Home opener: hard hits, fights, shootout

By Etheria Modacure

The Chicago Wolves held the home opener of their 17th season on Oct. 16 at the Allstate Arena with a 3-2 shootout victory over their rival, the Milwaukee Admirals. The contest, before 10,924, lived up to a rivalry game with fights, and hard hits and it ended with a shootout. Spencer Machacek won the shootout with a goal in the extra period.

With four championship banners hanging from the rafters at the Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim Road, in suburban Rosemont, the Wolves will look to win their third Calder Cup Championship (2002, 2008) since joining the American Hockey League in 2001, after the International Hockey League in North America folded. The Wolves are the affiliate of the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers.

The Wolves played their first three AHL games of the 2010–2011 season on the road as they opened the season on Oct. 8 against the San Antonio Rampage with a 6-3 loss.

After losing their opening game, the Wolves went on to win their next two  before triumphing in their home opener. In each of the team’s three victories, they trailed before striking back and eventually winning.

Wolves Head Coach Dan Lever said the team is still a work in progress, as they will try to get everybody on the same page after their win over the Admirals.

“We still seem to be finding our way and [we’re] a little bit too individualistic at times, especially on our power plays,” Lever said.

In their game against the Admirals, the Wolves were down 1-0 in the top half of the second period, when first-line center Jared Ross scored to tie the game.

Ross’ score came after the Wolves’ Andre Deveaux and the Admirals’ Scott Ford got into a fight. Deveaux checked Ford into the boards and the two players began fighting. This was Ford’s second fight during the game and Deveaux made sure it would be his last fight as he bloodied Ford’s face  with repeated punches.

For the Wolves, their home opener marked the third consecutive game they had to rally from a one goal deficit in the third period. After solid play by the Admirals’ goaltender, Chet Pickard, who stopped 30 of 32 shots in the game, the Wolves managed to win in a shootout.

Lever said there was a lot he liked about the game and a lot he didn’t like.

“Home opener or not, [the Admirals] goaltender played a real solid game and we couldn’t put [the puck] past him,”Lever said.

The coach said the team came out strong in the first 10 minutes of the first period, but the Admirals started to win battles with the puck. Lever referred to the Wolves turning the puck over which forced bad plays.

With the Wolves playing the Admirals in a back-to-back series after playing in Milwaukee the night before, Lever said it’s not good when the team is getting out-worked by their opponent in their own arena.

The Wolves also started their second goaltender in four games, as Edward Pasquale has defended the net since Drew MacIntyre gave up six goals in the team’s season opener.

Lever said he is impressed with the job Pasquale has done so far, given that the team had been assigned four goaltenders, one of whom was reassigned to the East Coast Hockey League, and  another was recalled by the Thrashers.

The coach said he loves Pasquale’s size and his knowledge within the goalie crease. He also said Pasquale has started to gain confidence with each game.

Pasquale, who was drafted by the Thrashers in the seventh round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, said he was nervous for the home opener but started to settle down behind the Wolves defense. He acknowledged it was fun to play in a shootout after the team played the Admirals in overtime the night before.

Echoing his coach’s statement of steadily gaining confidence, Pasquale said he just wants to keep it up.

“The more games you play, you get into a little bit of a roll,” Pasquale said after the game. “It seems a little bit easier, and [you] see the puck better.”

For one of the Wolves players, the home opener was more of a homecoming. Darren Haydar, who was the franchise’s seventh captain in 2008, returned to the team he won a Calder Cup Championship with. Haydar was signed on July 28 after stints with the Grand Rapids Griffins and Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL.

Haydar referenced the winning attitude the Wolves organization has amassed over their history and the excitement of returning to play in the team’s home opener.

“It was exciting, a lot of fun,” Haydar said after the game, as he signed autographs. “[I’m] happy to be back in a winning organization and [have the] chance to win again.”

The former Wolves captain said the team needs to play within its systems better in the first period. Haydar also praised Pasquale for playing extremely well in the few games he’s started.

“[We need to] play with a little bit of urgency and not wait until we’re down by a goal to wake up,” Haydar said.