Hungry like the Wolves is an ongoing feature on Pass it to Bulis during the lockout, wherein we keep an eye on the Canucks prospects and property currently playing for the Wolves as it’s the closest thing we’re going to get to Canucks hockey for quite some time.
The Chicago Wolves are proving to be one of the best teams in the AHL, largely because they’re not dependent on the influx of talent from the NHL lockout. Though the Wolves are benefiting from the presence of Zack Kassian, Chris Tanev, and Andrew Ebbett, they’re getting big contributions from Brett Sterling, Andrew Gordon, and Nathan Longpre, players who are signed exclusively to the Wolves.
It also doesn’t hurt that they’re getting some of the best goaltending in the AHL from Eddie Lack, who would only be out of the Wolves’ lineup if Luongo was traded without a veteran replacement coming the other way. Lack has been in net for 6 of the Wolves’ 7 wins, with a .915 SV% and a 2.56 GAA.
No Canucks prospects, however, are dominating in the AHL right now, not like Justin Schultz is for the Oilers’ affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons, with his league-leading 15 points in 10 games, or Mikael Granlund for the Wilds’ affiliate, the Houston Aeros, with 12 points in 8 games. Then there’s Roman Horak for the Flames’ affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat, who has an incredible 10 goals – goals, not points – in 9 games.
The top prospect on the Wolves right now is Zack Kassian, who has a respectable 7 points in 11 games. I’m sure, however, that Canucks fans would love to see him doing a little more dominating this season. Certainly, some fans would be keeping a close eye on Cody Hodgson this season, who has 10 points in 9 games. If that fact causes any of you to throw a conniption fit, consider this: Hodgson has broken his hand and will be out for “a couple weeks,” so who knows how effective he’ll be over the remainder of the season.
The Wolves have played 3 games since our last update, one against the Rockford IceHogs and two against the Charlotte Checkers, picking up two victories.
November 2nd: Wolves 6 – 3 IceHogs
Wolves’ goaltender Eddie Lack stopped 29 shots for his fifth win of the season.
At 2:46 into the second frame, Jordan Schroeder tallied his third of the year off a set-up by Tim Miller, who earned his first point of the year, to make it 3-1 Wolves. Then it was defenseman Peter Andersson being the set-up man, putting Bill Sweatt in perfect position on the power play to score off a pad rebound by Hutton.
The Wolves tried slamming the door on a Rockford comeback when defenseman Chris Tanev took a pass from Zack Kassian at 10:31 in the third period and did something he hadn’t done in the AHL since 2010 – score.
The thing that really stands out about the Wolves as a team is their speed. They are remarkably quick to counter-attack, and break out of their own zone. The most impressive of the bunch in that regard is Bill Sweatt, who has been playing with a jet pack strapped to his back the past few games. He has been flying, and was among the best of the Wolves skaters once again.
Schroeder continued his resurgence in this game, winding up with three points on the night. It’s tough to say if he meant to do what he did to set up the first goal of the night, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. He pulled off a no-look, backhand pass from behind the net that would make even Steve Nash jealous. Gordon was the beneficiary, burying it as he was left wide open in the slot.
I feel obligated to report that Kevin Connauton and Kyle Beach “fought”. And by that, I mean that Connauton had him in a headlock for 20 seconds, before they were broken up.
November 4th: Wolves 1 – 4 Checkers
When a little extracurricular activity broke out in front of the Checkers net after the whistle, Chicago’s Zack Kassian and Charlotte’s Jeremy Welsh each got two minutes for roughing, but Sterling was also sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct. It took all of eight seconds on the power play for the Checkers to regain the lead when Zach Boychuck redirected a pass from Bobby Sanguinetti over Climie at 18:01.
Jordan Schroeder and Bill Sweatt have been back together for most of the season but have had a variety of wingers. Andrew Gordon took a turn with them on Sunday and the trio was far and away Chicago’s best line. Sweatt has really been a threat of late; his speed has always been evident but it’s clear he worked hard this offseason on his strength. He was winning puck battles along the boards all game.
Zack Kassian got to play with Nathan Longpre and Steve Pinizotto, a grouping that seems to be working and might even happen in the NHL.
The rest of the lineup was pretty mediocre, including the Ebbett-Sterling-Davies ‘Mighty Mouse’-themed line, even if they did score a goal off a lucky bounce.
November 6th: Wolves 2 – 1 Checkers
The Wolves howled back early in the second. Brett Sterling, riding a three-game point streak, carried the puck through a tight Charlotte defense and fired a shot at Ellis. The rebound ricocheted right into the path of Pinizzotto, who rifled his first score of the season 1:04 into the period.
Pinizzotto jumped on another rebound and flipped home his second goal of the game at 12:50 of the second period.
The Wolves tried to make it a two-goal game moments later, but Zack Kassian’s apparent score was waved off because of goalie interference.
Center Steve Pinizzotto delivered his first two goals for the Wolves — his first goals in a regular-season game since April 1, 2011 — to pull Chicago (7-3-1-0) into a tie with Charlotte for the most points in the American Hockey League with 15.
Goaltender Eddie Lack (6-2-0) stopped 24 shots to earn the win.
Hungry like the Notes: