(Photo by Todd Reicher/ Rockford IceHogs)
Post by Guest Contributor: Ronald Luce
Rockford–After a hard-fought effort in Game 1, the Chicago Wolves faced off against the Rockford IceHogs in Game 2 of the series at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
The Wolves came off a Game 1 loss with a fiery mentality at the drop of the puck. Chicago started off fast, pressuring Collin Delia and the Icehogs defense early in the 1st.
Great physical play was the theme of the early 1st period for the Wolves, as Stefan Matteau had a big hit in the right-wing corner boards behind Delia.
The tempo was set early by the Chicago forecheckers as the period drew on. Noticeable play from the likes of Wade Megan and Zac Leslie highlighted the early half of the first period.
A great penalty kill for the Wolves gave hope early and, as the PK concluded, Megan flew to the front of the net after dishing the puck to Leslie, to put back Leslie’s rebound at the 9:12 mark and put Chicago up 1-0.
The teams traded chances until William Pelletier cashed in for the Hogs at 13:24 on a puck that should have left the zone. The name of the game was special teams, later in the first, Luke Johnson cashed in on a Cody Franson shot that took a weird bounce off the skate of Chicago defenseman Jake Bischoff, and the Hogs went up 2-1 at 19:08.
As the period came to a close, the Wolves went to the power play with under 1:00 left. Defenseman Leslie lead the charge up ice and dished the puck to T.J. Tynan, who fired the puck off Delia’s pads. Leslie crashed the net and potted the rebound with fractions of a second left to make it a 2-2 contest heading into 1st intermission.
The second period started similarly for the Wolves as the first did, high energy and tempo set the tone early until, another penalty favors Rockford as it would be Matthew Highmore putting the Hogs up 3-2 at 3:47. Chicago goaltender Oscar Dansk looked to be terribly out of position.
Not too long after, the Wolves once again found themselves on the kill, this time a five on three advantage for Rockford. The Icehogs capitalized as Chris DiDomenico fired home the Victor Edjsell dish at 16:04 and put the Hogs up 4-2. Action traded back and forth going into the second intermission and the Icehogs lead 4-2 at the break.
The third period started very differently than the first two for Chicago as the Wolves came out flat. They lacked energy and intensity, facing defeat with another twenty minutes yet to play.
Both two teams traded power plays but to no avail. The Wolves and Rockford also traded shorthanded breakaways only for the Icehogs defense to negate Chicago’s chance, and Lance Bouma to put a puck off the post on the Rockford chance.
With under three minutes remaining, the Wolves pulled Dansk only to have Bouma fire home a 102-foot shot (19:21) and the Icehogs would go on to win Game 2 of the Central Division Semifinals, 5-2.
Post-game thoughts: Chicago came out like a team looking to redeem themselves for Saturday night’s loss. However, penalties proved to be the Achilles heel for the Wolves as Rockford would go on to score three power play goals on Sunday.
The Wolves found great energy early on, however as the game wore on, the confidence of the team began to fade. Rockford seemed to figure out the Wolves’ game.
Many passes in the cycle seemed to be read by Rockford, as the Hogs kept most of Chicago’s play out on the perimeter throughout the contest.
If the Wolves want to have any chance of completing the 3-game comeback, they will need to generate chances in the slot, shoot more and make less unnecessary passes and possibly, change up a few of the active players.
This could be the time to give 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass and Nick Suzuki a chance to taste pro hockey. Without a jump-start, they, along with their teammates, will be going home earlier than many originally anticipated after Chicago captured their second consecutive Central Division title.
Official box score: https://theahl.com/stats/game-summary/1018267
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