Wolves coach John Anderson hasn’t been able to count on many players this season. Shane Harper has been one of the most dependable, and he delivered again Sunday.
Harper scored twice and the Wolves ended their seven-game homestand with a 4-1 win over the Milwaukee Admirals. Adam Burish and Yannick Veilleux also scored for the Wolves (28-21-5-1, 62 points), who got 21 saves from Jordan Binnington and ended the day one point behind Texas for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
They would be in better shape if they had done more than go 4-3-0 during the homestand, or if more players were having career years like Harper. Known more as a grinder and energy guy, Harper’s personal high in the AHL was 13 goals.
Those positives haven’t waned, but his two goals Sunday gave him 25 this season.
“It makes you want to shoot the puck,” Harper said. “It’s nice to see the results.”
Playing again without leading scorer Pat Cannone (upper body), the Wolves needed a game like Sunday. They were coming off a 5-0 loss Saturday to the Grand Rapids Griffins and had dropped consecutive games in regulation for the first time since Jan. 24.
Sunday was the kind of game the Wolves know they can play, but frustratingly it was after the kind of performance they’ve turned in too many times.
“Right after the (Saturday) game we just told ourselves to leave it in the past and focus on the next game,” defenseman Joel Edmundson said. “We came to the rink half an hour earlier than we usually did today, and I think that just got us more focused and we came to play ready.”
Harper, however, has been a consistent positive.
His goal with 11:34 left in the second gave the Wolves a 2-1 lead and was one of his best of the season. After receiving the puck in the neutral zone, Harper sped past the blue line and skated around Milwaukee’s Jimmy Oligny before powering by Taylor Aronson to beat Magnus Hellberg (17 saves).
“(Harper) always had that raw talent and now he’s just starting to get the game – when to do it, when not to,” Anderson said. “Now he’s starting to feel better about himself.”
Former Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg scored the lone goal for Milwaukee.
NOTE:Television analystBill Gardnerannounced his 1,000th regular-season Wolves game Sunday. He joined the franchise prior to the 2002-03 season.