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2022 Calder Cup Playoffs

Second Consecutive OT Win Pulls Stockton Within One Game

Connor Mackey celebrates his overtime winner. Photo Courtesy: Jack Lima

Second Consecutive OT Win Pulls Stockton Within One Game

STOCKTON, Calif. – It was another hot one in California on Saturday as the Stockton Heat and the Chicago Wolves prepared to battle out a crucial Game 5 on Stockton’s home ice to finish out the three game set. Following Friday’s overtime win, the Heat had shown signs of life and on Saturday showed why the fourth game of a playoff series was the hardest one to win.

Chicago turned back to dependable veteran Alex Lyon for Game 5, while the Heat once again went with their rookie phenom Dustin Wolf in net. The Wolves continued their rotation of netminders as Stockton continued to ride the horse (or Wolf) that got them to where they were.

Just like the first four games, this one would be another tight checking, fast paced match up between the top two teams in the American Hockey League. In the end, Stockton was able to take advantage in overtime once again by the score of 3-2, cutting Chicago’s lead in the series to 3-2 heading back to Allstate Arena.

First Period

The opening frame started off slowly, but an ugly habit of Game 4 for Chicago reared its ugly head early in this one: the lack of discipline. Just five minutes in, Josh Leivo cleaned up a Heat forward in front of Lyon after the whistle and put the Wolves on an early penalty kill. While the Wolves were able to kill it off, the constant sequences of having to defend and put themselves unnecessarily at a disadvantage takes this team out of its rhythm.

At even strength, the Heat and Wolves are so evenly matched. Both teams trading chances matched with excellent goaltending at each end. Lyon and Wolf each shut the door and just like the first four games, the teams went into the opening intermission tied up.

Second Period

The opening couple of minutes in this one featured some rather ludicrous bounces with the puck unable to settle on the ice surface – a consistent issue with Stockton Arena all season long. One such bounce created a break for the Heat that forced Josh Jacobs to take his man down, putting the Wolves back to the PK. However, Chicago went the other way with numbers, and Jalen Chatfield stepped up into the play to feed Jack Drury for a chance in the slot. Drury’s shot bounced off Spencer Smallman and past Wolf for the shorthanded goal and a 1-0 Chicago lead.

Chicago followed up the successful kill with some great chances from Jacobs and Stefan Noesen immediately after, but an errant stick from Andrew Poturalski once again put the Wolves back on the PK. The Wolves would kill it off, but Leivo would again put them a man down for two minutes. Just after that kill, Nick DeSimone got another shot through traffic as he has done all series. Walker Duehr with the net front presence was able to get his stick on it for the perfect redirection past Lyon and tied the game at 1-1.

Despite holding an advantage in shots at 25-16 after two, and even with all of the penalty trouble that they’ve found themselves in, the Wolves saw themselves all tied up heading into a crucial third period.

Third Period

Stockton struck early in this one on yet another rebound chance. Martin Pospisil‘s initial shot through a scrum of players wasn’t picked up by Lyon, and Jakob Pelletier picked the rebound up and buried it past Lyon for the 2-1 Heat lead. Putting up 62 points in the regular season, that goal was Pelletier’s first point of the Western Conference Finals.

In the third period it was the Heat getting into penalty trouble, and with Justin Kirkland sitting in the box the Wolves would cash in on some great pressure. The extended zone time wore down Stockton’s penalty killers until the puck found Richard Panik in the high slot, who buried his chance to tie the game up just before the halfway mark of the period.

Chicago would get two more chances on the power play to take the lead with minors to Kirkland again and Connor Mackey, but couldn’t convert on their looks with different personnel – regulars on the PP Drury and Panik were both in the locker room for repairs during those chances.

With the period winding down, Lyon had to play hero for the Wolves with a couple of great chances of Heat players with clear lanes to the net putting shots on net and the Wolves’ netminder coming up to challenge the shooter and calmly making the saves. There was another ridiculous carom off the boards when Lyon had come out to play the puck, and the goaltender had to come back to recover and miraculously make the save sprawling on the ice.

The theatrics thankfully ended there, and for the third time in five games these two evenly matched teams required overtime to settle this one.

Overtime

Lyon opened up the extra period once again testing his luck with coming out of the net – his attempt to play the puck was bobbled and given up right to a Heat forechecker, who was unable to beat the chaos that would ensue to deposit the puck into the wide open net. Lyon even got away with throwing his stick in desperation – a fortunate break for the Wolves.

Unfortunately for the Wolves, their luck would end there. Drury with a chance to get a clean look on a breakaway was thwarted by the puck not being able to settle on his stick not once but twice. Going the other way, the Heat got the Wolves chasing the puck and Mackey got the puck in the slot, making no mistake on his chance to send the Heat to their second OT win in as many days.

Three Stars:

  1. Connor Mackey – 1 goal, 1 assist
  2. Jakob Pelletier – 1 goal
  3. Walker Duehr – 1 goal

Takeaways:

  • Even up 3-0 in this series Chicago knew that there was a lot of hockey left to be played in this series and the resilience of the Heat over these past two games show why. All five games in this series have been so closely contested it should be no surprise that only one game separates these two even considering the outlook for Stockton after Game 3.
  • The Wolves ought to send a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates to the Bakersfield Condors. Their win over Stockton in the last game of the regular season pushed the Wolves over the Heat in the final standings, giving the Wolves home ice advantage in this series and throughout the playoffs. With the conditions of the ice the way that they’ve been this week in Stockton, both teams should be grateful that, at least for this series, they’ve played their last game in Stockton Arena.
  • Discipline. Despite only giving up one PPG in the entire series, giving Stockton 12 power play opportunities over the last two games has allowed the Heat to crawl back in this series. Going back home, Chicago needs to learn to keep their cool and not take themselves out of the game in the manner that they’ve unfortunately made a habit of these last two games. Stay out of the box.

Looking Ahead:

Game 6 is Tuesday, June 14 at 7 PM CST at Allstate Arena. Should the Heat win that one, Game 7 will be played on Wednesday at 7PM CST.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2021 season!

    Andrew Rinaldi covers the Chicago Wolves for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SinBinWolves.

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