The wins don’t have to be pretty.when you’re trying to make the playoffs in a tight divisional race.
The Wolves’ 3-2 overtime victory Sunday over the Cleveland Monsters thanks to Dylan Coghlan’s score proves that point.
“It’s huge,” said Coghlan, who also connected with exactly nine minutes left in the third period to tie the game. “Every game is a playoff game. If you look at the standings, our division is so tight. One loss or another team’s win could change the whole standings. It’s one of those things where you try to keep that in the back of your mind and just go out there and work.”
A day after a 5-2 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins that was one of their worst performances of the season, the Wolves fell behind again Sunday. Facing a last-place Cleveland team playing for the third straight day in a third different city, the Wolves went down 2-0 and looked to be heading to another loss.
But Curtis McKenzie’s goal with 5:44 to go in the second cut the Wolves’ deficit in half, and seemed to ignite something in his teammates. Following that goal, the Wolves’ forecheck was sharper and their puck management was more precise, leading to better scoring opportunities.
“Sometimes you need that, because we were really dead on the bench,” Wolves coach Rocky Thompson said. “The guys were saying ‘Hey guys, we’re dead!” but it was still dead. It’s unbelievable - sometimes you need to score a goal. You need to feel good about yourself. Not get a chance, you’ve got to actually bury one and then it can really be uplifting for the guys.”
Losing Sunday, as Coghlan alluded to, would’ve been costly.
The Wolves were the only team from the Central Division playing Sunday and anything other than two points would’ve been a missed chance to gain ground. The comeback win lifted the Wolves (25-22-3-2, 55 points) back to third in the division, ahead of fourth-place Grand Rapids in points percentage.
“It’s a really tight race in our (division) where the last two playoff spots, no one’s pulling away from it,” McKenzie said. “Everyone’s winning, losing, winning, losing, so you just want to try to find a way to grow some separation going down the stretch.”
The Wolves could do that if they avoid starts like Sunday. But in the end, what mattered was the two points.
“It was really important at the end of the day,” Thompson said. “Obviously, it’s something we’ll evaluate and show the guys ‘Hey, if we play this way earlier, it’s going to make it a little easier on ourselves to accomplish our goals and have success.’ But it was good for us to be able to do that coming off a really tough one last night and then being down in this game. It shows a lot of character, not giving up.”
NOTE: Forward Nicolas Roy didn’t play because of travel issues after being assigned to the Wolves early Sunday morning. Roy has been involved in 25 transactions between the Wolves and Golden Knights since Oct. 1, and 10 since Jan. 1.