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In the end, the Wolves missed out on a spot in the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs by a single point.
While the result of the season was a disappointment, there is also a sense of pride throughout the organization at how the Wolves put together a late-season charge to put themselves in position to defend their Calder Cup championship.
Over the last 30 games of the season, the Wolves nearly dug themselves out of the hole created by a rough start by going 19-7-2-2 and almost caught both Rockford and Iowa in the Central Division standings on Sunday’s final day of the season.
“To use a boxing phrase, we were down on the mat and guys got up off the floor and came up punching,” Wolves general manager Wendell Young said. “Look at our record down the stretch—everyone counted us out and here were. You could see the excitement and emotion from the guys when we mounted a comeback to at least give ourselves a chance.”
On Feb. 4, the Wolves sported a 15-22-3-1 record and were last in the Central, six points back of sixth-place Grand Rapids. The late-season surge, including going a league-best 8-1-1-0 over the last 10 games, resulted in a final record of 35-29-5-3.
“Our team really came together,” Young said. “We have no true superstars, just a bunch of guys who go out and give it everything they’ve got and do their best. Everyone left it all on the ice every night and it showed.”
senyshyn a great addition
Navigating an AHL roster can be a challenge, but Young came up big when he acquired Zach Senyshyn in a trade with Utica on Feb. 28.
The 26-year-old winger was instantly inserted into the Wolves lineup and was one of the most steady players on the ice game in and game out. In 25 games, Senyshyn had four goals and five assists, flashing the potential the Bruins saw in him when they made the Ottawa, Ontario, native a first-round selection (No. 15 overall) in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
“It’s been a great experience for me to come into this room and to be able to join such a great group of guys,” Senyshyn said. ‘It’s truly been a ton of fun to play hockey with them.”
There was no more fun moment than when Senyshyn scored with 2 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in Sunday’s game to pull the Wolves into a 4-4 tie with Manitoba. The goal off a redirection of a Max Lajoie shot sent the Allstate Arena crowd into a frenzy that carried into overtime where Vasily Ponomarev ended it to keep the Wolves’ season alive.
“Definitely, getting traded here was nice and to be able to help this team put us in a good spot was great,” Senyshyn said. “This team has a great leadership core with Mackenzie MacEachern, Ryan Dzingel, Joseph LaBate and all of those guys who were preaching the right messages and leading by example.
“I could go on and on about each guy in that room,” Senyshyn continued. “It’s been a treat to play with these guys and definitely a breath of fresh air for me.”
Said Young of Senyshyn: “He bought in. He was a high pick coming out of Juniors and things just haven’t gone his way. But when I watch him there’s always something there and that’s one of the reasons we brought him in. He plays a solid game all the time and he’s another guy who cares.”
IMPACT PLAY OF THE WEEK
With the Wolves trailing early in Sunday’s do-or-die game against the Manitoba Moose, 19-year-old Ville Koivunen was on the receiving end of a terrific pass from Anttoni Honka and delivered his first North American goal to spark the Wolves’ comeback victory.
Weekly rewind (3-1-0-0)
TUESDAY, APRIL 11
IceHogs 6, Wolves 3: The Wolves got a goal and an assist from Max Lajoie and scores from Malte Stromwall and Ryan Dzingel but it wasn’t enough as the IceHogs snapped the defending Calder Cup champion’s eight-game points streak.
FRIDAY, APRIL 14
Wolves 5, Admirals 4 (OT): William Lagesson scored in overtime, Joseph LaBate had two goals and an assist, Malte Stromwall a goal and an assist and Griffin Mendel added a goal to help the Wolves end a two-game losing skid.
SATURDAY, APRIL 15
Wolves 4, Griffins 1: Mackenzie MacEachern, Malte Stromwall and Max Lajoie each had a goal and an assist and Josh Melnick also scored to propel the Wolves to their second consecutive victory.
SUNDAY, APRIL 16
Wolves 5, Moose 4 (OT): In the season finale, Vasily Ponomarev scored the winner in overtime while Mackenzie MacEachern, Ville Koivunen, Griffin Mendel and Zach Senyshyn each scored in regulation as the Wolves rallied to their third win in a row to close out the 2022-23 slate.
First Star of the Week
GRIFFIN MENDEL, D
The 24-year-old defenseman had goals in two of the three victories last week and appeared in all four contests to become the only Wolves player to take the ice in all 72 games this season.
Where we FINISHED
35-29-5-3, sixth in the Central Division.
30th Anniversary season
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