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Just about the time they needed it most, the Wolves received a lightning bolt to the lineup with the return of Tuukka Tieksola.
The 21-year-old forward had been absent from the defending Calder Cup champions after being loaned Feb. 23 to Karpat of the Finnish League Liiga, based in Tieksola’s hometown of Oulu, Finland.
With Karpat, Tieksola had three goals and two assists in 11 regular-season games before adding an assist in three postseason contests. After Karpat was eliminated, Tieksola was returned to the Wolves on March 24 and in eight games since has four goals and three assists.
Not coincidentally, the Wolves are 6-0-2-0 during that span and have climbed back into postseason contention.
So what’s been the difference in Tieksola’s game?
“I feel like my confidence is so much higher,” said Tieksola, who now has eight goals and 14 assists in 48 games with the Wolves this season. “When I went to Finland, I was with my parents and family and it was very good for me.
“My game is getting better and better all the time,” Tieksola continued. “I’m with the puck more and I’m getting more touches.”
The fact the Wolves are in the hunt to make the playoffs–they enter Tuesday’s play one point back of the Rockford IceHogs for fifth place in the Central Division and the final postseason spot–has added to Tieksola’s enjoyment.
“We’re playing so much better hockey right now than when the season started,” he said. “The game systems are clearer for us.”
DZINGEL STAYING POSITIVE
Bounces haven’t gone Ryan Dzingel’s way since he returned to the Wolves lineup after missing nearly four months due to a back injury.
Since the veteran forward returned March 12, Dzingel has one goal and two assists in nine games. The lack of goal-scoring is uncommon for a player who has two 20-goal-plus seasons in the NHL during his career. But with 404 NHL games and another 137 in the AHL on his resume, Dzingel isn’t letting the drought affect his confidence.
“I’m not scoring, but that’s hockey,” Dzingel, 31, said. “You’re a competitor and you want to play well and score, but it’s one of those things where if you’re a goal-scorer you’re going to have to buckle up because unless you’re Connor McDavid, that’s just the normal road.
“You’re going to go through times when you’re scoring on everything and also times when you can’t even see the net,” the Wheaton, Ill., native continued, “You just have to grind through it.”
As far as his recovery from the injury, Dzingel said, “I feel good so hopefully I’ll start to play a little bit better.”
IMPACT PLAY OF THE WEEK
During Saturday’s game against the Wild at Allstate Arena, Ryan Suzuki scored a highlight-reel goal as he wended his way through three Iowa defenders to beat goaltender Zane McIntyre and put the Wolves in front 2-1. The goal was Suzuki’s 13th of the season.
REPUBLIC BANK SAVE OF THE WEEK
Goaltender Zachary Sawchenko made a fabulous save during Friday’s contest against the Wild in Iowa, stoning Nic Petan to keep the Wolves in front in a game the defending Calder Cup champions eventually won 4-1 to extend their winning streak to six.
Weekly rewind (2-0-1-0)
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5
Wolves 6, Admirals 5 (OT): Vasily Ponomarev had two goals—including the game-winner in overtime—Mackenzie MacEachern and Tuukka Tieksola each had a goal and an assist and Anttoni Honka and William Lagesson also scored.
FRIDAY, APRIL 7
Wolves 4, Wild 1: Ryan Suzuki scored twice, Mackenzie MacEachern had a goal and two assists and Jamieson Rees also tallied. Malte Stromwall chipped in with three assists as the Wolves extended their winning streak to six games.
SATURDAY, APRIL 8
Wild 3, Wolves 2 (OT): The Wolves had their winning streak snapped but ran their points streak to a season-high eight games behind goals from Mackenzie MacEachern and Ryan Suzuki.
First Star of the Week
Where we stand
32-28-5-3, sixth in the Central Division.
|Tuesday, April 11||at Rockford||7 p.m.||BMO Center||AHLTV|
|Friday, April 14||at Milwaukee||7 p.m.||UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena||AHLTV|
|Saturday, April 15||vs. Grand Rapids||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV/My50 Chicago/NHL Network|
|Sunday, April 16||vs. Manitoba||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV/My50 Chicago|
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