© 2023 BSN LIVE, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
“We will learn from this and move on.”
“You can’t lose a series in one game.”
“We will be better.”
That was the mantra outside the Rockford IceHogs’ locker room after a 6-2 loss in Game 1 of the Central Division Semifinals on Thursday night.
But things did not get better. In fact, they got even worse in a 4-1 Game 2 defeat at Allstate Arena on Saturday night.
The visiting IceHogs did not get the start they were looking for. They took three penalties before the game was seven minutes old and allowed the first 14 shots of the night before finally getting one of their own at 14:01. Once again, goaltender Arvid Soderblom was the savior, coming up with some big saves, including a huge pad save on Josh Leivo during an extended 5-on-3 power play for the Wolves.
“They pressured us, and we were on our heels again,” IceHogs interim head coach Anders Sorensen said of the start. “We had a lot of penalties, and that wore us down.”
The start of Game 2 had an identical feel to the start of Game 1, minus the IceHogs scoring first. The Wolves concluded one of the most lopsided periods I’ve ever seen with goals by Josh Leivo and C.J. Smith. They took a two-goal lead and a 20-1 shot advantage into the first intermission, and the best-of-five series was starting to feel like it was over.
“Our starts are crucial, and it will be crucial again tomorrow,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. This is the playoffs. I don’t think you can come off the gas at all. I think there are still parts of our game that need to get better.”
The IceHogs had plenty of chances to get back into the game during the middle frame with four power-play opportunities. Moments after Max Lajoie put the Wolves up 3-0, defenseman Alec Regula went coast-to-coast to finish a rush on the man advantage and put Rockford on the scoreboard. However, they failed to score on their other three power plays and entered the third period down two goals.
“I thought we settled in during the second period and had some chances,” Regula said. “We tried to generate something and got one there. We started to get some offensive zone time and tried our best, but that was that.”
The third period was much of the same, with the Wolves adding a late goal from Vasili Ponomarev that went in off defenseman Jakub Galvas. Chicago finished the night with a 49-16 advantage in shots. This series has been bowling shoe ugly for the IceHogs through two games.
“We want to get pucks to the net,” Warsofsky said. “In playoff hockey, pucks go in off skates and sticks, so it’s important that we do get pucks to the net. We were suffocating them in their own end, so we could recover pucks and stay on the attack.”
The IceHogs cannot find a way to sustain any offensive pressure at 5-on-5. The Wolves have smothered them at every turn and are in complete control of this best-of-five series.
“I think it’s a matter of holding onto pucks, being strong on pucks, and being ready for contact,” Sorensen replied when asked how they could spend more time in the Chicago end of the rink.
Chicago can complete the sweep in Rockford later today, with the puck dropping at 4 pm.
“You don’t lose a series until you lose at home,” said Sorensen. “We’re going to go home tomorrow and win the game, then be right back in the series.”
That is a tall order for the IceHogs, but you can’t win three games in a row without winning the first one.
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Wolves
Get Chicago's Best Sports Content In Your Inbox!
Become a smarter Chicago sports fan with the latest game recaps, analysis and exclusive content from CHGO’s writers and podcasters!
Just drop your email below!