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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Blackhawks missed the NHL playoffs for the second year in a row, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have playoff hockey. The Chicago Wolves are ready to embark on their quest for an AHL championship.
The Wolves host Game One of their best-of-five opening round matchup with the Rockford IceHogs at 7 p.m. at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
CBS 2’s Matt Zahn reports the Wolves are trying to make sure their record-breaking regular season can translate into the third Calder Cup in franchise history.
The Wolves skated into postseason play off their best regular season in the 28-year history of the club, with a 50-16-5-5 record.
What makes the team so good?
“I think the chemistry of the boys, to be honest with you. We’re kind of just one big family,” Wolves right winger Stefan Noesen said.
Nowhere is that more true than with Noesen and his linemate and good friend Andrew Poturalski. The two have collaborated with historic results.
Poturalski was the AHL’s top point producer with 101, while Noesen scored a league-leading 48 goals; both marks the highest in the league in a dozen years.
“He’s a hell of a player. That’s first and foremost, and I think we have a good yin and yang relationship. I’m kind of the stern one, and he’s kind of the nice guy,” Noesen said.
“I’m good cop, he’s bad cop. When guys mess up, or stuff, he’s the first to get on them, and correct them; and the I’ll be the guy to pick them up when they’re down,” Poturalski said.
“He’s the one who holds the puck, and makes the right plays, and all that; and I’m kind of the grinder. I go to the dirty areas. I kind of let him do his thing,” Noesen said.
“Just the chemistry we’ve built this year, we know exactly where we are at all times. On my 100th point, it was kind of a loose puck there, and I just knew exactly where he was going, and threw it to him, and he was ready for it, and tipped it right in. It was a great play. It’s so fun once you get rolling, and you build chemistry like that with a teammate,” Poturalski said.
The two now have great chemistry both inside and outside the hockey rink. Their first encounter on the ice, though, did not go so well.
“I came down to San Diego, and played against him one time, and I had an all-time shift, and was trying to fight everybody, and kind of was being an idiot,” Noesen said.
“He was just running around, his helmet fell off, he was slashing guys, trying to fight everybody on the ice, and screaming. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Who is this guy? This guy is nuts,'” Poturalski said.
“Training camp came around, and he walked in, and he was like, ‘Oh boy, I gotta play with this guy,” Noesen said.
“When we both signed in the summer, I was like, ‘Oh god, now I gotta be friends and teammates with this guy?’ But we hit it off from the start, and everything’s been great, so it’s a funny story to tell,” Poturalski said.
Now the two friends are hoping to lead the Wolves to their first league championship since 2008.
The Wolves will be playing without their star goaltender, Pyotr Kotchekov, who’s playing in the NHL playoffs with the Hurricanes.