Fast forward a few weeks and it has been a 360-degree turnaround. Friday night’s 1-0 win in Plymouth was a perfect example of how the fortunes of the Wolves penalty kill have changed.
Radek Faksa took a four-minute high sticking penalty 0.29 seconds into the first period followed by a tripping penalty to Trevor Carrick at 3:41, giving the Whalers extended time 5-on-3. But not only did Plymouth not score, they failed to generate any real pressure.
The Whalers powerplay finished the night 0-5 as the Wolves PK has now killed off 45 of their last 47 shorthanded opportunities.
“I keep giving credit to David Matsos (Wolves associate coach)” said head coach Paul Fixter after the game. “He does a lot of video, he takes pride in it and quite honestly he was disgusted with it early on. He’s worked hard on it, the players have worked hard on it and they’ve bought in.”
“Again Franky Palazzese has been very good as our No. 1 penalty killer,” Fixter added.
It’s hard to single out one player for his work on the penalty kill, but Jacob Harris has been in that role for much of his time with the Wolves and was good again against the Whalers.
“We talked as a unit, all the penalty killers, that we needed to step it up in the second half,” Harris said. “We cut it down into ten penalty kill segments and we’ve gone 90 per cent and 100 per cent in our last five segments. Everyone on the penalty kill is bearing down and working hard, blocking shots, getting the puck out and getting the job done.”
Nick Baptiste scored his 24th goal of the season at the 7:01 mark of the first period. It was all the Wolves would need as Franky Palazzese turned aside all 34 shots he faced for his fifth shutout of the season.
“I think we generated some decent scoring chances, but let’s face the fact that we faced the No. 1 rated goalie in the draft and I see why -- he’s very good,” Fixter said. “That being said, I thought we could have done a better job in screening him and creating traffic.”
With the win the Wolves improve their record to 25-10-3-4 and for the first time this season their road record is above the .500 mark at 8-7-3-3.
The Wolves continue the weekend road trip through the Western Conference with a stop at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw Saturday night to face the Spirit.
- Wolves scratches: Evan de Haan (healthy), David Zeppieri (healthy) and Brody Silk (upper body).
- The Wolves outshot the Whalers 35-34.
- Three stars: 1) Ryan Hartman; 2) Franky Palazzese; 3) Matt Mistele.