Welcome to Wolves Insider, presented by Are You Really Winning?: The weekly report that gives you an inside look at the latest Chicago Wolves news and happenings. Look for a new edition of Wolves Insider every Tuesday.
One of the things Ryan Dzingel cherished most upon joining the Wolves this season was the opportunity to play in his hometown in front of his family and friends.
That opportunity took a major hit when the Wheaton native suffered a back injury that has sidelined the veteran forward for all but nine games this season.
That could all change this weekend as Dzingel plans to return to action for the first time since the defending Calder Cup champion Wolves faced the Iowa Wild on Nov. 20, 2022.
“I’m excited,” Dzingel said. “It’s been a long road and I’m finally ready to end the grind of rehab every single day. It’s probably the biggest blessing that I’ve had to actually get healthy for once.”
Dzingel has had previous target dates to return but setbacks have foiled those plans. Now, he’s poised to make his return a reality and it could come when the Wolves host the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday at Allstate Arena.
“The whole reason I came here was to play in front of my family the last couple of years,” Dzingel, 30, said. “These last 18 games are going to be fun letting them watch. My dad always drives me to the rink for the games. He just loves being there.”
The veteran of 404 NHL games with Ottawa, Columbus, Carolina, Arizona and San Jose plans to ease his way back into the thick of things.
“I haven’t played in a while so I’m going to just try not to get in the way the first couple of games,” he said. “Then I’ll bring leadership and speed. Hopefully, I still have the speed. I’ll do whatever I can in any areas. Hopefully, I get back to normal immediately. We’ll see.”
VASILY PONOMAREV IS FINDING HIS WAY
Goals have been coming fast and furious for Vasily Ponomarev.
The Russian forward has four goals in his last four games and leads the Wolves with 17 this season. Add in Ponomarev’s 15 assists and the 20-year-old is tied for third in team scoring with 32 points.
What has led the goal-scoring surge?
“I started to play more professional hockey,” Ponomarev said. “I’m being more patient to slow down the game and find better solutions.”
Ponomarev said his 11-game, regular-season stint followed by the 18 games played during the Wolves’ run to the Calder Cup last season provided valuable experience after starting his career in Russia.
“Playoffs last year were really hard and it gave me a big opportunity and experience,” Ponomarev said. “I found that sometimes things go wrong but you have to keep working.”
Ponomarev said he’s also adapting to living in North America.
“I prefer to live here,” he said. “I like how the weather is here.”
And what does he do when he’s not on the ice?
“Right now, it’s near the end of the season and I’m tired so I spend every day off at home.”
IMPACT PLAY OF THE WEEK
Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov set the American Hockey League world on fire when he scored — and then celebrated raucously — during the Wolves’ 4-1 victory over the Manitoba Moose on Friday night in Winnipeg. Kochetkov became just the 20th netminder in league history to score a goal and joined Max Lagace (May 25, 2019 at San Diego in the playoffs) as the only other Wolves goalie to do so.
Kochetkov and the Wolves are back in Chicago after their three-game road trip and following Tuesday’s practice, Wolves Insider caught up with the netminder to discuss his goal.
“It was my dream,” Kochetkov said about scoring. “It’s my first goal and I’m very happy now.”
Kochetkov said he didn’t plan out the play but acted on instinct.
“It’s very fast,” he said, “I only shot. No time to think.”
REPUBLIC BANK SAVE OF THE WEEK
Scoring a goal wasn’t the only highlight Kochetkov supplied during the victory over the Moose on Friday night. The 23-year-old also made 39 saves, including this gem when he stoned Manitoba’s Jansen Harkins on a third-period breakaway.
Weekly rewind (2-1-0-0)
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1
Wolves 4, Griffins 3: Vasily Ponomarev scored twice, Josh Melnick had a goal and an assist and Jack Drury also found the back of the net as the Wolves kicked off a three-game road trip in style.
FRIDAY, MARCH 3
Wolves 4, Moose 1: Pyotr Kochetkov not only recorded the win in goal for the Wolves, but the netminder also scored a goal. Jack Drury added two goals and an assist, linemates Jamieson Rees and Josh Melnick each had two assists and Ronan Seeley also scored.
SUNDAY, MARCH 5
Moose 5, Wolves 3: Mackenzie MacEachern had two goals and Vasily Ponomarev also scored but it wasn’t enough as the Wolves had their three-game winning streak snapped.
First Star of the Week
On Sunday, March 12, the Wolves will hold Women In Sports Day when they face the Grand Rapids Griffins at Allstate Arena. The organization will celebrate women who have helped pave the way for others to work in sports.
The festivities will include videos from women working in sports giving encouragement and advice to those who want to follow in their footsteps. To purchase tickets for the Wolves’ Women In Sports Day, go to ChicagoWolves.com.
Where we stand
24-25-3-2, sixth in the Central Division.
|Saturday, March 11||vs. Rockford||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV/My50 Chicago|
|Sunday, March 12||vs. Grand Rapids||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV/My50 Chicago|
|Friday, March 17||at Milwaukee||7 p.m.||BMO Center||AHLTV|
|Saturday, March 18||vs. Manitoba||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV/My50 Chicago|
|Sunday, March 19||vs. Manitoba||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV/My50 Chicago|
For information on Wolves ticket plans for the 2022-23 season — everything from single-game tickets to Flex Packs to group outings — visit ChicagoWolves.com or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.