The Wolves probably didn’t learn anything new in Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the Texas Stars. They were just reminded of some hockey truths.
The first is what happens when a team gets into penalty trouble.
Unlike in their 2-1 win over the Stars on Saturday, the Wolves got off to a better start Sunday, but penalties blunted some of their flow. They went down two men twice in the first period — allowing Park Ridge native Michael Mersch’s goal that gave the Stars a 1-0 lead — and spent much of their momentum trying to kill penalties.
“Absolutely, and we know that, especially with how well we were playing 5-on-5 to start the game, and it just kind of deflates you,” defenseman Jaycob Megna said. “The same guys are killing [penalties] — it makes them tired. You’re not able to roll lines. Guys are sitting on the bench for a while.
“It’s definitely tough, but it’s something that, some games, you have to deal with. I thought we did a good job trying to fight back. We just couldn’t break through.”
As you’d expect, Wolves coach Rocky Thompson wasn’t thrilled about the penalties, saying they “flustered” his team a bit.
“We had some energy, we were making some plays, and then obviously we were undisciplined and got careless,” Thompson said. “To give two 5-on-3s in the same week, let alone the same period, is nuts. And they took advantage of it.”
Another reiterated lesson is what happens when you aren’t opportunistic. The Wolves didn’t take advantage of their 5-on-5 chances and didn’t do much on their power plays — going 0-for-3 and allowing a short-handed goal with 55 seconds left in the first period. The Stars’ Nicholas Caamano capitalized on a turnover by Brandon Pirri and beat goalie Garret Sparks (16 saves) for an unassisted score and a 2-0 lead.
“I haven’t liked our power play for a number of games now,” Thompson said. “It was not good, and obviously we give up a breakaway and a short-handed goal there.”
Stars goalie Jake Oettinger did the rest, stopping all 32 shots he saw.
The loss snapped the Wolves’ three-game winning streak, and they also failed to sweep a team that was playing for a third straight day. But entering the holiday break, when the Wolves can recharge and temporarily forget about hockey, Thompson is encouraged by their progress.
“Our guys have done a great job getting themselves back into the fight, and we’re right in the thick of things again,” he said. “So that’s a good thing.”
NOTE: The NHL’s Stanley Cup was on display in the south lobby of Allstate Arena, giving fans a chance to take photos with the trophy, which bears the names of 26 players who once suited up for the Wolves, including Jordan Binnington, Adam Burish, Chris Chelios, Troy Murray, Ed Olczyk and Wendell Young.
Young, now the Wolves’ general manager, won the Cup twice with the Penguins (1991, 1992) and appreciates how people responded to seeing the trophy.
“I think it’s pretty awesome to be a part of the ultimate championship in hockey,” he said. “I think the biggest thing about it is seeing the excitement of people seeing the Cup.”