Confident in Wolves’ chances, coach Rocky Thompson looking for closure

The coronavirus pandemic might force the cancellation of the AHL season, leaving 2019-20 to feel incomplete and rendering all talk of playoff races moot.

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The Wolves sit in fourth place in the Central Division.

Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

Wolves coach Rocky Thompson frequently talks about the importance of ‘‘controlling your controllables.’’ That’s an especially valuable lesson in the American Hockey League, where players and coaches alike are trying to move to the next level but must stay focused on their jobs to have an opportunity to advance.

The Wolves did enough of that to put themselves in playoff position as of March 12, when the schedule was suspended because of coronavirus concerns. The pandemic, however, is well out of their control and might force the cancellation of the season, leaving 2019-20 to feel incomplete and rendering all talk of playoff races moot.

‘‘We were able to control that situation to the best of our abilities,’’ Thompson said. ‘‘If things were to continue to move forward, we’re in a good position right now, so that’s good. You always want to have closure on things that you were in control of. The frustrating part for anybody in the American Hockey League is, if it weren’t to continue, there would be no closure.’’

If the season does continue and the Wolves get a crack at the postseason, Thompson likes how his team lines up. And there are a couple of specific reasons why.

Despite scoring only 155 goals — the second-fewest in the AHL — the Wolves are still fourth in the Central Division, tied with the IceHogs but ahead in points percentage. They also have been shorthanded only 208 times, tied for the second-fewest in the league. 

That the Wolves (27-26-5-3, 62 points) are disciplined and can win without scoring a lot of goals are potentially positive indicators for their playoff chances, if there’s a postseason.

‘‘I think our team can be a very good playoff team,’’ Thompson said. ‘‘The way we’ve played without the puck this year has been really, really good. I think teams don’t enjoy playing us. We weren’t a very offensive team this year; that’s been a struggle for us. But in the same breath, we’re the second-lowest-scoring team in the league, yet we’re in a playoff position. That speaks to our play without the puck and the discipline that we have. I think we’re a very disciplined hockey team. 

‘‘When the playoffs roll around, those two things are always teams that nobody wants to play.’’

The Wolves’ inexperienced roster has been hit with injuries and instability all season. They never have gotten on a run long enough to break away from the other teams chasing the final two Central Division playoff spots, but they also never have lost track of the race.

Thompson again applauded his team’s resilience.

‘‘I think we’ve done a great job this year — our players have, the staff has — of putting ourselves in the position where we’re in the playoffs right now under what, in my opinion, has been the most adversity,’’ Thompson said. ‘‘We’ve faced a lot of adversity over the last couple of years, but this is probably the top of it. And we’re still in a position that if the league does decide to continue to move forward, whether it’s playoffs or otherwise, we’re still in a good spot.’’

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