The confidence Ty Rattie sought early in his rookie season continues to grow with each game he plays for the Chicago Wolves. With that confidence is coming an increased patience, which he displayed in scoring the second of his two goals in the Wolves' 6-2 victory Sunday over Grand Rapids.
Rattie took a pass from Alexandre Bolduc near the Griffins' blue line and raced down the right wing. He cut to this left through the slot, drawing Griffins goalie Tom McCollum to come way out of his crease in anticipation of Rattie's shot.
But instead of shooting, Rattie held the puck just a bit longer and continued to his left. He put the puck to his backhand and shot into an open net as McCollum was left badly out of position.
That goal was Rattie's 27th of his rookie season and it momentarily gave him the AHL lead in rookie goals. Griffins right wing Teemu Pulkkinen later tied him with a second-period goal in the final meeting of the season between the top two teams in the Midwest Division.
Not that the scoring race is all that important to Rattie.
"Not really," Rattie said after Sunday's game when asked if he was following the rookie race. "I know that Pulkkinen guy is pretty good, good shot and he scores a lot, too. I think I’m in the running and we’ll see what happens."
Instead, the Wolves' overall performance is foremost on Rattie's mind as the regular season winds down. Rattie's play has been a major factor in the Wolves' success, as has the effort from goalie Jake Allen, who is on pace for a career season.
Rattie leads the Wolves in goals (27), points (42), shots on goal (167) and games played (68). Drilling down into his stats gives an even clearer picture of Rattie's effect. He's scored 10 of his 27 goals in the third period. Six have been game-tying goals, and another four were game-winning goals. He's also 4-of-8 in shootouts this season.
Rattie said he wasn't sure why he's been able to contribute so much in just his first pro season.
"Yeah, I don’t know, just seeing more (on the ice), I think. That’s big," Rattie said by way of explanation. "And getting open and finding the soft, quiet areas. Bolduc, been playing with him most of the year, and he is really good about finding me in those spots. Then I just have to find an opening. It’s been a good stretch, and hopefully I can keep it going."
Same goes for Allen, who enters tonight's game against Lake Erie at Allstate Arena leading the league in goals-against average (2.06), wins (28) and minutes (2709:59). He's tied for first with five shutouts, and his .927 save percentage leads active goalies.
Allen's 41-save performance in Sunday's victory kept the Wolves from what would have been an epic collapse after building a 5-0 lead early in the second period. The Griffins dominated the final 40 minutes, outshooting the Wolves 35-9. Grand Rapids had two goals disallowed and possibly another goal denied by a quick whistle.
"I feel good," Allen said after the game. "I feel like my game’s been solid. I’m just trying to be as consistent as possible every night, and don’t give the guys a chance. We’re coming down to the wire here, so I’m trying to get as many wins as possible and trying to get home ice for the playoffs."
JUST YOUR ORDINARY ICEHOGS-WOLVES GAME
While most of their meetings this season have been relatively calm, Friday's Wolves-IceHogs game was marred by a couple incidents, both after Rockford players targeted Rattie in the Wolves' 6-0 victory at Allstate Arena.
You can read more about the altercations in my game recap for the Chicago Tribune.
As if the on-ice shenanigans weren't silly enough, IceHogs defenseman Bobby Shea took it to the next level after being sent to the locker room following his scrap with Rattie. Shea wanted more in the tunnel, and went back after Rattie. But not before army crawling over the concrete to protect his skate blades.
Luckily, the cameras were rolling so we can view Shea's technique over and over again:
It's unclear why Shea became so incensed, but perhaps it had something to do with the Wolves' commemorative St. Patrick's Day jerseys. Remember, it was only last St. Patrick's day when this happened:
For the record, Shea received an eight-game suspension, and IceHogs captain Jared Nightingale got six games for leaving the bench to fight Selleck.