Wolves Implode In Final Stanza, Fall To Peoria 4-1

You think it’s easy playing hockey with a giant monkey on your back?.

The last time we saw the Chicago Wolves hit the ice was six nights ago, when they imploded in the second half of a back-to-back against the Abbotsford Heat. The Peoria Rivermen themselves hadn’t played since last Friday, either. And as a result, we were treated to a sloppy game – between two seemingly rusty teams – which was filled with turnovers, miscues, and unforced penalties.

Unfortunately for the Wolves, this game followed the same script as the game last Saturday, which saw them waste two strong periods when they inexplicably decided to stay in the lockerroom following the second intermission. A 4-1 loss at the hands of Peoria means that they have now lost two in a row, after having started the year on a 4-game high.

Read Past the Jump for Notes on the Game.

-Before the puck dropped to open the game, we learned that Anton Rodin (and Guillaume Desbiens) had been scratched, and were being replaced in the lineup by Billy Sweatt, and Darren Haydar. Also of note was the fact that Michael Davies was making his season debut.

-Last time out against Peoria, the Wolves won 2-1 in overtime thanks to a strong showing by Matt Climie. As a result, Scott Arniel gave him a start in this game, seeing if he could strike gold for a second time.

-Jordan Schroeder came under much scrutiny after he essentially no-showed last weekend’s tilts against the Heat. Just as I was about to commend him for starting out the game with a few strong defensive plays in his own zone, he coughed up the puck to Jaden Schwartz, forcing himself to take a hooking penalty. The Wolves were buzzing early on, but a couple of costly penalties really killed any momentum that they had managed to establish.

-Against Abbotsford, Rodin had a goal taken away after a suspect goaltender intereference call. Tonight, Mark Matheson had one taken away after Andrew Gordon fell into the goaltender (after having been ragdolled by the defender). The replacement refeeres, making their presence felt.

-What was a nice night for the Pinizzotto-Haydar-Schroeder line could have been a tremendous one, if not for some poor decision-making (more on this later). Their best sequence came early in the 2nd period, as Haydar set Schroeder up perfectly on a 2-on-1, leaving him with the entire net to shoot at. As the picture above indicates, Schroeder needed this one. That monkey was getting rather heavy.

-Andrew Ebbett and Zack Kassian continued to show great chemistry tonight, with their best opportunity coming on a well-executed give-and-go. They too were a few bounces away from putting their stamp on the score sheet. 

-An interesting strategy that I noticed from the Wolves this past weekend, and again tonight, was the defensemen intentionally firing pucks from the point off the back boards. Rather than meekly tossing it into a cluttered area, they’re showing some nice creativity. Connauton seems to really enjoy partaking in this sort of thing.

-AHL Live is quite ridiculous. I’m glad that I’m able to watch a Chicago Wolves game, and listen to the sweet, sultry tones of Jason Shaver, but there were a handful of occasions where the camera cut to Peoria’s mascot dancing in the stands as the action on the ice was in progress. This is the first game I’ve watched on AHL Live, so maybe it was just a case of the camera man deciding to get his Friday night started early.

-The Wolves held a 1-0 lead after 40, but they missed out on numerous opportunities to extend the lead in the first 15 minutes of the 2nd period. And as it usually does, it wound up costing them.

-The 3rd period was an absolute blur. A couple of defensive breakdowns, unlucky bounces, and just like that, Peoria had themselves a 4-goal frame. You knew it wasn’t going to be the Wolves’ night when Derek Nesbitt completely whiffed on a shot which caused Matt Climie to jump out of position, leaving him with a wide open net to give Peoria their 3rd goal. 

This was a sloppy, yet fast paced affair. The biggest issue for the Wolves in the second half of the game was an inability to pull the trigger. They would routinely get into situations that dictate for the puck to be put on net, but instead, they’d get too cute in trying to make the extra pass. I think it’s time for Ryan Kesler to have a talk with them. 

Fun With Numbers: 

-7: If you don’t believe that +/- is a relatively useless stat, take a look at tonight’s box score. The line of Ebbett-Kassian-Sterling were a combined -7. But how could that be, when they were clearly the best line on the ice for most of the game? Quite the mystery.

3: Was the number of scoring chances for Billy Sweatt, who was probably the best individual skater for the Wolves tonight. He took a seat in Saturday night’s loss against Abbotsford, and clearly got the message. For those scoring at home, the leader in chances for the Wolves was actually Andrew Gordon with 4. Kassian and Schroeder each had 2.

4: Was the number of goals Matt Climie gave up, yet he was the least of Chicago’s concerns tonight. He was stellar through two periods, and really can’t be faulted for at least 2 (if not 3) of the goals he surrendered. It’s tough luck for him though, because he can expect to ride some serious pine in the coming days as Eddie Lack gets the majority of the work.

13: The Chicago Wolves have given up 14 goals in their 6 games this season. 13 of them have come in the third period, which isn’t exactly a recipe for success. They have had issues closing out games in a big way.

33: Is the number of shots on goal that both teams had in this game. Yet Peoria won the scoring chance battle, 20-17.