Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wolves Show no Mercy, No Quarter to Providence Bruins, Win 6:0

Life for players in the AHL is very different depending on which conference you play in. In the West where the Chicago Wolves are located the teams are accustomed to an aggressive travel schedule. Working life is frankly a series of practices and winning is often is as much of a product of maintaining training and focus on the road as work on the ice. In the East life is quiter, teams are usually separated by less than 100 miles and it is often joked that it is in players contracts that they must be tucked into their own beds every night with a cup of coco by the team equipment manager.

Every year at AHL league meetings it is the same script the West demands the East divisions start to travel west. The East cries poverty and since they are often the older teams in the league clout usually wins out. This year however a crack in the armour developed two teams are traveling west on quick tours and Western fans will finally get a chance to see the famous physicality of the Eastern game. Last night in the Allstate the famous eastern game did show up at times but the west dominated for the entire game.

It is easy to describe this game, first period goalie Tuukka Rask let in the first goal at 1:09 in the first period, he looked like he didn't know how the puck got there. The next two goals got in the net the same way. At the break Providence coach Rob Murray pulled Rask in favor of Kevin Regan. The Baby Bruins then had their best frame of the night and kept the Wolves scoreless. However, the road weary Bruins let down in the third period and the Wolves eager to make a stand against a possible playoff opponent went for the kill and got in three more. Boris Valibik had a brilliant night, with two assists, goal and a booming dinger he was given the second star of the game. Many more games like this and he will be called up to Wolves parent club in Atlanta before Christmas. Boris you will be missed.

Here are some images of the game.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sometimes you see poetry in motion , or was it just great defence...

Serendipity, is a great muse. I often complain about the endless hours it takes to winnow out the 600-800 images taken at every game to the 40-60 ultimately on file. But sometimes the process can lead to absolutely delightful discoveries, this morning was one of those moments. It was third period of last Saturdays Peoria's game and I had placed the camera on continuous shoot as usual. There was a moment of action at goal where Pavelec was out of the crease and the defence had to take it up several notches the following is what happened over the next several seconds. The photos are all as untouched and as taken.

Nice work Artus Kulda, Spencer Machack and Jordan Lavallee!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The winning continues..Wolves take San Antoino 2:1

Last night at the Allstate the Chicago wolves took another step forward putting doubts behind them. After spending the first few minutes of the first period getting a seance of each other Chicago's Spencer Machaeck teamed up with Matt Anderson and Joe Motzko to start the fire woks early. It was a beautifully executed goal and started the night out right for the home team.

The expected physicality of the game did not develop, penalty minutes were not exceptional with the Rampage earning 26 min/13 inf and the Wolves 22 min/11 inf. In general referee Ian Croft and his team of linesmen Bryn Pancich and Aaron Mills maintained good control for the entire game despite several decent attempts at line brawls. The on ice staff has a tough job it is a fine line between letting the game play itself out and mayhem. The team managed it last night especially during the feisty second and third periods. The 3rd period tripping call on the Rampage goalie Al Moyntaya was an astute good call, it set the tone for the period.

One of the stand out players in this observers eye was Jamie Rivers,his first season with the team he is making a mark for himself. Already wearing the "A" he is a on ice leader. It is easy to catch him encouraging and checking on the younger players constantly during the game. At one point during the game last night I put down my camera just to watch him skate. Put down the camera? Yes, he is possibly the the best skater the Wolves have seen in a long time.
The young pups are going to need the leadership on and off of the ice if the team is going to continue in their winning tradition. The "old men" of the team, Steve Martins and Jamie Rivers have a tall order for this season keeping their young charges advancing in skills and maturing in hockey smarts.

It is early days in the 08' AHL season but the Wolves seem to be making progress shaking their tail feathers and putting doubts behind them. It was a pity that Tuesday's game was seen by such a small crowd the published attendance was 3238. However, it could be questioned if over 2,000 or so spectators came dressed as empty seats. The next home game for the Wolves is Sunday 10/26 at 3:00pm.

It will be the first meeting of the season against favorite rivals Blackhawk affiliate the Rockford Icehogs. Icehog fans are an enthusiastic bunch and there will probably be a large contingent of cowbell wielding, pig snout wearing dyed in the wool Hog Fans. If last year is any indication there probably will be a bit of fire on the ice to cheer on. But remember everyone in the stands, you play nice kids.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wolves Win Two in a Row, Flames and Rivermen fall to Hungry Wolves!

It has been a good weekend for Chicago Wolves fans. Friday night the Wolves warmed up for their home opener by shutting out the Quad city Flames 1:0 in the Wireless Center before 2387 Flames fans. Quad City goalie Matt Keetley turned away 25 SOG while Chicago's Ondrej Pavelec another 25. Penalty minutes were not equally divided between teams however, Quad City received 14 min/7 infractions while referee Ian Croftt awarded Chicago 8 min/4 inf. A number although not excessive to either team does appear unbalanced on the surface. That is unless the Wolves had their angel faces on for the night.

Home opener in Rosemont started with what has become regular event, raising the championship banner from the previous season. When it came time for all members of last years squad to join dignitaries for a photo around the Clader Cup it became apparent that by quick estimation 60% of this years team are returnees. Most of which may be not be "stars" but come with experience of the cup run none the less and this bodes well for the team and the future season.

As the game unfolded against the Peoria Rivermen both teams seem eager to test each other out both in front of the net and to fill the lines of each others dance cards. Boris Valabik was challenged several times in the first period alone, this "chippiness" continued throughout the night. In the end Valabik finished the game with 8 penalty minutes, a fairly light night for the Wolves "Excitable Boy". In the closing moments of the game Chicago's Joey Crabb and Peoria's Brad Winchester both dropped the gloves at the 20:00 mark. So intense were the initial moments the linesmen simply let the players have at it for a full minute before intervening. The crowd went wild and the players offered support by thumping their sticks on the ice. Indeed, a classic hockey moment. PIMs for both teams totalled a balanced Peoria 27 min/12 inf, Chicago 25 min/11 inf, by referee Nygel Pelletier. As always an observer could argue that there were missed calls on both sides but obviously infractions were awarded evenly by minutes.

In the end the only statistic that only matters is the score, the Chicago Wolves retired to the locker room as the victor 2:3 over the Peoria Rivermen. The home team is now 500 in the young season after a rocky start, lets hope they keep the new growth and winning going. The next Chicago Wolves home game is next Tuesday October 21st at the Allstate Arena, puck drop at 7:00pm. Given the fact that it is a week day game the attendance most likely will be much lower than the opening games 11,988. Good seats should be available until game time.

On a personal note many thanks to Snydes and her sister Fids who arranged the import of a carload of Tim Horton's Timbits to celebrate the home opener. It was an absolutely insanely delicious way to start the season. These two ladies smuggled a carload of Timbits for posters on As I have said before you just have to believe in insanity like this, these are the things that make the sport of hockey and it's culture the best.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wolves drop first two, Hawks fire Savard!

Chicago Blackhawks started the year out with a flourish handing Coach Denis Savard his walking papers after 4 games. This appears to be latest of the many moves by owner Rocky Witz has made to remake the Hawks in his image. Savard was quickly replaced by an internal candidate Blackhawks scout and NHL veteran coach Joel Quenneville.

Quenneville boasts a career record of 438-283-118, while Savard's at 65-66-16 with the Hawks indicates that this move may possibly indicate the wish for a more aggressive coaching line behind the bench with the team. Last year under Savard while the Hawks managed to climb to their first 40 win season since 01-02'. Despite this climb they still missed the playoffs. The Hawks will have to perform much better as a team under Quenneville to progress beyond the first round and not rely on on young blood from Rockford and the sticks of Jonathn Toews and Patrick Kane. In short the entire organization had better take it up several notches, Rocky has to pink slips out and obviously is not hesitating to use them.

Meanwhile in Rosemont the ice is firming up for Saturday's home opener. Mean while the Chicago Wolves have started the 08-09' season on the road with a western swing and two heart break defeats.

Saturday's season opener in Houston, seemed to be a game of shaking out the kinks rather than a barn burner from last year. Of course it would be, many of the players from last season are scattered to the AHL/NHL winds never to return. The Wolves are in the process of getting to know their new coach, Don Granato and he, his players, both new to the team and each other. It is going to be a while before this new incarnation of the Wolves gels into the winning form their fans expect.

Houston and the Wolves look evenly matched on for this outing, 27/28 SOG, PIM wre evenly distributed with Houston 10 min/5 inf and Wolves 8 min/4inf, typical of a Aeros/Wolves encounter. The score told the same story, Houston's Dane Crowley scored the first goal of the season at 10:35 in the first period. Colin Stuart answered for the Wolves at 14:18 during the second. Both teams fought until OT then at 2:37 Houston's Krys Kokanos ended the game and sent Chicago to the showers and on the bus to San Antonio for game two of the season.
San Antoino this year featuring a old friends Alex Bourret and Francis Lessard both old Wolves. Frannie managed to contain himself with only 2 minutes of PIMs for holding so he must have plenty of warm fuzzes left for his od team. That's nice. Those hoping for a more exciting game two were to be left disappointed. Again the score was 2:1 a Wolves loss. San Antonio goals were notched by Allex Bourret at 12:50 in the first, and at 19:54 in the second period. The sole Wolves goal was registered by the always pesky Joey Crabb at 17:47 in the first period. Ondrej Pavlec was in goal for both games, he should be well warmed up for Saturday's home opener.

The Rampage proved to be far more feisty this game featured far more fisticuffs than the Aeros game 47 min/15 inf for the Rampage and 41 min/12 inf for the Wolves. Most notable was a bit of dancing between Boris Valabik (7 PIMs) and Garth Murray(17 PIMs) at 10:28 in the 2nd. Looks like Boris is getting back into the AHL swing of things.

It all comes home tomorrow October 18th 7:00 at the Allstate Arena,good seats are still available. Let's drop the puck already!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Giants remain on top of the Causeway!

The Belfast Giants are another step closer to the EIHL championship today with a win over the always scrappy Sheffield Steelers 5:3 on home ice. Stevie Lyle was in goal for the Giants. Lyle was not only in great form, turning away 45 shots but was also favored with amazing luck for the night. There were several shots made by the Steelers offence that defied understanding how they didn't make it to the back of the net. Some days it just pays to get out of bed, Stevie, oh where did you hide that horse shoe?

The Giants continue to have all of their home games webcast for free. You can find the link at the right, it is both Mac and Windows friendly. It is remarkable that the owners of the Giants have made it possible for fans all over the world to watch the team gratis. The only problem, week day games occur in the midst of a work day, hummmmm how to explain to the boss that there is a Irish hockey game on the work computer in the middle of the day?

This photog and Giants fan is open to suggestions.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The leaves are turning, and my minds turning to HOCKEY!

I love this time of year, the air is as crisp as a newly picked apple, sleeping with the window open and an extra blanket. Hockey season is a fresh slate and a new beginning. This year the Chicago Wolves are an especially fresh slate. The coaching staff is new John Anderson has moved up to Atlanta taking Ex Amerk Todd Nelson with him. Their replacements are Don Granato as Head Coach and Jason Christie as Assistant. They worked together in Peoria with the UHL Rivermen and should bringing a fresh prospective and blood to the Wolves. It will be exciting to watch them grow within the system and the system change under their infulence.

Several familiar on ice faces have moved on. Daryn Hayder will be icing for the Grand Rapids Griffins. Jason Krog and Gui Desbiens will both be wearing Manitoba Moose uniforms next week when the season opens. It will be great to see them in town a couple of times a year and fair play to them both, good to see they could stay in North America and out of the Super League. Andre Deveaux will be( Gasp) looking for housing in Toronto, he signed early with the Marlies last spring. It is a sad fact of life in the AHL that the championship team is often cannibalized for the next year, well, it's time to accept the carnage and move on.

The good news for the Wolves. It was announced that Boris Valabik, Artus Kuda, Colin Stuart, Jordan Lavalle(??), Joe Motzko, and Joey Crabb were coming up from Atlanta after camp. On the goalie front Dan Turple and Robert Gherson are on their way north and according to rumor Ondrej Pavelec is also assigned to Chicago. However there is gossip circulating that Pavelec is not a happy camper at the Chicago assignment, after winning Lady Calder a winter in Atlanta would have been more to his taste. Coming up from Gwinette is Chad Denny of the hard wirster and Myles Stoez of the equally hard upper cut, let's see what these kids can do. A new addition to the Wolves this season is Jr. Lessard a scrappy red head who can skate, score and get the job done. It will be exciting to see just what he can add to the Chicago line up, it will be quite a change for him after the cornfields of Iowa.

Lastly, returning this year Steve Martins one of last years Alternate Captains, for what it is worth he has my vote for an upgrade to the "C". It has been a long off season, I'll be the first to start the chant "drop the puck already!".