Once again, Alex Lyon has proven to be a standout goaltender in Calder Cup Playoff competition. Starting each of the Chicago Wolves’ first seven games this postseason, Lyon has gone 6-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.
Nevertheless, further help has arrived all the same for Lyon and the Wolves. After the parent Carolina Hurricanes were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday night, they assigned goaltenders Pyotr Kochetkov and Jack LaFontaine to Chicago, giving them an opportunity for further seasoning via practice and perhaps game action after both spent the second half of the regular season with the Wolves.
The 22-year-old Kochetkov adapted quickly to AHL play after coming over from Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of the Kontinental Hockey League in February. A second-round pick by Carolina in the 2019 NHL Draft, Kochetkov put together a 13-1-1 record in 15 appearances for Chicago, with a 2.09 GAA and a .921 save percentage. He was named the AHL Rookie of the Month for March, and went on to play three regular-season games and four playoff contests for the Hurricanes.
LaFontaine, 24, came to the Wolves in January, albeit via a different path. A 2016 third-round pick by Carolina, he left the University of Minnesota on Jan. 9 to sign a one-year entry-level contract with Carolina on Jan. 9. After making his NHL debut with the Hurricanes, LaFontaine went 4-3-4 with a 2.89 GAA and an .885 save percentage in 13 games for the Wolves. He had been serving as Carolina’s third-string goaltender during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In the middle of the mix is the sixth-year pro Lyon, who won the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award in 2021-22 as Chicago led the league in goals allowed per game (2.55). Lyon is also playoff-tested, with a 12-7 record, a 1.95 GAA and a .936 save percentage in 20 career postseason contests for the Wolves and Lehigh Valley Phantoms ― a resume that includes a 94-save performance in the longest game in AHL history, a 2-1, five-overtime Phantoms win over Charlotte in 2018.
Chicago opens the Western Conference Finals at home on Friday night against the Stockton Heat.
Class is in session for the Laval Rocket.
Laval has to be ready by Saturday night for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Springfield Thunderbirds at MassMutual Center. Head coach J-F Houle and his Rocket players have plenty of video work to do this week. They only saw the Thunderbirds twice in the regular season, the most recent meeting a 5-2 defeat at Place Bell on March 7.
“I think we have a pretty good grasp on what type of players they have and how they play,” Houle said following practice yesterday.
But Houle has some early impressions of the test that the Thunderbirds present. Whereas the Rochester Americans and Syracuse Crunch, Laval’s previous opponents this postseason, played a fast, dangerous style with a transition game that could burn opponents, the Thunderbirds’ veteran forwards employ a more physical, punishing style.
“Springfield, they’re really good offensively,” Houle continued. “We have to limit their chances. Their skilled players have experience, which is little different from Rochester. We have to be hard on their skilled players, we have to limit their time and space. And turnovers for us is going to be a key in this series; I think it’s important for us to make sure that we get pucks deep on them.
“It’s a good team, and they’re playing well defensively, too. They have a lot of goals (a league-best 5.33 goals per game in the postseason), but they’re very deep on defense, and they have two good goalies [in former Rocket Charlie Lindgren and Joel Hofer], so it should be a pretty good match-up.
“They are dangerous. They’re dangerous all over.”
― Patrick Williams