AHL Morning Skate: 6.3.22

A2-Springfield Thunderbirds vs. N3-Laval Rocket
Game 1 – Saturday, 7:35 ET, AHLTV

Game 1 – Sat., June 4 – Laval at Springfield, 7:35
Game 2 – Sun., June 5 – Laval at Springfield, 5:05
Game 3 – Wed., June 8 – Springfield at Laval, 7:00
Game 4 – Fri., June 10 – Springfield at Laval, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sat., June 11 – Springfield at Laval, 7:00
*Game 6 – Mon., June 13 – Laval at Springfield, 7:05
*Game 7 – Wed., June 15 – Laval at Springfield, 7:05
*if necessary… All times Eastern

C1-Chicago Wolves vs. P1-Stockton Heat
Game 1 – Friday, 8:00 ET, AHLTV

Game 1 – Fri., June 3 – Stockton at Chicago, 8:00
Game 2 – Mon., June 6 – Stockton at Chicago, 8:00
Game 3 – Wed., June 8 – Chicago at Stockton, 9:30
Game 4 – Fri., June 10 – Chicago at Stockton, 10:00
*Game 5 – Sat., June 11 – Chicago at Stockton, 9:00
*Game 6 – Tue., June 14 – Stockton at Chicago, 8:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 15 – Stockton at Chicago, 8:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

The Western Conference Finals get underway tonight with Chicago hosting Stockton in Game 1 at Allstate Arena... Tonight marks the first-ever game between the Wolves and Heat, who finished the regular season as the top two teams in the AHL... Chicago earned the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy ― and with it home-ice advantage in this series ― by overtaking Stockton on the last day of the season... The Wolves are coming off a 3-1 series victory over Milwaukee in the Central Division Finals, and have won six straight home games since their last loss on Apr. 23... The Heat defeated Colorado in the Pacific Division Finals, three games to one, with Dustin Wolf tying an AHL record with three shutouts in a single series... Wolf (6-1, 1.82, .941), who did not register a single shutout during the regular season, is also the first AHL goaltender to post three in one postseason since Michael Hutchinson for St. John’s in 2014... Justin Kirkland (5-2-7) scored four goals in the last round vs. Colorado, including all three game-winning tallies... Matthew Phillips (3-4-7) is tied with Kirkland for the Stockton playoff scoring lead... Wolves forward Josh Leivo (6-7-13) has points in all seven games for Chicago this postseason, including a hat trick in the series-clinching win over Milwaukee last Friday... Jack Drury (5-4-9), Stefan Noesen (5-4-9) and Andrew Poturalski (3-6-9) have nine points each during the playoffs... Alex Lyon (6-1, 1.87, .926) has allowed two goals or fewer in six of his seven playoff starts and owns a .936 save percentage in 20 career Calder Cup Playoff appearances... Chicago (99-77) is bidding for its 100th Calder Cup Playoff victory all-time, a milestone reached by only six other AHL franchises (Hershey Bears, Rochester Americans, Cleveland Barons, Springfield Indians/Kings, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Providence Bruins).

Chicago head coach Ryan Warsofsky has a significant decision to make before his Wolves face the Stockton Heat in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals tonight at Allstate Arena.

Who will start in net against the American Hockey League’s third-best regular-season offense?

Incumbent Alex Lyon? Or top prospect Pyotr Kochetkov?

“I don’t know if we’ve decided yet, but Alex has been really good,” Warsofsky said yesterday following practice.

Lyon, of course, has been a fixture in net for the Wolves this postseason, going 6-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in series wins over Rockford and Milwaukee. He also went 18-7-3 in 33 regular-season games, finishing second in the league with a 2.16 GAA as the Wolves allowed the AHL’s fewest goals per game (2.55).

But then there is Kochetkov, a 22-year-old who might be the parent Carolina Hurricanes’ future in net. After being knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the New York Rangers on Monday, Carolina returned Kochetkov and fellow goaltending prospect Jack LaFontaine to Chicago.

Taken in the second round of the 2019 National Hockey League Draft by the Hurricanes, Kochetkov excelled with the Wolves after joining the team in February from Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of the Kontinental Hockey League. He went 13-1-1 in 15 AHL appearances with a 2.09 GAA and a .921 save percentage, and was named the AHL Rookie of the Month for March. He also played three regular-season games and four postseason contests with the Hurricanes.

“I think it’s a good thing, right?” Warsofsky said of an ever-growing list of goaltending options that also includes Dylan Wells, Lyon’s back-up in the first two rounds. “We have really good goaltending, and you need good goaltending. You see right now in the National Hockey League that things can change in a blink of an eye.”

While the Wolves have a crowded crease now, they also potentially have a packed schedule ahead of them. The teams could play four games in six nights next week with a long travel day to Stockton included as well.

“We need good goaltending,” Warsofsky continued. “I envision us using both goaltenders, Kochetkov and Lyon.

“We have full confidence in all four of our goaltenders that are here and that can win us hockey games. So we’re just going to take this thing day by day and game by game.”

The Stockton Heat are on a business trip to Chicago, but there has been some time for pleasure as well

After practicing Wednesday, the team took in a Chicago Cubs game Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.

Yesterday it was back to work for the Heat. They did not face Chicago during the regular season, and a portion of head coach Mitch Love’s agenda this week has been about bringing his players up to speed on their latest playoff opponent.

“We’re trying to do some video on them,” rookie forward Jakob Pelletier said following practice yesterday. “I think the first game, we’re going to have to probably [make] some adjustments.”

Pelletier, a 2019 first-round pick by the parent Calgary Flames, will attempt to continue what has already been a very successful first pro season. He earned a spot on the AHL All-Rookie Team after finishing third in rookie scoring with 62 points (27 goals, 35 assists) in 66 games for the Pacific Division champion Heat. He has taken that standard into the postseason with six points (three goals, three assists) in seven appearances.

As Pelletier and his teammates learn more about the Wolves, it has become clear that they face a significant obstacle to representing the Western Conference in the Calder Cup Finals later this month. Of course, so do the Wolves.

“I think we feel good,” Pelletier said. “We know it’s going to be a hard and long series. I think we’re ready for that also, and we just can’t wait to start.

“If we play our type of game, probably like we did for eight months now, I like our chances.”

Patrick Williams

In Stanley Cup Playoff action last night, Pavel Francouz made 24 saves starting in place of an injured Darcy Kuemper, and Colorado shut out Edmonton, 4-0, in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final... Mikko Rantanen tallied a goal and an assist for the Avalanche, and Nazem Kadri assisted on all three Avs goals scored in a span of 2:04 during the second period.

Darryl Sutter of the Calgary Flames was announced as the winner of the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s outstanding coach... Sutter was the AHL’s Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award winner as the league’s top rookie with the New Brunswick Hawks in 1979-80... Sutter and Stockton’s Mitch Love, who won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the outstanding coach in the AHL for 2021-22, are the fourth pair of coaches from the same organization to win coach of the year honors in the NHL and AHL in the same season, joining Dan Bylsma and John Hynes (Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 2010-11), Pat Burns and Marc Crawford (Toronto and St. John’s, 1992-93), and Scotty Bowman and Al MacNeil (Montreal and Nova Scotia, 1976-77).

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.