Thursday, Dec. 13: Hamilton at Chicago
The Wolves kicked off the week at home against the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens farm team). Thursday presented an excellent opportunity for the Wolves to pick up a win against the last-place Bulldogs, and they didn't disappoint.
Darren Archibald was the hero of the game, scoring his third and fourth of the season to give the Wolves a 2-0 lead. The 22-year-old undrafted right-winger then went on to fight the much-experienced Zack Stortini, and ended up falling one assist short of a Gordie How Hat Trick.
Darren Haydar (CHI), Joonas Nättinen (HAM) and Peter Andersson (CHI) traded goals early in the third to put the Wolves up 4-1. The Bulldogs gave Chicago a run for their money late in the game, with Michaël Bournival and Nathan Beaulieu getting the puck past Matt Climie, still filling in for the injured Eddie Lack.
Chicago ended up holding on for a 4-3 win, giving the home crowd something to cheer for. Darren Archibald and Darren Haydar picked up the first two stars of the game. Defender Chris Tanev also played a strong game, ending with two assists and a plus-2 rating, while Matt Climie once again got it done, saving 34 of the Bulldogs' 37 shots.
Saturday, Dec. 15: Chicago at Lake Erie
Chicago capped off the easy week with a game against the 13th place Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado Avalanche farm team).
The Wolves surrendered the first goal of the game just over a minute in, but responded with two quick goals from Andrew Ebbett and Brett Sterling midway through the frame. Sterling scored again early in the second to give Chicago a 3-1 lead, teaming up with Zack Kassian and Ebbett for the second straight goal.
David van der Gulik of Lake Erie brought the deficit to one halfway through the game, but the Wolves managed to halt the comeback, taking the game by a final score of 3-2.
Brett Sterling picked up the first star of the game with his two goals, while Ebbett locked down the second with one goal and two assists. Matt Climie stopped 30 of Lake Erie's 32 shots. He has now won three straight games and four of the past five, after starting the season with an atrocious 0-5 record in November.
Although the Wolves picked won both games this week, one reason for concern is that they were outshot 69-46 on the week. Eddie Lack, who has missed seven straight games with a hip-flexor injury, will hopefully be ready shortly after Christmas. In the meantime, Matt Climie has proven himself more than capable of picking up the slack.
The Wolves have another two-game week upcoming, as they're set to face the Abbotsford Heat on Wednesday and the Milwaukee Admirals Saturday. They'll need to continue this strong momentum, however, as the Heat currently lead the Western conference with a 15-5-3-3 record. The Admirals are tied with the Wolves, who jumped up to ninth place in the West with their back-to-back wins.
Chicago now sits just one point behind the rival Rockford IceHogs, with three games in hand. The question is, can they capitalize with a strong performance against the surging Heat?
Make sure to check back for the next Chicago Wolves Weekly Update.
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