Before the game Saturday night against the Rockford IceHogs, the Wolves honored defenseman Brent Sopel for making 1,000 professional regular-season appearances. He was presented a Wolves jersey with his No. 55 by chairman Don Levin and general manager Wendell Young and was saluted by the fans for a long and successful career that includes a Stanley Cup title with the 2010 Blackhawks.
“You see that longevity, and you really appreciate what it takes to stay around that long,” coach John Anderson said. “It’s tough to do.”
After that ceremony, the only team worthy of praise was the IceHogs, who won 3-0 and gave the Wolves their third loss in four games.
Blackhawks prospects Mark McNeill and Klas Dahlbeck scored in the second period, Garret Ross hit an empty net and Michael Leighton picked up his 39th career AHL shutout by making 31 saves for the IceHogs, who moved six points ahead of the Wolves at the top of the Midwest Division. The visitors outshot the Wolves 38-31 overall — and 30-13 through 40 minutes — in winning for the third time in four games.
The result was a fair one, despite a third period in which the Wolves had the first 12 shots.
“It’s a 60-minute game, so you have to look at it in its entirety,” Anderson said. “They won two periods, we won one. I like their chances better than us.”
Despite outshooting the Wolves 17-7, the IceHogs couldn’t beat Matt Climie (35 saves) during a scoreless first. The Wolves didn’t get their first shot on goal until near the 10-minute mark but stayed tied thanks to Climie, who entered the game having stopped 80 of the last 84 shots he faced.
The Wolves goalie didn’t do as well with the first attempt he saw in the second, when McNeill finished an end-to-end rush by beating him to give the IceHogs a 1-0 lead 36 seconds into the period. After continuing to control the game, the IceHogs added to their lead with 1:40 left in the period when Dahlbeck tapped in a loose puck after a scrum in front of the Wolves’ net on a mixed night for Sopel.
“I’ll always remember the ceremony forever,” Sopel said. “Unfortunately, two points just weren’t there.”
NOTE: Blackhawks television announcer Pat Foley was in attendance. Foley was the Wolves’ play-by-play announcer for two seasons before returning to the Hawks in 2008.