Hungry like the Wolves: Up the river with the Rivermen and Admirals

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.

For the first time this season, the Wolves lost 3 games in a row. It may not have felt like it, however, since there was a week-long break between two of the games. Way, way back on November 9th, the Wolves lost 7-4 to the Milwaukee Admirals, with Eddie Lack getting pulled for the first time this season after allowing 4 goals on 13 shots. A week later, the Wolves played the Peoria Rivermen on back-to-back nights, losing both by the same 3-2 score.

Fortunately, a rematch versus Milwaukee turned out to be just what they needed (just what they needed!), as the Wolves defeated the Admirals 5-3 and snapped their brief losing streak.

The three-game dip dropped the Wolves to second in their division behind the Grand Rapids Griffins and seventh in the Western Conference. More importantly for Canucks fans, it coincided with the struggles of Zack Kassian who picked up just one point, an assist, in those four games, though he did only play in three of them due to his one-game suspension. Kassian now has 8 points in 14 games after leading the Wolves in scoring earlier in the season.

Here are the highlights, quotes, and notes from all four games:

November 9th: Wolves 4 – 7 Admirals

Chicago Tribune:

Wolves goaltender Eddie Lack (6-3-0) made 9 of 13 saves before being replaced by Matt Climie (12 of 15) at the start of the second period.

…the Wolves outworked the Milwaukee defense to set up Jordan Schroeder’s fourth score of the year, a rifle right past Hellberg’s glove.

CBS Chicago:

Four different players scored for the Wolves as forwards Brett Sterling, Jordan Schroeder, Tim Miller and defenseman Mark Matheson lit the lamp for Chicago.

November 16th: Wolves 2 – 3 Rivermen (OT)

Chicago Tribune:

The Chicago Wolves scored two third-period goals in under 30 seconds to overcome a 2-0 deficit and force overtime, but they couldn’t hold off the Peoria Rivermen Friday night at Carver Arena, falling to host Peoria 3-2 in the extra frame.

Canucks Army:

First, Guillame Desbiens knocked a puck out of the air and into the Peoria net; and not thirty second later Kevin Connauton unleashed a shot from the top of the circle that was expertly tipped by Steve Pinizzotto for the game tying marker.

Easily the best Chicago line on Friday night was the top-line, featuring Darren Haydar, Andrew Ebbett and Steve Pinizzotto. Those three are all solid AHL veterans, and along with Lack their play was a lone bright spot in the first two periods for Chicago.

In contrast, the Jordan Schroeder, Zack Kassian line were very quiet all evening and struggled to develop much of anything with consistency on Friday.

Anton Rodin had a lovely power-play zone-entry in the second period, and followed it up with a really impressive deke while cutting into the slot. Occassionally his skill level is dazzling but those moments have been too few and far between for Rodin this season.

November 17th: Wolves 2 – 3 Rivermen

Chicago Tribune:

Steve Pinizzotto gave the Wolves an early 1-0 lead with this fourth goal in four games.

Late in that period it appeared the Wolves scored a power-play goal, but a video replay upheld the initial no-goal call. For a team that hasn’t scored more than two goals in five of their past seven games, it proved to be an important moment.

“We’ve got people who are squeezing their sticks to score goals,” coach Scott Arniel said. “We need more than just three or four guys scoring. We need goals by committee.”

Canucks Army:

Kassian created a nice scoring chance early in the first, as he put his (vastly underrated) hands on display. He created space behind the net, then took it to the other side for a wrap-around attempt that nearly resulted in a goal.

Kassian drew a 10-minute misconduct late in the 2nd, for unsportsmanlike conduct. I didn’t see exactly what happened, but apparently it was due to his reaction during a goal review that took place.

36: Thanks to a misconduct in the second period, and a roughing penalty which put a bow on the game, Kassian now leads the Wolves with 36 penalty minutes on the season. To put that in perspective, he had 82 PIMs in 74 games (between Buffalo, Vancouver and Rochester) last season.

November 20th: Wolves 5 – 3 Admirals

CBS Chicago:

Left wing Brett Sterling scored two goals and handed out one assist as the Chicago Wolves snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-3 win Tuesday night over the Milwaukee Admirals at Allstate Arena.

Right wing Andrew Gordon, defenseman Mark Matheson and center Jordan Schroeder added tallies for the Wolves (8-5-2-0) while Anton Rodin handed out a professional-best three assists.

After Milwaukee’s Chris Mueller scored his first of two goals, Schroeder answered with a goal from the slot that required him to fall to his knees and elbows to complete his move.

Chicago Sun-Times:

It seems the Wolves’ fortunes are strongly tied to those of Jordan Schroeder, who is among their best skill players.

So it was no surprise that a 5-3 win over the Admirals included a strong performance by the 22-year-old center, including a spectacular second-period goal.

‘‘It feels good to find the score sheet,’’ Schroeder said. ‘‘I had to get back to some basic things and get some pucks on net. I got to give credit to my linemates Gordo [Andrew Gordon] and Kass [Zack Kassian] tonight. I thought we played great — moved the puck well, definitely got a lot of scoring opportunities. So it was good.”

Hungry like the Notes:

  • Thanks to the surplus of defencemen in Chicago, Yann Sauve has only gotten into 8 games so far. On the plus side (literally), he’s tied with Brett Sterling for the team-lead in plus/minus with a plus-6 rating. In fact, Sauve hasn’t been a minus player in any single game this season.
  • Anton Rodin has struggled to produce results offensively this season, but he broke out in a big way in the Wolves win over the Admirals, notching 3 assists. He also picked up an assist in their loss to the Admirals and it was a beauty, as he stickhandled his way through a crowd of defenders to feed Jordan Schroeder for a one-timer. Rodin’s skill is evident, but it needs to lead to numbers on the scoresheet if he’s going to catch the attention of the Canucks’ brass.
  • In all but one of Matt Climie’s appearances this year, he’s given up at least 3 goals. That includes when he came in to the game to relieve Eddie Lack against the Admirals, as he allowed 3 goals against on 15 shots and ended up credited with the loss. Though Lack himself has struggled a bit, giving up 10 goals in his last 3 starts, he doesn’t seem like he’s in any danger of losing his starting job.
  • Alex Friesen stepped in to fight Mark Cundari after the Rivermen defenceman hit Rodin with a hard check that earned a charging minor. Friesen’s just 5’9″, making him an unlikely candidate for the role; fortunately, Cundari is also 5’9″ and it ended up being a fairly evenly matched tilt. At his size, Friesen isn’t going to make the Canucks with his pugilistic ability, so he’ll need to show that he can translate his offensive ability (71 pts in 62 games in his final OHL season) to the professional ranks, making his grit a complement to his game rather than the sole element of it.
  • While it’s extremely unlikely for someone to debut in the NHL and become a legitimate NHL player at the age of 28, Steve Pinizzotto is one of the few who could manage it. It seems like it’s been mostly bad luck preventing him from making it so far and he’s making the most of his return to professional hockey this season after missing a year recovering from a shoulder injury. He had two goals against the Rivermen, one in each game. The first was a deft tip in front of the net, while the second showcased his impressively soft hands, as he corralled a rebound and undressed the goaltender by going backhand-forehand. Add in his size and fighting ability and there seems little reason why Pinizzotto couldn’t find a home on the Canucks’ fourth line.
  • It has now been seven games without a goal for Zack Kassian, though he came close in the second game against the Rivermen on a wrap-around attempt near the beginning of the game. More impressive than the wrap-around was everything leading up to it, as Kassian adroitly held off his defender using his size and strength, then lost his check with a shifty move behind the net. I’m not too worried about Kassian, as he is still second on the team in shots (behind Connauton, tied with Schroeder) and the goals will come.
  • Kassian evidently received his 10-minute misconduct in the second game against Peoria for something he said after a goal he thought he scored was disallowed. It’s entirely likely that he’s more frustrated than anyone else about his lack of goal-scoring recently.
  • I still hold out hope that the Canucks will sign Nathan Longpre after his tryout with the team as an invitee led to a contract with the Wolves, his play on Brett Sterling’s opening goal against the Admirals on Tuesday was fantastic, as he drove back three players  with his speed gaining the zone before dropping the puck to Sterling.
  • Jordan Schroeder’s goal against the Admirals was fantastic, as much for the play prior to the goal as his move to score. He used his speed to rotate up to the blue line and shake his defender, who ended up accidentally double-teaming Matheson instead of following Schroeder into the slot. Tanev found Schroeder there with a lovely pass, allowing Schroeder to spin around, pull the puck from his backhand to forehand, and fire it through the legs of Kassian and into the net.
  • Odd thing I just noticed: it looks like the benches in Allstate Arena, the Wolves’ home rink, have a second row as there’s not enough room to accommodate the entire team on the one bench. During the highlights of the 5-3 win over the Admirals, I noticed Tanev sitting back there alongside his D-partner, Matheson. Odd.
  • With two goals and an assist, Brett Sterling was named the first star in the Wolves 5-3 defeat of the Admirals. To celebrate, he briefly did the Gangnam Style dance…poorly.
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  1. TestingTesting
    November 21, 2012

    “15 games into the season Tanev will have more points than Connauton” – Nobody


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    • Daniel Wagner
      November 21, 2012

      Ha, that’s a good point. Tanev has 6 points, while Connauton has just 5. Two fewer games, as well.

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