CHICAGO WOLVES (3-1)
AT SPRINGFIELD THUNDERBIRDS (1-3)
Saturday, June 25 | 6 p.m. | MassMutual Center | AHLTV
As this 2021-22 season got underway, Chicago Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky had a large sign placed above the doorway that leads from the team’s Allstate Arena dressing room to the ice.
The burgundy sign features just two elements in white: The Wolves head logo and the word GOOD! When someone not part of the team asked Warsofsky what the word meant, he asked him to guess. The message seemed to be something for the players, coaches and staff to keep among themselves.
But when the Calder Cup Playoffs arrived, the Wolves requested for GOOD to be the sole word on the back of the team’s official T-shirt. And Warsofsky shared GOOD’s origins with the public. It came from a motivational podcast he enjoys that’s co-hosted by retired Navy SEAL officer Jocko Willink. There’s a two-minute clip on YouTube that sums up “GOOD” the best.
“One of my guys that worked for me, he would call me up and pull me aside with some major problem, some issue that was going on,” Willink says in the clip. “And he’d say, ‘Boss, we got this and that and the other thing.’ And I’d look at him and say, ‘Good.’ Finally one day, he was telling me about some issue, he was having some problem, and he said, ‘I already know what you’re going to say.’ And I said, ‘Well, what am I going to say?’ ‘You’re going to say “Good.” ‘
“He said, ‘That’s what you always say. When something is wrong and going bad, you always just look at me and say, ‘Good.’ And I said, ‘Well, yeah. When things are going bad, there’s always going to be some good that’s going to come from it.”
So at every point of the season — but particularly during the playoffs — the Wolves have been motivated by the idea of GOOD. Bad things haven’t happened often, but when they have the Wolves’ gaze has never wavered.
“We’ve talked about it from Day 1 when the playoffs started: We’ve just got to play,” Warsofsky said May 12 after the Wolves’ first postseason game. “Things are going to go bad. Things are not going to go our way. There’s going to be bad calls. There’s going to be bad bounces. There’s going to be goals that go in off feet. There’s going to be some mistakes that we make. We’ve just got to keep playing.”
Sixteen games and 44 days later, the Wolves are as little as 60 minutes away from earning their fifth league championship — and the organization’s first since June 10, 2008.
“We’re excited, right?” Warsofsky said. “I think this is what you play for, what you coach for. It doesn’t matter the level. You want to win a championship. But saying that, we’re focused on getting our bodies ready for (Game 5) and winning another hockey game. There’s no talking about winning the championship in that locker room. It’s another day in the office. We’ll have our morning skate, we’ll do our treatments and our meetings like it’s a Wednesday in Rockford or…a Saturday in Springfield.”
WE ARE THE WOLVES
In the 2000 Turner Cup Finals, 2002 Calder Cup Finals and 2008 Calder Cup Finals, the Wolves carried a 3-1 lead into Game 5.
On one occasion — 2002 — the Wolves wrapped up the Cup ASAP with a 4-3 double-overtime Game 5 victory over Bridgeport.
But in 2000, the Wolves suffered a 6-4 Game 5 loss to Grand Rapids before a franchise-record 18,412 fans at Allstate Arena. In 2008, the Wolves took a 5-1 Game 5 loss at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. But in 2000 and 2008, the Wolves went on to take care of business and hoist the Cup in Game 6.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Rookie center Jack Drury and veteran forward Richard Panik scored power-play goals in the first period to spark a 3-0 lead that turned into a Game 4 victory and a 3-1 series lead.
- Forwards Andrew Poturalski and Josh Leivo delivered one goal and one assist apiece and Stefan Noesen tied the team’s postseason record with 4 assists.
- Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov stopped 39 shots to earn his third win in four days.
- Rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov stopped all 36 shots he faced to spark the Wolves to the Game 3 win and secure a 2-1 lead in the Calder Cup Finals.
- Forwards Richard Panik, Ivan Lodnia and Stefan Noesen and defenseman Jalen Chatfield scored goals while Josh Leivo and Jack Drury handed out 2 assists apiece.
- Kochetkov improved his postseason record to 4-1 and his goals-against average to 1.58.
By the numbers
2: The Wolves have scored 2 power-plays in each of the four Finals games. Prior to the Finals, the Wolves hadn’t strung together more than two consecutive games with multiple power-play goals, so clearly the PP units are hitting their stride at the right time. Chicago stands 8 of 18 on the power play during this series (44.4 percent) and 22 of 72 (30.6 percent) for the postseason. The Wolves have scored twice as many power-play goals as they have allowed — a feat that’s even more impressive when you consider they’ve had to kill 13 more power plays than they’ve received (74 of 85; 87.1 percent). During the regular season, the Wolves led the league with the best differential in power plays at +65. They received 321 while giving up just 256.
3: The Wolves have recorded three postseason shutouts for the first time in franchise history. Veteran Alex Lyon registered the first one June 8 in Game 3 at Stockton, then rookie Pyotr Kochetkov followed with shutouts on June 14 (in Game 6 vs. Stockton) and Wednesday night at Springfield. Kochetkov’s shutout was the first in the Finals since Lake Erie’s Anton Forsberg on June 11, 2016. Chicago has posted 10 shutouts in the regular season and playoffs combined, which shares second on the team’s all-time single-season list behind the 1999-2000 duo of Wendell Young and Andrei Trefilov (11 shutouts).
5: The Wolves have five people in their dressing room who are trying to capture back-to-back Calder Cups. Captain Andrew Poturalski won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the postseason Most Valuable Player when he posted 12 goals and 11 assists in 18 games for the 2019 Cup-winning Charlotte Checkers. Head coach Ryan Warsofsky was the top lieutenant to Checkers head coach Mike Vellucci in 2019. Defenseman Jesper Sellgren posted 3 goals and 1 assist in 11 games for the Checkers, then returned to Europe until this season. Forward Stelio Mattheos delivered 3 goals and 1 assist, albeit in 14 Calder Cup Playoff games. Center Spencer Smallman was listed on Charlotte’s roster, but did not participate in the postseason.
8: The Wolves killed eight of Springfield’s nine power-play opportunities Friday night. The eight kills and the nine chances were season-highs for the Wolves and the most for the franchise since Feb. 9, 2021, when Chicago killed 8 out of 9 during a 5-2 victory versus Rockford during the early stages of the abbreviated 2021 season. The second period was particularly hectic for the Wolves’ penalty-kill units Friday night as Springfield received four consecutive power-play chances between the 2:35 and the 15:30 marks. The Thunderbirds finally broke through on the fourth of the period and seventh of the game as forwards Jack Drury, Stefan Noesen, Vasili Ponomarev and Spencer Smallman and defenseman Jalen Chatfield, Josh Jacobs, Max Lajoie and Jesper Sellgren handled most of the PK work in front of goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov. “We have great communication on it with all of our guys,” said head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “I think Chatfield and Lajoie are really good at making their reads. You need a good goaltender, which is important. Smallman and Drury have been leading the way with their penalty kill. Ponomarev has been a big key for us, getting him (from Russia) down the stretch. It’s important to have a good PK, but we’ve got to stay out of the box.”
9: Veteran forward Richard Panik scored in the first period Friday to extend his Finals goal-scoring streak to nine games — a spree that started on June 9, 2013, for the Syracuse Crunch against the Grand Rapids Griffins. He also has scored in three straight first periods.
28: FForward Josh Leivo climbed another rung on the Wolves postseason scoring charts Friday night. With his 14th goal and 14th assist, he passed AHL Hall of Famer Darren Haydar (12 goals, 15 assists in 2008) and 1998 postseason MVP Alexander Semak (10 goals, 17 assists) to take the No 3 spot. He trails only Jason Krog (12 goals, 26 assists in 2008) and Rob Brown (7 goals, 26 assists in 2002). Stefan Noesen’s pair of assists pushed his playoff totals to 9 goals and 16 assists, which ranks sixth on the all-time list. Winnetka native Jack Drury registered his ninth goal and 22nd point Friday, which improved his franchise record for most postseason points by a rookie.
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.||CHI 4, SPR 0|
|Game 4||Friday, June 24||MassMutual Center||6 p.m.||CHI 4, SPR 2|
|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.