On Tuesday--Playoff Hockey Still Lives In Chicago

On Tuesday--Playoff Hockey Still Lives In Chicago
Chicago playoff hockey is alive and well as the Wolves battle the San Antonio Rampage in the quarterfinals of the Western Conference Championship series of the Calder Cup

Yes, we're all sad about the Blackhawks' one-and-done playoff run this year. Damn shame, going down 4 games to 2 and five straight overtime games to the Phoenix Coyotes, who ended up with their first postseason win.

But look at it this way--Marian Hossa now has a chance to fully recover from the unthinkably brutal hit he took from the Coyotes' Raffi Torres last week; Jonathon Toews can recover from the concussion he suffered earlier in the season that saw him miss the 24 games down the stretch. And Coach Joel Quennville can think about how he's going to regroup the team and create the environment that will allow them to return to the Stanley Cup chase in 2013.

However, there's another cup race Chicagoans need to focus on...specifically, the CALDER Cup. We have another hockey team due northwest from the United Center. And they're making some noise at the Allstate Arena, led by their intrepid mascot Skates.

In their nearly 20-year history as a Chicago minor league hockey franchise, the Wolves have carried the Cup three times.  This is the team’s 15th postseason bid in 18 years.

The 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals marks just the ninth time in their 42 postseason series they have dropped the first two games of a series after capturing the Midwest Division championship at the end of the regular season.

In the best of five quarterfinals against the San Antonio Rampage, the Rampage now lead the series after two very close, intense games, the first one in overtime.  It's not surprising the Wolves find themselves at a disadvantage. During the regular season, the Wolves dropped all four contests to the Rampage this season (0-3-0-1).

It is important to note here that all four games were decided by one goal.

This series, therefore, carries as much drama as the Blackhawks run against the Coyotes. In the Wolves-Rampage series, nine of the 16 goals scored by both teams in the first two games were scored on the power play; Chicago has bagged four man-advantage markers on 10 opportunities, while it has allowed five Rampage power-play goals in nine chances.

In Game 1 last Thursday night, the Wolves surrendered the final three goals, including the game-winner 14:16 into overtime.

But things looked very promising for the Wolves to even the series in San Antonio on Saturday night at the AT&T Center. Entering the third period trailing 4-1, the Wolves proved they could do one thing the Blackhawks were only capable of sporadically over the season--scoring on the power play.

The Wolves cut their deficit to 4-3 with two power-play goals in the span of 41 seconds. The first came while Chicago worked with a 5-on-3 advantage at 8:07. Darren Haydar (G, A) held the puck at the far goal line and tried to slip a pass to Mark Mancari (2A) at the top of the crease, but Haydar’s pass went off a Rampage defender’s skate and through goaltender Jacob Markstorm’s legs. The Wolves converted the remaining power play 41 seconds later when --- Kevin Doell scored his second of the night at 8:07.  Haydar threw the puck to Doell behind the net and he walked to the front of the crease and sent a shot past Markstrom.

The Wolves, a Vancouver Canucks affiliate, couldn’t find the equalizer, though as they fell 4-3 to the Rampage as the game ended in regulation.

Goaltender Matt Climie recorded 20 saves in 33:34 of action while Eddie Lack kicked out all seven shots he faced in 25:25 of relief duty in Climie's loss.

“The game looked like it got away from us and we lost composure at a critical time,” said Wolves head coach Craig MacTavish. “We were able to get back in the third and I hope we can build on it going into Game 3.”

The series shifts to Chicago tonight where the Wolves will try to stave off elimination when they battle the Rampage in Game 3 at 7 p.m. at the Allstate Arena.

There's some hope allowed here. The Wolves have done well in elimination games, and have come back big in must-win situations. They've posted a 15-10 all-time mark when facing elimination in the playoffs, which includes an 8-6 mark on home ice.

n 2002, they came back to beat Syracuse 4-games-to-3 in the Conference Semifinals en route to its 2002 Calder Cup title.

 And finally, the Wolves have accrued a 24-14 mark (.632) all-time in Game 3 of a postseason series and Tuesday’s Game 3 at the Allstate Arena will be the franchise’s first Game 3 at home since the 2004 West Division Finals.

Games 4 and 5, if necessary, are scheduled for Wednesday and Friday in Rosemont. Go out and support the team. And win or lose, you can always find a warm hug from Skates.

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  • Doesn't feel the same since their change in affiliation. Ah, those good old days....

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    Dan, thanks for your comment! You're right, of course. You should feel the atmosphere, though, when the Wolves and the IceHogs face off against each other. It reminds me--and I've been at the Allstate Arena and witnessed it--when the Canucks and Blackhawks face each other...out and out war! To the hockey fan, atmosphere is everything, and those two teams come at each other with such a vengeance!

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    I can't even figure out the affiliation. They face the Milwaukee Skulls 12 times, but the traditional AHL teams I remember (the Rochester Amerks and Syracuse) don't seem to come to Rosemont very often, if at all.

    Anyway, pretty soon the only playoffs left will involve Glenbrook North.

  • Do you mean the Admirals, Jack? Yeah, the trouble with most minor-league affiliates is that they do change a fair amount. Teams fold when they don't make money. Milwaukee Admirals, though, have been around for a very long time. As have the Peoria Rivermen. The Wolves see them all the time. And the IceHogs. They've created some pretty simmering rivalries, though, that are worth the price of admission. Also, the number of players the Hawks sent down to the IceHogs for re-assignment/rehabilitation meant that whenever the IceHogs played the Wolves, you also saw once and future Blackhawks (hello, Ben Smith!). If you need a brain-teaser, just go with that. It's entertaining.

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