As the post-season rapidly approaches, the Chicago Wolves picked up 2 points March 8 in a 5-2 victory over their Midwest division Amtrak rivals, the Milwaukee Admirals.
“I thought we played a good game,” said Head Coach Craig MacTavish. “We’ve played as well as we have all year in the third period.”
The win earned Chicago the Amtrak trophy for the third straight season. The award, which started in 2009, is given to the team with the best head-to-head regular season record. With only one more matchup between the Wolves and the Admirals, the Wolves lead the series 6-4-1.
But the victory also had implications that might lead to yet another, more coveted trophy: the Calder Cup.
“Every game is of critical importance,” MacTavish said after the win. “We can’t be overcome by the tension and the anxieties of the game.”
The Wolves’ victory puts them within 1 point of the Charlotte Checkers, the only team ahead of Chicago in the Midwest division rankings.
“We all glance at the standings, as masochistic as this might be at this time of year,” MacTavish said.
The American Hockey League postseason tournament admits eight teams from each conference. After the win against the Admirals, the Wolves rank No. 5 in the Western Conference.
“We know exactly where we are in the standings,” said Wolves goaltender Eddie Lack, who made 25 saves in the game after coming off of the Wolves’ last matchup against Oklahoma City, where he stopped 32 shots and helped the team snap a five-game losing skid.
After a Milwaukee power-play goal midway through the first period, courtesy of Taylor Beck and assisted by Jonathon Blum and Chris Mueller, Lack stopped all of the Admirals’ 27 shots on goal, with the exception of a last-minute effort by Kevin Henderson.
“Now’s Eddie’s time,” MacTavish said. “He’s just been outstanding.”
Wolves forward Anton Rodin had a two-goal game for the first time in his AHL career, tallying the team’s second and third goals. The first came after Rodin skated past the blue line and, assisted by Byron Bitz and Mark Matheson, fired a close-range slap-shot past Admirals goaltender Jeremy Smith with less than one minute remaining in the first period. Early in the third period Rodin struck again from a similar position on the ice, this time with Mark Mancari assisting.
“It was fun,” Rodin said, adding, “The first one was a lucky one.”
The remaining goals in the third period were all made while Smith was away from his post, giving Mike Duco and Darren Haydar the opportunity to score their empty netters.
Also with points for the Wolves were Jordan Schroeder, who scored Chicago’s first goal during the first period, and Michael Davies and Bill Sweatt, who tallied assists.
The Wolves also spent the weekend in North Carolina playing the Charlotte Checkers March 10 and 11. To see how they did, visit ChicagoWolves.com.