Chicago Wolves expect howl of a time with Heat
Unbeaten Chicago crew impressed with Canucks’ prospects so far
Former Vancouver Canucks first-round choice Jordan Schroeder.
METRO VANCOUVER — Coaches are hardly ever happy, but Scott Arniel acknowledges he has few complaints about his Chicago Wolves through the team’s first three games.
Why would he? The Wolves have opened the American Hockey League season with three consecutive wins for only the third time in franchise history and will try to make it four straight Friday night when they play the first of back-to-back games against the unbeaten Abbotsford Heat at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
“It’s been a good start to the year,” Arniel said after getting off the bus in Abbotsford late Thursday afternoon following what was a long travel day.
“We opened at home with three games against divisional opponents and it was a good way to start things off. We have a lot of new faces, a new coaching staff and it’s nice to have everybody feeling good about our games.”
The Wolves opened the regular season with 1-0 and 5-3 wins over Rockford and then defeated Peoria 2-1 on Wednesday night.
“We have won games in different fashions,” Arniel said. “We won in a shootout the first night, in regulation the second night and then overtime the other night, so we have done it in a lot of different ways and the players are really upbeat and pretty excited about how things have gone so far.”
The players, particularly the Canuck prospects, are also excited about playing what should feel a lot like a home game on the road. The Heat are expecting capacity or close-to-capacity crowds both nights and many of the fans figure to be rooting for the Canucks’ farmhands.
The Wolves experienced the flip side of that in their first two home games against Rockford.
“Being just an hour away from Chicago and being the Chicago Blackhawks’ farm team, there was a very large contingent of Rockford fans,” Arniel said. “We saw it on the other side, so now hopefully this will feel like a home game for us.”
Arniel has been impressed with the play of some of the Canuck prospects. Winger Zack Kassian scored in Wednesday night’s win over Peoria and is playing on the top line with fellow Canuck prospects Jordan Schroeder and Bill Sweatt.
Arniel said Kassian has been effective when he has used his size.
“That’s what it’s about, he has got to play a physical game, he has got to play a power forward game,” Arniel said. “He’s a load to handle out there and when he gets the puck it’s hard to get it off him and he’s pretty good at running into people and using his physical presence to give himself some space.
“He certainly has all the skills to play that game. I just think like with any young player it’s about consistency and doing it night in and night out.”
The Wolves feel like they have solid goaltending with Canuck prospect Eddie Lack and AHL veteran Matt Climie. Lack will start Friday’s game and could play again Saturday night.
“It’s a big stage for Eddie,” Arniel said of Lack playing before Canuck coaches and management.
The Wolves have also received solid play from defenceman Kevin Connauton. The former Vancouver Giant, who was the Canucks’ third-round draft pick in 2009, has two points and is a team-best plus-four through the team’s first three games. He has been paired with Chris Tanev in the early going.
ICE CHIPS: The Heat are also off to a fast start. Abbotsford won its opening two games by scores of 4-1 and 6-2 over Peoria ... Former Canucks Cliff Ronning and Geoff Courtnall will be in the building signing autographs Friday night ... A 40-minute concert featuring Fighting for Ithaca will follow Saturday night’s game.
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