They knew they needed a solid 60 minutes against a difficult Chicago squad. And suddenly, despite their best efforts, the Amerks found themselves in de ja vu from the night before. Thankfully, as defenseman Nick Petrecki put it, the Amerks had "swagger on the bench" and a rockstar goaltender to lift them to a 3-2 victory against the Wolves to tie the series at a game a piece.
"We can't come down - we're on the run. We can't even see these things that we're running from." (Alternate Routes, Still Can't Get Enough)
The Amerks came out Saturday night with guns blazing, clearly ready to take on the Wolves for game two, and to get what they couldn’t get the night before. Or, for that matter, the previous 10 games. Yes, that’s right: The Amerks were on another losing skid, only this time, it was a 10 game post-season skid. Not exactly what you want hanging over your head in your quest for shiny silver. Although the Amerks immediately began putting the heat on Wolves goaltender Jake Allen, it was the Wolves who struck first, with Nathan Longpre sneaking one past Andrey Makarov late in the first period to take the lead in the game. The Amerks didn’t back down, however, holding the Wolves to only five shots in the second period – and only one shot in the first half of the period.
Colton Gillies would finally be the man for the Amerks, lifting the puck over Allen to tie the game just shy of the six minute mark. Gillies would end the night with two points (1+1), adding an assist to the Amerks second goal, a beauty of a shot from Chad Ruhwedel. During the post game, Gillies said of the line he shares with Tim Schaller and Brayden Irwin – who combined for 9 SOG – that they weren’t making the fancy plays, they were making the hard plays. The smart plays. Gillies looks like he found his stride during the game, and he considers playoff hockey to be his brand of hockey. Jamie Tardif, who was lauded for his leadership both on and off the ice Saturday night, assisted on the Amerks third goal, and helped get Luke Adam his first playoff goal of the series. Although Chicago attempted to make a late rally, the Amerks were able to hold them off and skate away with the win.
Everyone in the hallways and locker room said the same thing: "We knew what we had to do. Everyone was calm, and got their job done." They said that Makarov was stellar in net Saturday night, and he was. He made much better life choices in Game 2 than he did in Game 1, and looked much more comfortable for all 60 minutes. Said head coach Chadd Cassidy in his postgame, "[Makarov] did a good job of keeping everything in front of him tonight." Cassidy went on to praise the Gillies/Schaller/Irwin line, calling them "tough to handle" for opposition defense. Most importantly, Coach said that he thinks that, now, this club knows that they can win, even though they’re going into Chicago’s barn. And he sounded confident that this team CAN go into Chicago’s arena and be successful.
Knowing that the eyes are ever on Rasmus Ristolainen, you would think, by looking purely at his game card, that he wasn’t a major factor in this game. I assure you, that is not the case (and, if you disagree, you clearly weren’t watching the same game as I was). He had a terrific all-around game, and his presence was well known on the ice by both teams. He has a way of getting under his opponent’s skin, and it makes him fun to watch. He also isn’t afraid to get his body in front of the rockets that Chicago was laying out. He may not make his presence known on the score card just yet, but he’s there and everyone knows it.
The Amerks will take Sunday off to rest and will return to practice on Monday before heading out to Chicago. Matt MacKenzie and Dan Catenacci, both with upper body injuries, remain day to day with the possibility of return on Thursday, when these two teams face off for game 3. The fan in me wants to see this Amerks team blow Chicago out of the water and move into the second round – and the blogger/amateur analyst in me thinks they may actually be able to do that. Coach is absolutely correct. These guys know what they need to do to win, they know that they CAN win, and they know to keep the gas on the whole time and to keep the ice tilted in their favor. I sincerely hope that my next post for you all is not locker clean out day. Let’s go Amerks!