Lyon Hockey

Wolves win Game 1 with a convincing win



Photo courtesy: Ross Detman

ROSEMONT, Ill. – Two teams remain standing in the Central Division, and those teams met Saturday night at Allstate Arena for Game 1 of the Calder Cup Division Finals. The Chicago Wolves found themselves facing third-seeded Milwaukee Admirals after upsetting the Manitoba Moose in the previous round – an opponent they know well. Saturday’s game kicked off the seventh series between these two teams, marking the most times Wolves have seen a playoff opponent in franchise history.

While Chicago held the regular season record against the Admirals, when the playoffs begin those records go back to 0-0. The Admirals would surely come looking for a battle against a side they’ve been battling against all season, and Wolves knew the challenge ahead of them in order to advance further into the Calder Cup qualifiers.

When the smoke cleared on Saturday, Chicago would top the series after a 6-2 win over Milwaukee in Game 1.

First period

Chicago wasted no time getting on set in this one. A quick pass out of the zone allowed the puck to Jack Drurry in a 2-on-1 run across the ice against the Admirals goaltender Connor Ingramand Drury wired a laser beam into Ingram’s glove just 32 seconds in to give Wolves the lead.

While the opening goal seemed to indicate Wolves were taking advantage of this one, it was the Admirals who got the puck early and often. Wolves weren’t normally seen on their heels that heavily in Game 1, but Milwaukee pushed the offense, put the pucks on the net and physically tackled Wolves.

“They started fast.” trainer of wolves Ryan Warsofsky Admirals said. “Their pace was up. We were probably one step behind them. We had to find our game after the premiere, we had to pick up the pace and find our identity. We were just slow to start.

Despite the 13-5 shooting gap, Wolves held onto their 1-0 lead thanks to star goalkeeper play Alex Lyons, who made several big saves in this first to keep the lead. Perhaps his most impressive came with the two power plays the Admirals had in the first and couldn’t take it.

“As a goalkeeper, I like the D-zone coverage.” Lyon said extra work. “I don’t mind when they start circling, it gets me into the game, it engages me, it makes me feel comfortable. Wolves are usually a team where we can get 15-20 shots a game To have that in my life is actually quite refreshing.

That 1-0 lead would hold against Milwaukee pressure at intermission, but was far from one of the best spells Wolves had played this year.

Second period

This time it was Milwaukee who struck early. Behind the solid failure before Juuso Parssinen and Joseph La Bate, Cole Schneider managed to place the puck in the crease and cover a shot past Lyon to tie the game just 1:30 from the start of the period.

It took almost half the period for either side to escape, but Wolves found the lead on a long line change. Josh Leivo enter the area with a lane. Leivo fired a slapshot on the rush that passed Ingram, off the bar and to take a 2-1 lead at 9:30 a.m. of the start of the period.

As they had done throughout the season, Wolves would continue to attack with wide passes through the neutral zone to find their fast forwards. This time Vasili Ponomarev threaded a smooth passage through Jamieson Rees all alone on Ingram, and his patience on the backhand was able to extend Wolves’ lead to 3-1.

Both teams continued to press as time went on, looking for an advantage before the end of the period. With only five seconds on the clock, C.J. Smith fed the Chicago captain Andrew Poturalski to the Milwaukee Blue Line. Poturalski fired a last-second shot on the net that came out of Ingram’s glove and bounced into the net with just a second left on the clock. It was a backbreaker for an Admirals team that fought so hard against this talented Wolves side that skated into intermission with a 4-1 lead.

Third period

The last-second goal would mean the end of the night for Ingram – Devin Cooley entered the slot to start the Admirals’ third period. The change of goalkeeper seemed to give the Admirals a bit of life to shake up some attitudes in their attack. On the power play, Brayden Burke found sewing through traffic at Jimmy Huntington on the other side, who wired a clock upstairs to beat Lyon and bring the Admirals to within two just 2:30 into that span.

However, Wolves are said to be unwilling to give a boost. Rees knocked Stelio Mattheos sneaking into the Milwaukee area on an odd run, and Mattheos would score an upward shot for the top corner over Cooley’s glove to restore the three-goal lead to 5-2 just over 30 seconds after the goal in Huntington’s power play.

“Very well.” Warsofsky said of his fourth line. “Gave us energy. It’s really important that Reeser steps in and Mattheos and Pono kind of reinforce that role. They were really good. Their last practices were probably the best practices of their careers. When you practice better, it results in habit-based play. It started on Wednesday and it translated into tonight’s game. “

Milwaukee responded in desperation. Big bodies like LaBate and Mitch McLain crashed into the net to dig pucks into Lyon’s pads, but the Wolves goalkeeper made some excellent saves on a turnover in the area. The goaltender had excellent vision to see the pucks through heavy body traffic in front and was able to stay focused on the puck and keep it on the outside as they converged on the crease.

“I like the physical game.” Lyon said big bodies coming to his crease. “It’s kind of the style I played as a pro before coming to Wolves. I don’t mind that much. It makes for a fun game.

With four minutes left, the Admirals fired Cooley for the extra man, but they never really got to look at the net. With 3:20 to go, Drury got the puck from Max Lajoie at center ice and dropped it into the empty net to push the lead to 6-2, which would stay until the final bell of Game 1 ending in a Wolves win.

Three stars:

  1. Josh Leivo – 1 goal, 1 assist
  2. Jalen Chatfield – 2 assists
  3. Jamieson Rees – 1 goal, 1 assist

Take away food :

  • Wolves definitely didn’t play their best game in this one, yet they found a way to win. That’s the nature of the playoffs, but it must be so demoralizing for the opposing team to be able to say that maybe you dominated Chicago and still couldn’t get the win. It’s good to get the first win of the series, but Coach Warsofsky knows this team needs to play better.

“I have to play better, I have to play faster, I have to play harder.” Warsofsky said for Game 2, “All the terms a hockey coach uses at the end of a game, usually when you’re losing. We will win the victory. It wasn’t good enough sometimes, you have to be more consistent. It’s a deadly team out there.

  • Connor Ingram has absolutely not played his best match. Wolves should expect a more focused and determined Ingram in Game 2 to bounce back from this performance. He was beaten on two long-range shots which ended up anchoring the Admirals’ hopes for an upset in this one. Chicago should be grateful for catching him one night off and regrouping for the next.

Look forward:

Game 2 takes place at Allstate Arena on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. CST before the series joins I-94 in Milwaukee for Game 3 on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. CST.

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Andrew Rinaldi covers the Chicago Wolves for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SinBinWolves.