Late Goal Spoils Wolves Third Period Rally

Zack Kassian’s movember stash, Bobby Clarke gap and the hashtags in this all kill me. I’m dead.
Via @shaeendo

The Chicago Wolves have had plenty of rest recently. Call it a scheduling quirk, or call it a different type of "league initiated hiatus" but the Wolves hadn’t played a game in nearly a week. 

They played on Friday night however, and the rust was evident through forty-eight mostly listless minutes. The Wolves struggled to generate scoring chances or push the attack forward, and were unusually permissive in their own end. Goaltender Eddie Lack bailed his club out repeatedly, but the Wolves still allowed the Rivermen to build a two goal lead and weren’t showing much urgency about it early in the third period; a full six minutes into the final frame and the Wolves had yet to generate a single shot on goal.

But the game turned in a hurry. First, Guillame Desbiens knocked a puck out of the air and into the Peoria net; and not thirty second later Kevin Connauton unleashed a shot from the top of the circle that was expertly tipped by Steve Pinizzotto for the game tying marker. 

From there the Wolves were all over the Rivermen, handily controlling the proceedings over the balance of the third frame and into overtime. But the Wolves’ dominance of the latter ten minutes of the game wasn’t enough on this evening. With twenty-six seconds to play in the overtime period, Rivermen winger Phil MacRae leaked like a Revenue Lost Chart through the Wolves defense, and beat Lack with a quick forehand deke to win the game.

Read past the jump for more.

– Easily the best Chicago line on Friday night was the top-line, featuring Darren Haydar, Andrew Ebbett and Steve Pinizzotto. Those three are all solid AHL veterans, and along with Lack their play was a lone bright spot in the first two periods for Chicago. Late in the first they put together a particularly lovely cycle shift, generating two scoring chances and testing Peoria netminder Jake Allen. That was a pretty standard shift for them this evening, and they tilted the ice consistently when they were on it. They also had a nice energy shift following Desbiens goal that led directly to Pinnizzotto’s marker.

– In contrast, the Jordan Schroeder, Zack Kassian line were very quiet all evening and struggled to develop much of anything with consistency on Friday. There was an occassional glimpse of brilliance, a lovely passing play from Schroeder to Connauton to Kassian to set up a one-timer which, Kassian ripped just high, but mostly this was the exception. It just looked like one of those evenings where both Schroeder and Kassian were battling the puck. Late in the third, Zack Kassian was fed on a breakaway pass but the puck just bounced over his stick and neutered the attack before it started. It was a moment that might typify their evening.

– On defense, the Chicago Wolves appear to have seperated the Kevin Connauton, Chris Tanev pairing that they were using earlier in the season (and that had significantly success for the Wolves in the first half of last year). Going into the 2012-13 campaign, Kevin Connauton has been looking to continue improving his defensive game; while Chris Tanev has looked to jump into the rush more, and generate offense.

It makes sense for the Canucks’ prospects to focus on ironing out the kinks in their game in the AHL, but it’s my impression that those two were a discombobulated pair in the early going, partly because they were working to subvert their natural instincts which, threw off the ‘calibration’ of their pairing. Hey it’s just a theory.

– For the most part the Wolves defenders had a solid game in the absence of Derek Joslin, who has definitely been the Wolves’ minutes later so far this year. Connauton skated with Mark Matheson on what appeared to be the top-pairing, while Chris Tanev was paired with Brad Hunt on a puck-moving second pair. Peter Andersson and Zach Miskovic were Arniel’s third pair, though Miskovic (who has a nice wrist shot) played with Connauton in the overtime period.

– Tanev was his usual, quiet, chain-smoking self (really worried about his lungs, you guys). While Tanev was on the ice for Peoria’s second goal of the evening, a power-play goal in which Peoria capitalized on a fortunate rebound, he didn’t make a coverage error on the play. On one occassion he got beat cleanly on the rush by Jaden Schwartz, but he stuck with the play and at least made Schwartz’s scoring chance more difficult on that particular break.

Tanev also didn’t look to be forcing it offensively so much, which I think is probably a good thing, though on a couple of occassions he struggled to get his point shot through the first defender.

– Kevin Connauton had a really strong game, right up until he was flummoxed by Phil MacRae on Peoria’s game winning goal. I imagine Connauton’s going to absolutely hate watching that on gametape over the coming several days, since MacRae quite literally went right through him. Hey, it happens. Unfortunately his error on Friday evening will obscure the fact that Connauton is doing an extremely impressive job controlling games while playing against top-competition this season.

– Anton Rodin had a lovely power-play zone-entry in the second period, and followed it up with a really impressive deke while cutting into the slot. Occassionally his skill level is dazzling but those moments have been too few and far between for Rodin this season.