More-confident Lagace big part of Wolves' resurgence
It's amazing how one injury in the NHL can have such a drastic affect on that team's AHL affiliate.
Such was the case for the Chicago Wolves when goalie Max Lagace was called up to the Vegas Golden Knights after Marc Andre-Fleury suffered a concussion in the fourth game of the season.
That left Chicago extremely thin between the pipes and resulted in a rough 6-12-4-1 start. But since Lagace returned to the Wolves in early December, they have been on an absolute tear.
And it continued Saturday night as the Wolves beat Rockford 6-2 at the Allstate Arena to improve to 8-0-1-1 in the last 10 games and 14-12-5-2 overall.
"We were playing good hockey early on, but we were always playing from behind," said coach Rocky Thompson. "And that's tough. You start squeezing the sticks and you do need confidence in yourself in order to score goals.
"Once we started getting the saves, guys started feeling better and (knew) they could make a mistake and it won't always end up costing you."
Lagace didn't play Saturday, but he is 5-0-2 during this run with a 2.39 goals-against average. He played 14 games in Vegas from Oct. 30-Dec. 9, going 6-6-1 with an .872 save percentage.
"It was amazing," Lagace said of his time with the first-place Golden Knights. "It's an unreal organization from top to bottom. They helped me out. It was a tough position for anybody to be in."
Former Blackhawks forward Brandon Pirri, who scored the Wolves's first goal Saturday, said he's noticed a big difference in Lagace's game.
"He's taken his game to another level," Pirri said. "You can tell there's a confidence within his game and we needed that. We were losing some close games and he's giving us that extra boost. Since he's been back, he's been the difference-maker for us. …
"Our team is so much skill. Although you don't want to take too many risks, if we do and it doesn't work out, we know we're solid back there. We can let our skill take over a little more."
Against Rockford, the Wolves led 3-2 after two periods and put the game away with third-period goals by Chris Casto at 5:27 and Tomas Hyka at 6:38. Casto scored seconds after Rockford's Alexandre Fortin lost an edge and turned the puck over in his offensive zone.
Tyler Sikura and Luke Johnson scored for the IceHogs. Goalie Matt Tomkins made his AHL debut, making 25 saves.
Rockford (18-13-1-1) had won three of its last four games.