Lyon handled the Wolves’ netminding chores exclusively and won six out of seven games. But after the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup run came to a close May 30, the Canes returned rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov on loan to the Wolves before the Western Conference Finals began against the Stockton Heat. Lyon and Kochetkov took turns in that series and did the same in Games 1 and 2 of the Calder Cup Finals. During the playoffs, the Wolves have gone 10-0 when allowing two goals or fewer — but 1-4 when allowing three goals or more.
4: Captain Andrew Poturalski and alternate captain Stefan Noesen added their names into the postseason portion of the Wolves record book during Monday’s 6-2 victory. Noesen became the fifth Wolves player — and the first since AHL Hall of Famer Darren Haydar on May 4, 2007 — to hand out four assists in a playoff game as he earned all four helpers in the opening 25 minutes, 18 seconds. Noesen and Poturalski became the 10th and 11th players in Wolves annals, respectively, to total four points in a postseason game. Poturalski joined the list with 1 goal (set up by Noesen) and 3 assists. No Wolves skater had amassed four points in a postseason game since Jason Krog’s 3 goals and 1 assist fueled the Calder Cup-clinching Game 6 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on June 10, 2008.
5: Head coach Ryan Warsofsky and captain Andrew Poturalski aren’t the only people in the Wolves organization who won the 2019 Calder Cup as part of the Charlotte Checkers. Defenseman Jesper Sellgren came over from Sweden during the second round of the playoffs and jumped right into the Checkers lineup — finishing with 3 goals and 1 assist in 11 games. Forward Stelio Mattheos also notched 3 goals and 1 assist, albeit in 14 Calder Cup Playoff games. Center Spencer Smallman was on Charlotte’s roster, but did not participate in the postseason.
7: The Wolves relied on the same six defensemen for every postseason game until Monday night, when rookie Griffin Mendel make his first appearance since April 28. Otherwise, Jalen Chatfield, Cavan Fitzgerald, Josh Jacobs, Joey Keane, Max Lajoie and Jesper Sellgren had handled every minute. Collectively, Chicago’s blueliners have contributed 7 goals, 27 assists and a +45 plus/minus rating through 15 games.
13: Forward Josh Leivo became the most prolific goal-scorer in Wolves postseason history during Monday’s Game 2 victory. When Leivo one-timed a power-play goal in the first period, he tied five others in the top spot with 12 goals: Scott Pearson (1998), Steve Larouche (2001), Steve Maltais (2002), Jason Krog (2008) and Darren Haydar (2008). Leivo didn’t stay tied for too long, though, as Jack Drury set him up midway through the third period for his team-record 13th goal.
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 CALDER CUP FINALS SCHEDULE
|Game 1||Sunday, June 19||Allstate Arena||3 p.m.||SPR 5, CHI 4 (OT)|
|Game 2||Monday, June 20||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||CHI 6, SPR 2|
|Game 3||Wednesday, June 22||MassMutual Center||6 p.m.|
|Game 4||Friday, June 24||MassMutual Center||6 p.m.|
|Game 5||Saturday, June 25||MassMutual Center||6 p.m.|
|Game 6*||Tuesday, June 28||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Game 6|
|Game 7*||Wednesday, June 29||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Game 7|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.