Hungry like the Wolves: Keeping just above .500

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.

It’s been a while since our last update, but not much has changed for the Wolves. They still haven’t won two games in a row since their 4-game win streak to start the season. They’re still just a game above .500 and falling down the AHL standings. The Wolves are still led offensively by AHL veteran Brett Sterling, with Jordan Schroeder, Zack Kassian, and Andrew Ebbett close behind.

That’s why it may have been a surprise to see Schroeder, Kassian, and top defenceman Kevin Connauton scratched from the lineup a week ago against the Peoria Rivermen. Schroeder and Kassian may be second and third on the team in points, but the team was losing and it’s the team that matters.

“They handled it well. But I hope they were pissed off,” said head coach Scott Arniel.

The team certainly handled it well, winning 3-1 after consecutive losses to Rockford and Milwaukee. Darren Archibald scored his second goal of the season since being called up from Kalamazoo to secure the win.

The Wolves were hoping that the wake-up call and the subsequent victory would be enough to set the team on the right track. That remains to be seen, but they received one more wake-up call against the Griffins this weekend.

December 7th: Wolves 0 – 3 Griffins

CBS Chicago:

Chicago (9-9-2-1), which has dropped eight of its last 10 contests, has provided Climie just 15 goals of support in his nine appearances this season.

“They were the better team than we were tonight,” said Wolves head coach Scott Arniel. “We were chasing all night long and you aren’t going to win many hockey games when you have nine shots after two periods.”

Canucks Army:

The Wolves started the night with a line of Kassian-Sterling-Ebbett. On their opening shift, a lucky bounce sprung them for an impromptu 2-on-1. Unfortunately, Kassian telegraphed the pass across the ice the entire way, and it was easily broken up. Given the wicked wrister he put on display early on in the season, this play left me scratching my head. It also wasn’t the only time that he came across as a little gun shy, showing a reluctance to pull the trigger. It seems like ages ago that he was running wild on the Abbotsford Heat in front of an arena full of Canucks fans, and brass.

An interesting combination in this game was the partnership between Anton Rodin and Jordan Schroeder. There were a handful of occasions where they nearly broke free for a ‘home run’ play, but either a good defensive play or an unlucky bounce thwarted them. I would very much like to see them continue playing together for the next little while. I think they have a legitimate chance to make sweet music together; it’s just a question of whether Arniel will let it happen.

December 8th: Wolves 2 – 1 IceHogs

CBS Chicago:

They were shut out at home Friday night, but the Chicago Wolves proved one day can make all the difference when they bested the Rockford IceHogs 2-1 in an Illinois Lottery Cup contest Saturday night at the MetroCentre.

Center Andrew Ebbett and right wing Darren Haydar scored for the Wolves, while goaltender Matt Climie (3-7-0) stopped 23 of 24 shots.

Darren Haydar picked a good time to score his first goal of the season as Chicago’s captain notched the game-winner in the third period to give the Wolves a 2-1 win over the IceHogs Saturday night.

Haydar grabbed an assist to go along with his goal and Andrew Ebbett also scored his third goal of the season for the Wolves.

The Wolves outshot the IceHogs 15-9 in the first period, a period that featured 28 penalty minutes, but it was the IceHogs who headed to the dressing room with a 1-0 lead.

The two teams combined for 84 penalty minutes, which included two scraps on the night. Wolves forward Tim Miller took on Andrew Shaw in the second period – we’ll give the win to Shaw. Connauton then hammered away at IceHogs forward Jeremy Morin’s lip in the third period – a win for Connauton.

Hungry like the Notes:

  • Not only did the Griffins destroy the Wolves 3-0, they had a goal waved off for being kicked in. They out-shot the Wolves 37-20, but even that total doesn’t tell the story, as it includes the 11-11 third period as the team tried to battle back. Through two periods, the Griffins out-shot the Wolves 26-9.
  • Connauton may have struggled defensively against the Griffins, but he at least led the Wolves in shots with 4. Kassian and Schroeder had a shot each coming off being healthy scratched, which had to be disappointing to Arniel.
  • With Eddie Lack still nursing an injury, Matt Climie has taken over between the pipes. He may not have the best record, but he’s making a lot of saves and is being called upon far more than he should. In the last 5 games, the Wolves are allowing 30+ shots in each of their losses and 25 and 24 shots in their two victories. They need to get more consistent at limiting shots.
  • There seems to be as strong a rivalry between the Chicago Wolves and Rockford IceHogs as there is between the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks, their parent clubs. It helps that they’re both in Illinois and battle for the Illinois Lottery Cup, which is apparently a thing. I can’t help but think that prospects coming up through those two organizations will help continue the rivalry in the NHL, which actually makes me really happy.
  • A sign of the rivalry? The near-line brawl that occurred halfway through the first period after a Rockford player ran into Climie after he covered up the puck. While Zack Kassian was tied up with several other Rockford players, Kyle Beach took the opportunity to beat down Sterling, who is all of 5’7″, because Kyle Beach is a bit of a dillweed. I am so very, very glad the Canucks didn’t draft him.
  • 22 minutes in penalties were given out in that one incident. Another 24 minutes were given out at the very end of the game. A grand total of 84 minutes were given out throughout the game. Kyle Beach accounted for 16 of those minutes, Bryan Bollig another 16, and Tim Miller of the Wolves took 17. In the game against Grand Rapids, one incident early in the third resulted in 36 minutes in penalties. It seems like when the Wolves get penalty minutes, they like to get them all at once.
  • To Beach’s credit, he did score the IceHogs’ lone goal of the game with a wicked wristshot, triggering a downpour of teddy bears from the fans. So, y’know, that’s cool.
  • The Wolves’ powerplay may have provided an essential goal in the victory over Rockford, but it’s still terrible. That one goal came on eight attempts.
  • It’s easy to forget that Kevin Connauton is a large dude. Jeremy Morin of the IceHogs made the mistake of challenging him to a fight in the third period. It wasn’t quite a one-punch fight, but it probably should have been, as Morin was knocked to the ice with Connauton’s first blow, but got back up so Connauton could connect with a couple more right jabs to the face. He’s not exactly a fighter, but he can certainly hold his own if the situation calls for it, which is good to know.
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