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One Wolves player appeared in all 72 games last season: Griffin Mendel.
So that has made it that much more difficult for the defenseman to sit and watch his teammates battle for wins while sidelined with a broken wrist.
“It’s not fun being on the outside looking in,” Mendel said. “You always want to be playing and trying to help the team win.”
“I blocked a shot on the wrist,” Mendel, 24, said of the injury suffered while with the Admirals. “I didn’t see it coming and it hit me. It was the second shift of the game and I kept playing the rest of the period. It definitely didn’t feel right and then the doctor told me it was broken during the intermission.
“It’s always disappointing when you feel like you’re taking steps in the right direction and then you have a setback,” he added. “It’s part of the game but you never want to have to deal with it.”
Mendel may not have to deal with it much longer as he said he is ahead of schedule in his rehab and is planning to come back sooner rather than later.
“It’s been three weeks so far and I’m hoping to play by next weekend,” Mendel said. “I still have to see the doctor but it feels better every day. By the way it’s progressing, I feel I should be back pretty soon.”
That would be good news for the Wolves as 6-feet-4-inch, 224-pound Mendel has developed into a top defenseman who can impact games at both ends of the ice.
“He can play in every situation,” Wolves coach Bob Nardella said. “He’s a big kid. He can hold onto the puck, push guys around, move the puck and jump into the play. He’s going to bring a lot once he gets healthy.”
Mendel has come full circle with his return to the Wolves. The Kelowna, British Columbia, native began his pro career in Chicago on an Amateur Tryout Contract before earning an American Hockey League deal. He finished with nine goals and 10 assists while playing in each game during the 2022-23 season.
Over the summer, Mendel inked his first National Hockey League contract when the Carolina Hurricanes signed him to one-year, entry-level deal.
“It was really nice,” Mendel said of signing the NHL contract. “When I first came here, I was just on a tryout and then I got an AHL deal and now an NHL deal. It’s a step toward where I want to go. There’s still more. I haven’t reached my goal of making the NHL so it’s more to come.”
Being with the Wolves should help Mendel make that next step.
“This organization gave me my first shot as a pro,” Mendel he said. “They trust me as a player and know who I am and I know they’ll give me my opportunity. It’s nice instead of going somewhere else and having to build your name when you get there.”
The Wolves have reached the 15-game mark of the 2023-24 season and are set to head into a busy month of December during which they will play 12 games, including eight at Allstate Arena.
Coach Bob Nardella gives his thoughts on what has transpired thus far.
“Slow. The first seven or eight games were tough and the past six or seven have been consistent—win one, lose one, win one, lose one. There’s plenty of time but we need to string some wins together and be a little more consistent.”
What contributed to the slow start?
“It’s a combination of things: We still have new guys coming in, players are still learning our systems and we’re still getting used to each other. We’re gradually getting there. It’s taken a little longer than we wanted but we definitely see improvement.”
Improvement in what areas?
“We needed to forecheck better and we are forechecking. The penalty kill has been really good all year and the power play started off slow but is coming on. Our breakouts are a little better—we needed to be a little more creative with them.”
What still needs the most improvement?
“Five-on-five scoring has been our downfall. We’re not managing to score five-on-five so that’s what we’re focusing on in practice. We also need to stop being so predictable and we’re working on that.”
You’re 15 games into your new position as Wolves head coach. How have things gone behind the bench?
“It’s been fine—it’s not anything I didn’t expect. I just have to get better at a lot of things and that will help the team get better.”
IMPACT PLAY OF THE WEEK
During the Wolves’ 6-4 victory over the Gulls in San Diego on Friday night, Rocco Grimaldi and Cole Schneider put together this terrific passing sequence that ended with Grimaldi scoring to put the Wolves out in front.
REPUBLIC BANK SAVE OF THE WEEK
On Saturday night, goaltender Adam Scheel stoned the Gulls’ Judd Caulfield on a breakaway attempt to keep the Wolves within striking distance in the third period.
C.D.E. COLLISION CENTERS’ COLLISION OF THE WEEK
Wolves forward Ryan Wagner lowered the boon on San Diego’s Jacob Perreault during Friday night’s contest.
Weekly rewind (1-1-0-0)
FRIDAY, NOV. 24
Wolves 6, Gulls 4: Chris Terry scored twice, Rocco Grimaldi had a goal and three assists, Cole Schneider a goal and an assist and Cavan Fitzgerald and Nathan Sucese also tallied to lift the Wolves to their third win in their last five games.
SATURDAY, NOV. 25
Gulls 3, Wolves 1: Rocco Grimaldi scored for the Wolves but it wasn’t enough as the Gulls skated to a 3-1 victory to split the weekend series.
First Star of the Week
Where we stand
4-9-1-1, seventh in the Central Division.
|Wednesday, Nov. 29
|at Grand Rapids
|Van Andel Arena
|Sunday, Dec. 2
|vs. San Diego
|Sunday, Dec. 3
|vs. San Diego
|Friday, Dec. 8
|H-E-B Center at Cedar Park
|Saturday, Dec. 9
|H-E-B Center at Cedar Park
HELP SAVE LIVES
The drive will take place from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. in the Allstate Arena Skyline Room prior to the Wolves’ game against the Texas Stars, giving fans the perfect opportunity to help their community before enjoying an evening of exciting hockey.
All donors will receive two complimentary tickets to a future Wolves game during the 2023-24 season, a limited-edition Vitalant/Chicago Wolves T-shirt and a Wolves hat as well as being entered into a drawing to win an autographed Wolves jersey.
Learn more and schedule an appointment at vitalant.org/wolves.
For information on Wolves ticket plans for the 2023-24 season — everything from single-game tickets to Flex Packs to group outings — visit ChicagoWolves.com or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.