AHL Morning Skate: 6.20.22

Photo: Lucas Armstrong

C1-Chicago Wolves vs. A2-Springfield Thunderbirds
Game 2 – Tonight, 8:00 ET, AHLTV
(Springfield leads series, 1-0)

Game 1 – Sun., June 19 – Springfield 5, CHICAGO 4 (OT) | Recap
Game 2 – Mon., June 20 – Springfield at Chicago, 8:00
Game 3 – Wed., June 22 – Chicago at Springfield, 7:05
Game 4 – Fri., June 24 – Chicago at Springfield, 7:05
*Game 5 – Sat., June 25 – Chicago at Springfield, 7:05
*Game 6 – Tue., June 28 – Springfield at Chicago, 8:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 29 – Springfield at Chicago, 8:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

The Calder Cup Finals continue with Game 2 tonight following Springfield’s come-from-behind overtime decision in yesterday’s series opener... Matt Kessel’s first goal as a professional came 5:09 into OT and gave the Thunderbirds a 5-4 victory... Kessel (1-1-2), a 2020 draft pick by the parent St. Louis Blues, joined Springfield on Mar. 28 after completing his junior season at UMass-Amherst... Both of Kessel’s points this postseason have come on overtime goals; he assisted on the OT winner in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals vs. Laval... The Thunderbirds trailed by two early in the third period but goal goals from defensemen Tommy Cross (3-7-10) and Brady Lyle (3-6-9) to tie the game... Lyle’s equalizer came with 1:28 left in regulation and the Springfield net empty for an extra attacker... Matthew Peca (6-10-16) led the Thunderbirds’ offense with a goal and two assists in Game 1... James Neal (3-8-11) and Will Bitten (7-12-19) notched two assists each, and Chicago native Hugh McGing (4-3-7) scored a goal... Charlie Lindgren (5-1, 2.68, .918) turned aside 33 shots, including 17 in the first period alone... Jack Drury (8-10-18) and Stefan Noesen (8-10-18) recorded a goal and an assist each for the Wolves, who lost on home ice for the first time this postseason (7-1)... Richard Panik (3-4-7) and David Gust (4-7-11) scored 17 seconds apart during the second period to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 Chicago lead... Panik has 8-2-10 in 11 career Calder Cup Finals games, including goals in six straight... Josh Leivo (11-11-22) increased his league-leading point total to 22 with two assists... Alex Lyon (8-3, 2.21, .916) made 30 saves in net for the Wolves, but lost a second consecutive decision for the first time since Feb. 11-15... Chicago has dropped three of its last four games, all in overtime... Springfield is now 3-1 in overtime games this postseason... The Wolves were 2-for-3 on the power play in Game 1, while the Thunderbirds went 1-for-5... In Calder Cup Finals history, the Game 1 winner has won the series 63 of 83 times (75.9 percent)... Game 1 winners have gone on to win 19 of 21 series this postseason.

After a two-goal third-period comeback to send Game 1 into overtime, the Thunderbirds still had more work to do.

“I think for the most part our mentality doesn’t change throughout the game,” said defenseman Brady Lyle, whose goal with 1:28 to go in regulation forced OT. “We don’t want to get too high. We don’t want to get too low.”

Lyle, who turned 23 on June 6, came to Springfield in a late-March deal orchestrated between the parent St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins. Acquired for future considerations one day after the Blues had signed Game 1 hero and fellow blueliner Matt Kessel, the pair were part of a late-season makeover for the Springfield blue line.

Springfield needed help, and the two newcomers offered that. Scott Perunovich, an early-season force with Springfield, had ultimately stuck with the Blues. Experienced Calle Rosen had just been recalled to St. Louis and ended up staying with the Blues until their second-round elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs two months later.

Before the deal, the undrafted Lyle had nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 48 games with the Providence Bruins. After going to Springfield, he finished with seven points (three goals, four assist) in 15 games down the regular-season stretch drive. In 12 playoff games for the Thunderbirds, he has nine points (three goals, six assists).

Lyle says that he has not thought much about how the trade impacted his career. But head coach Drew Bannister utilizing him while down a goal in the final two minutes of a game in the Calder Cup Finals says plenty.

“To be honest, I haven’t really thought about [the trade] too much,” Lyle said. “Just focused on trying to win a Calder Cup here. I’m sure after the season I’ll look back on it, and it will be something that I’m pretty grateful for.”

The Calder Cup Finals are an entirely different challenge, as Chicago head coach Ryan Warsofsky quickly pointed out following the team’s Game 1 loss yesterday.

“I don’t think we had our best tonight,” Warsofsky said at the post-game press conference. “I think we had some guys that…maybe got surprised by the speed of the game, the intensity.”

Protecting leads is a must at the stage of the Calder Cup Playoffs, and the Wolves saw a two-goal third-period lead dissolve for the second time in their last four games. The Wolves surely faced a relentless opponent in the Western Conference Finals against Stockton; now they are getting another dose of trouble from a stubborn Springfield opponent that steadily pushed and pushed during the Game 1 comeback.

“This is a good team, too,” Warsofsky said of the Thunderbirds. “They’re here for a reason. They have really good players that can make you pay offensively, and we really learned that the hard way there in overtime.

“Puck management is probably the biggest thing that we’ve got to be better with. We turned over way too many pucks, and again, they’re a high offensive team. They have four lines that can push the pace offensively.”

Patrick Williams

Colorado took a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final with a 7-0 victory over Tampa Bay in Denver on Saturday night... Valeri Nichushkin scored twice for the Avalanche, Andre Burakovsky added a goal and an assist and Mikko Rantanen recorded three assists... Darren Helm and Josh Manson also scored, while Alex Newhook notched two helpers... Darcy Kuemper finished with 16 saves for the shutout... Game 3 is tonight in Tampa.

Watch the Calder Cup Playoffs on AHLTV
Don’t miss a second on the road to the 2022 Calder Cup championship. AHLTV features live streaming of every AHL game in high definition on desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile devices, as well as OTT platforms such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV. A subscription is just $29.99 for the entire postseason, or just $8.99 for a day pass. Visit AHLTV.com for details.