ROSEMONT, Ill. -- This was not what the Iowa Stars had in mind as the club began its best-of-seven West Division Finals Series with the Chicago Wolves.
Iowa received an immediate, rude welcome from the Wolves, as the hosts netted two goals in the game's first 63 seconds en route to a commanding 7-0 victory in Game One.
photos by Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves
"We just got ourselves into a quick hole and couldn't get out of it," said defenseman Niklas Grossman. "They are an outstanding offensive team and we just didn't have any answers for them tonight. We need to shake this one off and move on. This is just one game in what should be a long series."
Chicago would tally four goals on Iowa goaltender Dan Elllis in 25 minutes of play before he was relieved in favor of Tobias Stephan. Meanwhile, Chicago's Michael Garnett stopped all 28 of Iowa's shots to extend his AHL Playoffs win streak to five games after the Wolves' sweep of Milwaukee in the first round.
"Garnett was definitely good tonight, but we couldn't get any real flow going at all," said right wing Marius Holtet. "We need to put tonight's game behind us and re-focus for Game Two. This one is over, there's nothing more we can do about it. But we need to learn from the mistakes we made for the rest of the series."
Chicago's Niko Dimitrakos beat Ellis on an odd-man rush just 43 seconds into the contest, and Colin Stuart netted 20 seconds later to put the hosts up 2-0. The Wolves kept the Stars on their heels for much of the first period, and put Iowa into a 3-0 hole with a Jordan LaVallee goal with just thirty seconds remaining in the period.
The Stars' deficit grew to 4-0 early in the second period, as Ellis mishandled a Chicago dump-in attempt, and Kevin Doell buried a centering pass from Colin Stuart. LaVallee put a puck past Stephan late in the middle stanza to make it 5-0, and the Wolves got late goals from Jason Krog and Andre Deveaux to seal the victory.
The Stars and Wolves faced off 10 times during the 2006-07 regular season, with Iowa going 4-6-0 in those meetings. A disturbing trend, however, was that tonight's 7-0 win was the fourth time Chicago has scored seven-or-more goals against Iowa this season (three games with seven goals, and one outing with eight).
"They are a good team and they capitalized on all of our mistakes," said winger Chris Conner. "Tonight hurts, but we know we can bounce back and play much better Friday night."
photos by Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves
After being out-shot 15-5 in the first period, Iowa would go on to collect 23 shots in the final two periods to Chicago's nine. And despite five power play opportunities, the club was unable to solve Garnett, who was serenaded by the Chicago crowd with a rendition of "I Wanna Be Like Mike," a song usually reserved for a different Mike in this city.
Iowa will not panic being down after the first game however, after dropping Game One to Omaha in the opening round before reeling off three straight victories and winning that series in six games.
"We fell behind Omaha after the first game and we were able to come back to win that series," said winger Francis Wathier. "Obviously, you don't want to make a habit of falling behind like this, but we are going to regroup and come out strong on Friday night. We need to put this behind us completely and just get back to work."
Game Two is at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at the Allstate Arena, followed by Games Three, Four and Five (if necessary) at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Raucous in Rosemont: The Chicago Wolves might not have the history, tradition or the classic Indian-head sweaters that the Chicago Blackhawks have across town, but the Wolves have carved out quite a niche for themselves in the Windy City. Boasting the 2002 Calder Cup championship, as well as two Turner Cup crowns from their days in the International Hockey League, the Wolves have reached the second round of their respective playoffs in 10 of the last 12 seasons.
The club plays at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., also the home of the DePaul University Blue Demons and the Arena Football League's Chicago Rush. The Wolves ranked third in the AHL in attendance during the 2006-07 season, averaging over 7,800 fans per game, and also enjoy every-day beat coverage from both major Chicago newspapers.
The Wolves' fans cheer loudly throughout the Star Spangled Banner, as has been the tradition with the Blackhawks for many years, however Chicago's pyrotechnic pre-game player introductions left a smoky haze hanging over Allstate Arena for the entire first period.
Hobey's On Hand: The Iowa Stars feature two former Hobey Baker Award winners on their roster, as Junior Lessard (2004, University of Minnesota-Duluth) and Marty Sertich (2005, Colorado College) were each honored with the prestigious award as the top player in collegiate hockey. Chicago's Jason Krog won the award in 1999 at the University of New Hampshire, while 2006 AHL MVP Brett Sterling was a two-time runner-up for the award while playing alongside Sertich at Colorado College.
Familiar Faces: Chicago's roster boasts some familiar faces to Stars fans, including Wolves center Jason Krog, who was a member of the 2003 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim club that defeated Dallas in the Western Conference Semifinals. Chicago's backup goalie is NHL veteran Fred Brathwaite, who played the last two seasons with Ak Bars Kazan in the Russian Superleague. Former San Jose Sharks right wing Niko Dimitrakos skates for the Wolves, as does journeyman NHL defenseman Andy Delmore, who played for Philadelphia, Nashville, Buffalo and Columbus. In fact, Delmore became the first rookie defenseman in Stanley Cup Playoff history to net a hat trick, doing so for the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals vs. New Jersey.