AHL Morning Skate: 6.22.22

Photo: Ross Dettman

C1-Chicago Wolves vs. A2-Springfield Thunderbirds
Game 3 – Tonight, 7:05 ET, AHLTV
(Series tied, 1-1)

Game 1 – Sun., June 19 – Springfield 5, CHICAGO 4 (OT) | Recap
Game 2 – Mon., June 20 – CHICAGO 6, Springfield 2 | Recap
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

For the first time in 31 years, Western Massachusetts hosts a Calder Cup Finals game tonight as the Springfield Thunderbirds battle the Chicago Wolves in Game 3... The best-of-seven series is even at a game apiece following Chicago’s 6-2 victory on Monday night... The Wolves scored four times in the opening 10:12 of Game 2 en route to tying a club record for goals in a Finals game... Andrew Poturalski (6-13-19) notched a goal and three assists and Stefan Noesen (8-14-22) became the first AHL player since Cory Conacher in 2012 to dish out four assists in a Calder Cup Finals contest... Coincidentally, both Noesen and Conacher set up Richard Panik (4-4-8) in their four-assist games; Panik has scored a goal in seven consecutive Finals games going back to 2013, and has totaled 9-2-11 in 12 career Finals matches with Chicago, Syracuse and Norfolk... Josh Leivo (13-11-24) scored a pair of power-play goals in Game 2, the third time this postseason he has accomplished that feat... Joey Keane (1-9-10) had two points in Game 2, including his first goal since Apr. 16... The Wolves scored two goals in 29 seconds early in Game 2; they struck twice in 17 seconds during the second period of Game 1, and twice in 35 seconds late in their series-clinching win over Stockton last round... Pyotr Kochetkov (3-1, 1.96, .936) made 22 saves as Chicago finished with a 41-24 advantage in shots on goal... Calle Rosen (1-4-5) and Will Bitten (8-12-20) scored for the Thunderbirds in Game 2; Rosen has 5-3-8 in nine career Calder Cup Finals games... Joel Hofer (6-3, 2.50, .936) made 35 saves, and faced at least 40 shots for the fifth time in his nine postseason starts... Chicago is 4-for-9 on the power play in the series; Springfield is 2-for-12... The last Finals game played at the MassMutual Center was on May 24, 1991, when the Springfield Indians defeated Rochester, 5-3, to capture their second consecutive championship... In Calder Cup Finals history, when a series has been tied at 1-1, the Game 3 winner has gone on to win the Cup 72.2 percent of the time (26 of 36).

That was more like it for the Wolves, and not just on the Allstate Arena scoreboard.

“We were just working harder,” head coach Ryan Warsofsky said following an excellent Game 2 performance that produced a 6-2 win on Monday. “Played harder, played with our structure, more details in our game.”

The goals followed that hard work and detail in Chicago’s game. Following the Wolves’ 5-4 overtime loss in Game 1, Warsofsky adjusted his Game 2 lineup. In came Griffin Mendel for Cavan Fitzgerald on the Chicago blue line, and forward Noel Gunler came out in favor of CJ Smith.

For Mendel, it was his first playoff appearance as a pro. The 23-year-old joined the Wolves in March after five seasons of college play with Quinnipiac and Denver.

Warsofsky marveled at another impressive night from forward Josh Leivo, whose 13 goals and 24 points lead the AHL in these playoffs; Leivo has a point in all but one game this spring, and 30 points in his last 19 games dating back to the regular season.

“He was unbelievable tonight,” Warsofsky said. “Unbelievable. He can score. When he’s engaged, he’s the best player on the ice. When he’s moving his feet, he’s a difference maker. He scores big goals after big goals, and he’s a good leader for us on the ice, off the ice. He does it the right way.”

The Thunderbirds departed Chicago with a series split and a valuable lesson following their Game 2 loss.

“We just gave them too much space and a little bit too much respect,” Springfield head coach Drew Bannister said following Game 2. “I didn’t think we played tight enough. We weren’t on our toes. They were able to skate through us and [gain] a lot of opportunities.”

That extra space allowed Chicago’s relentless attack to put the Thunderbirds in a 4-0 hole in the opening 10:12 of Monday’s contest. Eventually the Wolves put 41 shots, 15 of them in the first period, on goaltender Joel Hofer, who was making his first start after Charlie Lindgren had played the previous two games.

Slowing the Chicago attack will not be an easy task for the Thunderbirds, just as it was not for the three teams that the Wolves have already eliminated ― Rockford, Milwaukee, and Stockton. But as the Thunderbirds prepare for the upcoming three games on home ice, Bannister will have an area of emphasis for dealing with Chicago.

“We’ve got to be better defensively,” Bannister said. “Just eliminating their speed and their time with the puck.”

Patrick Williams

Tampa Bay got in the win column with a 6-2 victory over Colorado in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night... Ondrej Palat and Pat Maroon tallied a goal and an assist apiece for the Lightning, and Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 37 shots... Anthony Cirelli, Nick Paul and Corey Perry also scored for Tampa Bay... Game 4 of the series is tonight, with the Avalanche still leading two games to one.

Igor Shesterkin, who was 17-4-3 in 25 appearances with the Hartford Wolf Pack in 2019-20, was announced as the winner of the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s outstanding goaltender this season... Defenseman Moritz Seider won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie; Seider posted 22 points in 49 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2019-20... Seider was also named to the NHL All-Rookie Team, joining fellow AHL alumni Jeremy Swayman, Alexandre Carrier, Michael Bunting and Trevor Zegras... Shesterkin and Roman Josi were voted First Team NHL All-Stars for 2021-22... Jacob Markstrom and Charlie McAvoy earned spots on the Second All-Star Team.

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.