Rockford IceHogs vs. Chicago Wolves Coverage 12/29/11
Taylor Nakagawa - Evanston Township High School
Rosemont, IL--Despite building a thundering 4-0 lead halfway through the second period, the Chicago Wolves were only a couple mistakes away from breaking their four-game home win streak as they defeated the Rockford IceHogs 5-3 tonight at the Allstate Arena.
“Right now, with this league being so competitive, we’ll take the win, ” said head coach Craig MacTavish. “It was a lot more difficult than it needed to be, but give Rockford credit for having the resolve to come back in a game that seemed pretty unreachable for them.”
After only 66 seconds of play the Wolves (16-11-1-3) struck first off a pass from right wing Darren Haydar to forward Tim Miller across the crease that was able to scoot past Rockford goalie, Carter Hutton’s right pad.
Although it seemed that Rockford’s physicality would make for their slow start, the IceHogs (11-17-1-2) committed three penalties in the first period, which the Wolves capitalized on scoring two more goals on their three powerplays from Kevin Connauton and Nolan Baumgartner. On the defensive side, goalie Matt Climie was able to stop 16 shots in his first action back from an injury that left him on the bench since Dec. 10.
“I was happy to finally get out there and get a real feeling for the puck in the first,” said Climie. “It’s never fun to be out with an injury, but our D has really been coming along, clearing rebounds in the crease. It’s been a huge help on the back end.”
After letting in three unanswered goals on seven shots in the first period, Rockford came out in the second, benching Hutton, and put in backup Alec Richards. Although the inexperienced Richards was able to stop 20 of Chicago’s 21 shots, it was the IceHogs lack of communication passing the puck that delayed their scoring chances.
With the Wolves continuing to outskate the IceHogs throughout the second period, Stefan Schneider’s wrist shot was rebounded off the pad of Richards, and was put back in by Antoine Roussel to give the Wolves a 4-0 lead nearing the end of the second period.
It was only until 1:25 left in the second period that Rockford was able to muster a goal, capped off by center Andrew Shaw’s rebound shot, that gave the IceHogs the slightest bit of momentum going into the second intermission.
And that’s when the wheels started to loosen on the Wolves’ bandwagon.
“That goal at the end of the second gave them a little bit of momentum. We came out really slow in the third, they jumped on us, and the rodeo was on,” said MacTavish.
It seemed as though all of the energy the Wolves had built throughout the first two periods was completely drained. Three minutes into the period Andrew Shaw was able to net his second goal of the night, backhanding a shot past Climie in the crease.
Shaw’s two goals sparked the Rockford bench, as each line was able to wear out the Wolves with their forechecking, ultimately leading to Shawn Lalonde’s slap shot goal from the top of the right circle, that left the IceHogs down one goal.
Even though Rockford gave the Wolves multiple chances to ice the game, committing two additional penalties in the third, it came down to Stefan Schneider’s open net goal with 34 seconds left, to put this unnecessarily close game to rest.
While Climie’s 35 saves was one of the most impressive stats of the night, the Wolves are still feeling skeptical about their special teams play. After scoring on their first two powerplays, the Wolves failed to convert on their next five.
“As of right now, we’re not able to get that timely powerplay goal to put a game out of reach,” said MacTavish. “We know how important special teams are, and this is something we need to address if we want to improve heading into the new year.”
Regardless of the shaky win the Wolves have improved their home win streak to five, and look build upon this momentum as they take on a solid Charlotte Checkers squad at home this New Year’s Eve.
“When you get on a roll at home, you have to capitalize on it,” said Climie. “Of course, your going to lose some of your away games, but it’s nice to use our own crowd as motivation when we are building on something like this.”