Wolves, T-Birds Take It Out East

Chicago Wolves’ Jack Drury (15) gets ready for the puck drop. Drury attended Loyola Academy in Wilmette before finishing his high school career elsewhere. (Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves)

The Chicago Wolves finally remembered why they were such a good team during the regular season and this postseason. They can score goals and keep other teams from scoring.

This was not the case in game one of the 2022 Calder Cup Finals with the visiting Springfield (MA) Thunderbirds as the T-Birds pulled off a 5-4 OT win Sunday afternoon in Rosemont. The win for the AHL Eastern Conference champs came after they fell behind 4-2 entering the third period Sunday.

This did not sit well with Wolves players and coaches. Frustration might have been the best word to use after the OT loss.

But whatever frustrations the home side would feel after Sunday quickly disappeared Monday night in Rosemont.

“We played with much more structure in our game tonight,” Wolves coach Ryan Warsofsky said. “Definitely a much more consistent game for us.”

The Wolves needed a good start after the opening period of the opening game of the series where they would give up two first-period goals. Their start was nothing to sneeze at. Four different Wolves players took turns beating T-Birds starting goaltender Joel Hofer (35 saves). Those players included Richard Panik who made it 1-0 at the 18:18 mark and Spencer Smallman who scored on his only shot of the game with 17:49 remaining making it 2-0.

The other two Wolves first-period goals came off the sticks of Joey Keane with 11:45 left and Wolves leading playoff scorer Josh Leivo who netted the first of two power play goals for the Rosemont faithful to cheer about at the 9:49 mark.

“I think last night was not our best night,” Wolves forward Spencer Smallman said. “Tonight, we wanted to show we’re capable of doing. We were excited to get back out there. I think we were super lucky to have another crack at them (Springfield) so quickly. We had to stay out of the (penalty) box tonight and we did.”

The offense certainly did their part for the Wolves as they made it 5-0 with 14:42 left in the middle period when forward Andrew Poturalski beat Hofer.

Interestingly, the Wolves were outscored by their opponent 2-1 for the remainder of the contest. A fact which was not lost on Warsofsky who was none too pleased with how the officiating handed out three minor penalties to the Wolves over the last six-plus minutes of the middle period.

“You have guys out there who (are) working all summer to get in condition to play in big games like this,” Warsofsky said. “And to have the officiating we had tonight. I am at a loss for words. We were up 5-0, in control of the game and the officials. Well, they deserve better officiating.”

As for T-Birds coach Drew Bannister, he was not pleased with his team’s effort on the night, but pleased to be going back home after a 1-1 split in Rosemont.

“I think we did stick-check a bit too much tonight,” he said. “I had given some thoughts as to maybe calling a timeout after they (Chicago) were scoring those goals early on. But we had been in similar situations like that in these playoffs. So, I wanted our guys to play through it.”

Game three of the AHL Calder Cup Finals is Wednesday at 6 pm in Springfield, MA. Games four and five will be Friday night and Saturday at 6 pm CST.

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