A few years ago, Chicago Wolves rookie Ty Rattie had to make a decision about his athletic future -- hockey or baseball. Obviously, he chose hockey, but his significant baseball skills are still paying dividends.
In Saturday's overtime loss to the Milwaukee Admirals, Rattie scored a goal that may become the stuff of legend if he goes on to a successful NHL career.
While drifting away from the Admirals goal, Rattie twisted his upper body to swat the puck out of midair and past goalie Hannu Toivonen from the left face-off dot. Although some observers might disregard the goal as a fluke, it took a tremendous amount of hand-eye coordination, a skill Rattie learned from his baseball days.
"I like to think I was a decent hitter when I played," Rattie said. "I definitely don’t think I would have gotten anywhere close unless I did play baseball. You hear about people with multi-sports and how good it is and stuff, and I think it’s a huge thing. That definitely helped."
Captain Taylor Chorney called the goal "unbelievable," while coach John Anderson joked that those are the kinds of goals they expect from Rattie, whom the Blues selected in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Rattie himself isn't even sure what to think of the goal, which was his team-leading 19th of the season.
"It is something you see and just do. I really don’t know how to explain it," he said. "I couldn’t believe it myself when it actually went in. These guys never believe that I was a good baseball player, but now I think, hopefully, they do."
It's a good bet they do now. If you haven't seen the goal, it's included in the Wolves TV game highlights package below. His goal is right around the 1:55 mark.
GRABBING THE GRIFFINS BY THE TAIL
Entering another 3-in-3 this weekend, the Wolves are closing in on the Midwest Division-leading Grand Rapids Griffins. The Wolves, who have won 17 of their past 25 games (17-4-4-0), trail the Griffins by one point with both teams having played 51 games.
On Jan. 18, the Wolves trailed the Griffins by 13 points, but have gone 9-2-2-0 since. In the past 10 games alone, the Wolves have gained six points on the Griffins, who have only five wins in that span. [NOTE: This paragraph was updated to reflect new information]
Instead of being discouraged by the deficit, the Wolves set their goal on catching the Griffins.
"We’ve got standings up in the locker room here and at our practice rink, so we know exactly where we’re at," Chorney said after Saturday's game. "I don’t think it’s necessarily our sole focus, but at the same time, it’s something that we’re shooting for. We’re trying to climb in there."
The Wolves are wary of two things: the possibility of catching the Griffins, then letting up; and also losing focus during these 3-in-3 weekends. There's still too much schedule left to be scoreboard watching.
"Yeah, you don’t want to look too far ahead and get too antsy," center Adam Cracknell said. "We’re just working on the process right now. Guys are playing good and we just got to keep focus on what we’re doing right."
Because the standings are so tight, Anderson said it's possible one bad weekend could drop the Wolves into just fighting for playoff position rather than the division title.
"As good as we’re doing, the gas pedal is on the right. We gotta keep pushing," he said.
NEWSPAPER DEADLINE KILLERS
The Wolves (29-16-4-2, 64 points) are in such a good position because of their abilities to pull out tight games. Their 3-2 victory over the Admirals on Sunday gave them a league-leading 19 one-goal wins. They're tied with Milwaukee for the Western Conference lead in one-goal games with 31 (19-6-4-2).
Maybe not surprisingly, all eight of the Wolves games with the Admirals this season have been decided by one goal with five extending beyond regulation. Chicago is 6-0-1-1 in the series.
"We don’t want to be in close games but it’s good that we’re coming out on top when we are in those games," said right wing Michael Davies, whose second-period goal Sunday opened the Wolves scoring.
That goal also erased the Wolves' 0-for-31 mark on the power play against Milwaukee this season. But with the team's overall struggles with the man-advantage, that milestone wasn't high on Davies' mind when he scored.
"Oh, we hadn’t? Oh wow," he said when told Tuesday about the Wolves' 0-fer on the power-play against the Admirals. "I knew it was a big goal because we were down a goal, too. Obviously we’ve been struggling this year on the power play, so our goal is just to throw pucks at the net. I just made a good play off the wall and threw it at the net and got my own rebound, so it was good just to relieve that pressure."
Chicago remains lodged in the league basement with a 12.0 percent (28-for-233) success rate on the power play.
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