Eddie Lack models his nifty Cancer awareness jersey last Saturday.
(Chris Jerina/AHL in Photos)
The Wolves rolled into Abbotsford midweek and busted up their four-game losing streak with a pair of impressive wins over the Heat. Craig MacTavish juggled up some lines to positive effect. Now the Wolves get almost a week off, will they carry on with their recent good play?
The Wolves played a home-and-home with their cross-state rival, the Rockford IceHogs. Friday night’s game in Rockford started late because of a brutal snow storm and the Wolves themselves seemed stuck in snow for much of the game. Perhaps it was because they’d beaten the IceHogs in 4 of the previous 5 encounters this season? Whatever the reason, the Wolves started badly, giving up a goal just 1:20 in and were down 2-0 after the first.
Chicago clawed back to tie the game on a pair of quick goals less than two minutes apart in the second but shortly thereafter gave away the game winning goal to Rusty Olesz. The third period was a tepid effort as the Wolves managed only five shots to close out the game. The Wolves goals were scored by Jordan Schroeder and Darren Haydar.
Saturday night the Wolves returned home and, despite ramping up their game, still came out on the wrong end of a 3-2 score. Chicago fired 39 shots on net but only Tim Miller and Kevin Connauton were able to find the twine. Rockford’s Carter Hutton stood tall, making 37 saves to get the win.
Tuesday and Wednesday were a different story. The Wolves travelled to the Fraser Valley and, like the Manitoba Moose before them, were treated to a home away from home experience. Many Canucks fans made the trek to the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, bringing a more welcoming atmosphere to the visitors than they experience anywhere outside of their home rink.
Tuesday’s game was covered in depth here at Canucks Army; it was an impressive all-around win from a team which has been slowly gaining strength all season. The newly-minted first line of Steve Reinprecht centring Anton Rodin and Mark Mancari got in on all three goals (two for Reinprecht, one for Mancari). Although Abbotsford manage 35 shots, few were from prime scoring chances. Abbotsford’s two goals came late and were partly the result of unfortunate bounces.
On Wednesday, the Crimson and Gold took it up a notch and blew out the Heat 5-0. Getting two more goals from Steve Reinprecht was a treat, as were the singles from Billy Sweatt, Jordan Schroeder and Stefan Schneider. Eddie Lack made 29 saves to get the shutout. Anton Rodin had his second game in a row with a pair of assists.
Jordan Schroeder is really on a roll lately – he picked up two goals and three assists in the week’s four games. He was unlucky not to have a goal in Tuesday’s game; on a penalty kill in the third period, Schroeder forced a turn over in the neutral zone accelerated as fast as anyone you’ve ever seen on skates and blew in on Abbotsford goalie Danny Taylor. He didn’t score because the puck rolled on him just as he went to shoot. Schroeder is playing in all situations, and is playing more than twenty minutes a night. He’s come a long way from his early-season struggles.
Anton Rodin finally got back into the lineup on Saturday. He looked very steady with his new linemates on Tuesday and Wednesday, recording a pair of assists in each game and making very zippy passes all over the ice.
Although he sat out Saturday’s game, Adam Polasek was +3 in the other 3 games of the week. In Abbotsford he played a very steady game, with good break out passes and a willingness to play it tough, taking on Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond in a heated scrap.
Mark Mancari picked up 4 points in the two Abbotsford games and was the first star of Tuesday’s game.
Mancari’s centre, Steve Reinprecht, also was very impressive against Abbotsford, scoring four goals and being a star each night (including the first star on Wednesday).
Kevin Connauton’s goal was his 10th of the season, and leads all AHL defenemen in that category.
Sebastian Erixon‘s struggles have been told here as well, but this wasn’t a very good week for him. He played just in Saturday’s game, and before one of the biggest crowds at the Allstate all year managed to go -2. The coaches clearly have little confidence in him right now, and with the way Adam Polasek is playing, there seems little reason to think he’ll get any significant icetime any time soon.
Mike Davies had been roaring along on a line with Rodin and Schroeder, but found himself demoted to the fourth line in Abbotsford and then was scratched in favour of Stefan Schneider on Wednesday. He did manage an assist on Kevin Connauton’s goal on Saturday.
Victor Oreskovich and Ryan Parent both remained in Chicago with concussions. Kevin Doell also remains sidelined with post-concussion issues. JP Testwuide and Dustin Friesen both remain on the outside, looking in. Matt Clackson seems unlikely to see any ice either.
The shuffled lines from Tuesday’s game carried through on Wednesday, except for the Schneider/Davies exchange.
The Hunting Ahead
Like the NHL, the AHL has its all-star festivities this weekend. The Wolves are playing tonight in Milwaukee before taking a week-long break.