Wolves Aren’t Scared of Monsters, Stay on a Roll

Throwing those teddy bears was fun. But now someone has to pick them up.

I think it would be fair to say that the most recent Chicago Wolves game recap I did prior to this one – which was back on December 7th, in case you missed it – marked rock bottom for the Canucks’ AHL affiliate. They had just submitted a dismal effort on their home ice, falling to 9-9-3 on the year. 

I noted that Scott Arniel had to have been feeling the pressure at that point. He couldn’t afford to see his team put forth too many more performances in the vein of the one against Grand Rapids. What followed was a players-only meeting prior to the tilt against Rockford, and two impressive wins where the Wolves put their cojones on display. Apparently they had seen enough of the lackluster play, too.

They moved their win streak to three games on Saturday night, with a hard-fought victory against a game Lake Erie squad.

Read Past the Jump for Notes on the Game.

It took Lake Erie just 1:26 to get on the board in this one. There wasn’t too much that goaltender Matt Climie could have done to stop it from happening, either. Mark Olver showed nice patience, waiting for Climie to fall before putting it past him. Who knows, maybe Olver got a wake-up call after David Booth dismantled him in a fight last season?

Arniel kept the same top two lines from last night; Haydar-Schroeder-Sweatt and Kassian-Ebbett-Sterling. The Kassian line rewarded him with two goals on the night, including one on the power play (which was 28th in the AHL coming into the night). Kassian showed a combination of great awareness and soft hands, as he threaded the needle on a no-look pass to a trailing Ebbett, whose shot on net allowed Sterling to bang it home. 

As for Schroeder, he didn’t have a particularly impressive game, but he did ring iron on a wicked wrist shot from the circle in the first period. It was very reminiscent of another American center that is affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks.

Chris Tanev has had better nights, and by no fault of his own. The Monsters seemed to target him all night, as nearly every big hit they threw was at his expense. However, he handled it well and didn’t seem to let it faze him. He also avoided danger in the second period, as he went awkwardly into the boards before banging his head. That could have been real bad. 

After the Wolves took a 3-1 lead, they seemed content to play the game out without any sort of drama. They gave one of the goals back up before the 2nd period was over, but managed to hold on till the final buzzer. I’m sure that Scott Arniel was a big fan of how the 3rd period played out. It was rather uneventful, which is what you like to see as you’re trying to hold onto a lead on the road as the time ticks away. In fact, there were very few (if any, really) quality opportunities present for the Wolves to the game in the final frame.

Next up for the Wolves is a home date against the Abbotsford Heat on Tuesday night. They’ll be looking to match the four-game winning streak that they rattled off to start the year.

Fun with Numbers:

7: Is the number of consecutive starts that Matt Climie has had now, with Eddie Lack injured. This is interesting for two reasons. First off, back on November 27th Thomas Drance wrote an article about how Joe Cannata had been called up to the Wolves, which as we’ve come to learn, couldn’t have been more irrelevant. And that’s because Climie has been very solid. That fact made me look up his career stats. Did you know that he has 5 career NHL starts under his belt (for the Coyotes and Stars)?

10: Was the length of the delay, in minutes, just 90 seconds into the game. After Olver’s goal, the fans in attendance all tossed teddy bears onto the ice, making the ice crew’s life miserable. 

78: Coming into this game, the Wolves held claim to the worst penalty kill in the AHL, killing them off at a grotesque 78%. They managed to avoid giving one up in this game, which is quite the feat for them. They’ll need to shore up the special teams play, at least a little bit, if they hope to do anything for the remainder of the season.

4,589: Is the number of Monster-related puns the Lake Erie play-by-play guy tried to incorporate into the game tonight. I’m not sure why I was watching the game on that feed, but hey, there’s something to be said about that sort of blatantly hilarious homerism. 

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