The Wolves power play was something of an unfunny joke last season, finishing at the bottom of the American Hockey League. This season it got off to a better start but began to struggle recently and entered Saturday’s game with the Rockford IceHogs empty since Nov. 21.
Maybe what happened during Saturday’s 2-1 win over the IceHogs will keep it from becoming a not-so-pleasant punchline the rest of the way. It also handed the IceHogs their second straight loss.
Both the Wolves’ goals – Ty Rattie’s in the second and Shane Harper’s in the third – came with an advantage. There was the puck movement and the shooting that coach John Anderson wanted, and happily for him and the Wolves it also brought some results.
“You saw, once we scored we seemed to get better. It’s a little confidence thing,” Anderson said. “They go in ebbs and flows. You just hope that they don’t ebb as much as they flow.”
Rockford, meanwhile, has been flowing for much of the season. Even with the loss, the IceHogs stayed three points up on the Wolves for the top spot in the Midwest Division.
But Saturday wasn’t one of Rockford’s best nights. Playing again without Blackhawks prospects Mark McNeill (lower body) and Stephen Johns (upper body), the IceHogs were outshot 41-28 and lost their second in a row after a five-game winning streak.
“They were skating, Chicago, and they were on us and played a lot in our end,” IceHogs coach Ted Dent said. “Turned the puck over at the blue line and we didn’t really manage the puck that well from the neutral zone.”
Even with those problems, the IceHogs had a chance to steal a point from the Wolves. Making his first start since Nov. 8, Michael Leighton stopped 39 shots, and the IceHogs cut the lead in half with four minutes left in the game on Ville Pokka’s power-play goal.
That was all the IceHogs got past Matt Climie (27 saves), and the Wolves completed a weekend sweep of Rockford. It also completed a back-to-back for Climie, who figures to get the bulk of the playing time with Jordan Binnington up in the NHL.
“I don’t mind the workload. I feel I play better when I get a rhythm and when I’m playing a lot. It just makes it a lot easier,” said Climie, who passed Kari Lehtonen for second in team history with his 62nd win. “It’s easier to play when you’re playing on a consistent basis compared to every two or three weeks.”