Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hawks Take Control, Lead Series 3:2 after winning game 5

It was Hawks all Chicago BlackHawks at the United Center last night the final score was Hawks 5 Calgary Flames 1. First period established quick domination of the game with three goals in 2 minutes 33 seconds, first 9:15 Brent Seabrook, second 10:49 Patrick Sharp and at 11:48 NHL Rookie of the Year nominee Kris Versteeg. A pace so fierce the in house announce had a difficult time keeping up with the names , just beautiful.

Second period brought the lone goal for Calgary at 2:45 by Dustin Boyd. Hawks answered with two more by Andrew Ladd 6:14. At 13:16 Flames coach Mike Keenan pulled veteran nettie Mikka Kipusoff and replaced him with Curtuis McElhinnery. A little over a minute later at 14:56 Cam Barker marked Hawk turf by finding the twine and scoring on the relief goalie. Ohhh some days it just doesn't pay to strap on the pads. At the end of the night McElhinnery did well turning away the majority of the 20 SOG Calgary faced.

Third period Hawks kept up the pressure and the Flames just hung on and stayed alive. The big excitement was a fight between Calgary Flame Adam Pardy and Hawk Ben Eager by the Flame's bench. They both were awarded 5 minute fighting majors, the fight did seem to release a bit of the on ice tension. However I'm willing to bet there is still enough left over for a feisty game 6.

The BlackHawks and Calgary Flames pack their gear and head north for game 6, to be played Monday night at the Saddle Dome in Calgary. A Calgary win the series returns to Chicago, a Hawks win the series ends and the planning starts to see what the next round will being. Bring on Game 6, how many hours is it until game time?


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hogs Bite the Dust, Where do we go from Here?

The West it's easy, Peoria and Houston are tied at 2:2 the winner of that series will go on to meet Milwaukee Probably in a week to a week and a half. Plenty of time for banged Admirals to heal, mend those sprains or on the contrary get nice and stale, that happens too.

As we look to the North, every bodies favorite road trip!
Manitoba and Toronto are also tied 2:2 next game tomorrow night in Toronto.
Grand Rapids leads Hamilton 2:1, next game tonight in Grand Rapids.

Atlantic Division land of that amazing junk food the hot lobster roll....
Hartford Wolf Pack and Worchester also tied 2:2 next game, Thursday in Hartford.
Providence leads Portland 3 games to 0, tomorrow in Portland.

East Division:That mythical place where players all sleep in their own beds each nite all tucked in with a cup of tea...
Hershey leads Philly in the series 2:0, next game, tonight in Hershey.
WB/Scranton leads Bridgeport 2:1, next game tonight in Bridgeport.

How can you not love this time of year? Flowers are coming up, it will be 80 degrees on Friday and playoff hockey everywhere!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Good news Bad news for the Hawks...

First the bad news for the Chicago Blackhawks, last night Calgary and their rabid crimson wearing home town fans carried the day and the series is now 2:1Hawks. Tomorrow will be tough current bar room intelligence is that the Hawks should come away form Calgary with one win and they will be alright. Loose two and the way to the cup is tougher, but they will be tougher on Chicago ice. Just win tomorrow night Hawks and get it over with. The formula is easy it can be remembered from your peewee days. 60 minutes of hockey, stay out of the penalty box, capitalize on the other guys mistakes and in the name of all that is sacred don't leave poor Khaabibulin all alone in the crease. While you are at it make sure someone keeps Kiprusoff company too.

Now for the good news, Patrick Kane appears to be over his case of the 24 hour "flu" and will be be in in the line up tomorrow night. Second,hopefully the networks will let us hear the unique rendition of the Canadian National Anthem as it is performed in Calgary.The soloist starts then raises the mike and the crowd takes over, we all are lifted in song and hear....
"With glowing hearts
We see thee rise,
The true, north, strong, and free.
From far and wide
Oh Canada
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land
Glorious and free.
Oh Canada
We stand on guard for thee."

All sarcasm aside I have always loved those words.

Here are a few images from Saturday's Hawks victory.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hawks Win 3-2, Hockey is Back in Downtown Chicago!

Last night there was singing and dancing in the streets of downtown. The Chicago BlackHawks who for the last decade have been the basement dwellers of the NHL won their second game in the playoffs. The BlackHawk faithful long starved for the heady playoff wine were ready for the puck to drop. Walking into the United Center the scene before us was pure excitement, fans dancing, waving the "rally towels" that were given to them at the door. A common theme was that although confident in their beloved Hawks many fans still were looking for reassurance that this all was really happening and not just some delicious hockey dream. The Hawks in the playoffs, who woudda thunk it two short years ago. Certainly, not this photog.

The game did not start well for Chicago, Jarome Iginala and Adrian Aucion both found the back on the net for Calgary leaving the crowd wondering if the mighty Bullin Wall was showing some kinks. Not to fear the young Chicago Captain Jonathan Toews scored 43 seconds into the 2nd period and the pace was set for the rest of the night. Patrick Sharp's goal followed and Jonathan Toews slipped a second puck passed Calgary's Mikka Kipperusoff and the score was 3:2 where it remained the rest of the game.

There are a couple of observations from this minor league fan about the Hawks, first it was wonderful to see so many old IceHogs on the ice. It felt like old home week looking through the lens. Second Goalie Nikoli Khabullin is often a lonely guy out there with out any defense to back him. The Hawks are not going to progress deep into the playoffs riding on the back of their goalie. Give the man some company in the crease. Lastly Jonathan Toews,last night he made a move that I just loved. After his first goal, Toews simply circled Kipperusoff twice maintaining eye contact, pure mind game and beautiful. The kids got game!

Game C and D in the series will take place in the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary on Monday and Wednesday.

Despite the camera spending most of the night in my lap I did manage to get a few images here they are..



Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chicago Wolves Win last game of Season5:2 over IceHogs


A year ago when the last post of the Wolves season was made made it was full of exclamation points and happy chatter regarding the winning of the Calder Cup. This year although having won their last game the boys from Rosemont will be cleaning out their lockers on Monday and calling for tee times on Tuesday. Meanwhile their counterparts with every team within a hundred and fifty miles will be packing their gear and looking to see who will be their first playoff opponent.

In last nights win over the Rockford IceHogs the Wolves played the role of spoiler beautifully. With this loss the Hogs are no longer in control of their own destiny. They will find out who and where they will play next after today's game in Houston. Will it be in warm sunny Texas? Or will da Hogs face powerhouse Milwaukee having fallen into 4th place? This is what happens when you don't play like you mean it boys.
The game started out with discipline enough then got a bit out of hand when at 1:50 the first period Rockford enforcer and Ex-Wolf Sean McMorrow received a double minor (4:00) for "attempted head butting" and Mike Brennam 2:oo for interference. This set up a rocket of a Chad Denny Special assisted by Martins and Sterling at 3:39. By the 14:51 the score was 5:0, Referee Dan Banfield (44)was beginning to add up the PIMs on Rockford including a game misconduct on Kyle Beach for boarding which resulted in a facial injury to Alex brooks. In the end it would be 31 min/10 inf for Rockford and 13min/7inf for Chicago. The low penalty count possibly could be attributed to the "playoff style" of calling penalties by Referee Branfield, which kept this important game for Rockford flowing and let the guys play.

Both Rockford goals were scored by Akim Aliu a BlackHawks prospect who like the Wolves Danick Paquette is fresh up from the Major Juniors. Like Paquette he arrives with a killer check and reputation for a nasty temper. Unlike the Wolves prospect Aliu is over 19 yeas of age and will be in either wear a Rockford or a Blackhawks uniform this fall. It will be most interesting to see how accurate the years of observations and mixed scouting reports on this talented young man have been. No one doubts his ability to put the puck in the net or take an opposing player out of play, but can he remain cool when the ice gets hot?
As Kissane and I left the arena last night talking about where we might go for playoff games in the next weeks. We also talked about season ticket plans for next year. Things seem to of changed for many of the long term season ticket holders, bless our reps, they are still there for us. The ushers in our sections are people we depend on weekly to keep order. But something has changed. There is something different and altered to the point that most of the long term season ticket holders we talked to are going to have a long thought process over the summer as to downgrading their packages. It's not the loosing season, it's something else, times are tough we all are making hard choice as to how to spend our hard earned and disappearing dollars. The easy way would be to say on "Fan appreciation night" we just didn't feel appreciated. I'd go back a bit farther...
Two years ago I covered the Colonial Cup series between the then UHL Rockford IceHogs and the Kalamazoo K-Wings. After the series ended in Rockford the on ice celebration went on for over an hour. But it was very different than the one we observed at the Allstate last year after the Wolves won the Calder. The IceHogs constantly made an efforts to engage the crowd, the fans were as much of a part of the celebration as the team. Look at the photos the Hogs are facing the crowd the Wolves are facing each other and forming a circle closing the fans out. Management teams change, decisions are made to keep sports franchises alive during difficult times that often season ticket holders don't understand the logic of. However, as one who has a voice, I feel the need to express the murmurs of discontent. As one of the true faithful expressed it"we felt as if our hockey family left us". These are tough times, discretionary funds are drying up in family budgets, now may be the time for the front office to turn outward and listen. Sometimes all it takes is giving the impression that you are listening, give a damn and embrace the odd new idea. Now that may help make for a happier " fan appreciation night" that has nothing to do with a winning season.
But what do I know? I'm not an expert, just an observer, photog and I comment on what I see and record of the game I have loved and followed most of my life. In the end the pond never leaves your heart.

Here are some images of the last nights game. Not to worry my kit is still out and I will be covering the road to Lady Calder. The Wolves may be cleaning out their lockers but the second season is just starting for my partners and I. There are the playoffs, rookie camps and hopefully Traverse City to cover. Let's not even think about what arena my Canon and I might be ensconced in come October.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wolves Win one for Pride, Slay Lake Erie Monsters 5:0

Last night those of us who ventured out to the Allstate to see a game that meant nothing statically were rewarded by decent hockey. Don Granato sent out a mix of kids and vets that simply played 60 minutes of hockey and with the exception of Jordah LaVallee stayed out of the penalty box. It begs two questions, why didn't he do this all year and is a taste of next year? I for one hope it is the latter, Pollianna here is going to focus on the positive , on the ice last night were two stand outs. Earlier this week Atlanta signed RW Danick Paquette still a bit wet behind the ears, fresh from the Lewiston Maineiacs the same Major Junior team that brought us Chad Denny. However due to his age unless he is judged ready for the Threashers Paquette will have to return to Liewston for next season and his 19th birthday. Paquette played like his hair was on fire, he hits like a train, finishes his checks and although not listed on the score sheet I can tell you he was in on the scrum for each one. The only negative in his background is a marked propensity for aggression. Under present coach Don Granato they might not be the best of mixes unless Paquette has learned to control his temper.

A second high note was the performance of Andrew Kozek, who has played a handful of games with the Wolves. Last night he did impress, with two goals and did his best for hat trick in the closing seconds. As Kosek was born in 1986 there are no age problems with this young man. If team management sees something they like hopefully he will be back.

The Wolves play for the last time this season on Saturday night facing rivals the Rockford IceHogs. The Hogs failed to clinch a playoff birth losing to the Quad City Flames last night 3:2. Saturday night it will be do or die for the boys for Rockford. As I look into my crystal ball I'd say it is going to be a "physical" game, more sensitive types might want to stay home and watch a DVD of " Slap Shot".

Monday, April 6, 2009

Can you hear Brunhilde Warming Up?

Ok, the time has come to introduce the smelly elephant in the room, the Chicago Wolves were beaten by the Milwaukee Admirals last night 3:2. Ending their mathematical chances at the playoffs the this season. Atlanta had chimed in earlier in the day calling goalie Ondrej Pavelec to Atlanta leaving Wolves with Brett Khran and Dan Turple. Now, that hurts, when the parent club takes it's crown jewel and run to play spoiler in the NHL since it's own playoff chances are over. So sad, too bad for the Wolves who started out well this season raising fans hopes with their new coach then struggling in December, flaming out in January then nose diving in February. Then calling it in for the rest of the season. A few stand out players did on a regular basis attempt to play with heart and stood out like sore thumbs. Chad Denny, Captain Jamie Rivers, Joey Crabb, Spencer Machacek gave and never stopped giving to their team, bravo to all of them! Steve Martin played well most nights but also fell into the the funk affecting the team on occasion.

Now that the math has been done the collective belly aching and predictable calling for Coach Granato's head has begun. Wolves fans are accustomed to playoffs yearly and a season that ends before the middle of May is practically unheard of for Wolves faithful. Well this year if those of us who are the usual residents of of the Allstate Arena wish to see playoff hockey we will have to travel to see it. Making the trek to the lovely Bradley center in Milwaukee, Rockford with it's world class hockey fans, or Peoria celebrating their first time in the playoffs since joining the AHL. It will be great hockey, enjoyable but not quite the same thrill as watching the home team win.

Whether or not there is a wholesale carnage in the Wolves locker room is a decision which will be made by persons with more experience and hockey smarts than I. However, Coach Granato does seem to have one policy that looks like it is producing a toxic residue. As many of us in the stands have noticed every time a a player has entered into a fight that has garnered penalty minutes that player is benched for several games afterward. This policy has hit enforcer Mike Hoffman especially hard, to penalize a player for enforcing the code just poisons the ice. If Granato wants to bench a player for stupid penalties he should start with Brett Sterling and his always ill timed hooking calls. Although I am in no way a supporter of gladiator style hockey the surgical style of a true enforcer is something I see the necessity of and respect in the North American game.

What I do know is that many of us are going to make serious decisions regarding season ticket packages on the basis of those front office decisions in the coming weeks and months . Every off season is an interesting time to study team personality and politics. This off season is going to be absolutely fascinating for those of us who watch the Wolves.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ice Hogs Do Wolves a favor, Lose 4-1 to Milwaukee

Last night before a sold out crowd at the Metro center the Rockford Icehogs did themselves no favors, losing to division leading Milwaukee in great style. My blogging partner, Kris Gray at the described the loss "not being pretty".
With this loss Wolves playoff hopes are rejuvenated. As it was described to me by a Wolves fan and mistress of all things statistical in order for the Wolves to make the playoffs the Hogs need to loose all remaining games and Wolves need to win win them all. Why does the song "Stay'n Alive" keep running through my head this morning. Thanks Hogs.

On the snarky side last nights win by Milwaukee featured an unassisted goal being scored by Justin Taylor at 2:36, in the first period. Taylor was recently released by the Wolves and was picked up by the Admirals this week. Later today the Wolves will face Milwaukee at the Bradley center, after scoring last night Taylor will probably be out looking for more, sweet revenge.

Last night during the game an old friend Akim Aliu also showed his feisty side for the IceHogs. This young man fresh up from the Major Juniors was tapped to serve a 2 minute " bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct" at 17:13 in the third period. This evidently turned into a 10 minute "misconduct-abuse of officials " at 19:13 was it something he said? Not a good way to start out the AHL season Akim.

Hockey never lets you down, how can you not love this stuff?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Worm has turned...

Whats that we see in the rear view mirror? It looks like things have changed on the local hockey scene. The Wolves perennial playoff contenders with last nights road loss to the Quad City Flames seem to be looking at their playoff chances quickly fading away.

Meanwhile back at the United Center the Blackhawks with last nights win over the Nashville Preditors have clinched their first playoff bid in a donkeys age. Things have changed, who woudda thunk a year ago with the Hawks still struggling and the Wolves driving their way to the Calder that this would be the picture in 12 months. One thing for certain hockey never lets a fan down for drama, we have a great playoff series before us both in the AHL and the NHL. With Milwaukee, Peoria and Rockford involved on the AHL side it might as well be local for minor league fans, those games will all be less than two hours away, sweet. Rumor has it Hawks playoff tickets sold out in under 10 minutes so the rest of us will have to be happy with television coverage. Still, Hawks in the playoffs, after such a long time, just the sound of it is lovely.

The Worm has Turned, Hawks in Playoffs!!!!