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NO SHORTAGE OF SHORTHANDED SUCCESS
With victories in 10 of their last 15 games, the Wolves are doing a lot of things right—but nothing has been better than their penalty killing.
The defending Calder Cup champions lead the American Hockey League with an overall penalty killing record of 85.2 percent. Through Tuesday, the Wolves have yielded 31 power-play goals in 209 times shorthanded. They are second in the league killing penalties at home (86.2 percent) and sixth on the road (84.0).
For the past four seasons, assistant coach Patrick Dwyer has been in charge of the team’s penalty kill and said the key to its current play has been “everyone is on the same page now.
“First and foremost, you have to outwork teams’ power-play units,” Dwyer continued. “At the end of the day, it’s doing the intangibles like blocking shots, getting sticks in the lanes, bodies in lanes, congesting the slot, taking away their options and forcing then into the shot we want them to take.”
In addition to the goaltenders, the penalty kill units are led by all six Wolves defensemen—most notably Max Lajoie and Cavan Fitzgerald—in the lineup each game as well as forwards Jack Drury, Josh Melnick, Joseph LaBate and Vasily Ponomarev.
“Our ‘D’ has been the backbone of it and those four guys up front that have been really good for us,” Dwyer said. “It’s a buy-in and a mentality from those guys.
“It’s a special teams game,” he continued “If your power play is not going and your penalty killing isn’t going, you’re going to have a hard time winning games. So many goals are off the rush and on special teams so if you can dial down those two things it definitely helps.”
Killing penalties isn’t the most glamorous assignment, but Dwyer said it can be the difference in whether a player makes the next step to the NHL.
“It’s a great way for guys to get their foot in the door,” Dwyer said. “It’s something in the toolbox that you can have to make yourself valuable to the team and find your niche up there.”
NEW GUY ALERT
The Wolves had a new face in the lineup during Sunday’s game against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Forward Jack Dugan was acquired via a trade with Utica on Friday in exchange for defenseman…
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