Chicago Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson is known as a cerebral manager of the game. However, sometimes smart and risky are considered synonyms in the game of hockey.
In Game 3 of the AHL Western Conference Finals, Thompson made a move he’s made many times during the regular season, but one that would be considered incredibly aggressive in today’s NHL.
With 4:15 left on the clock trailing by two goals, Thompson pulled Oscar Dansk from the Wolves goal leaving an empty net. 45 seconds later Chicago scored their second goal of the game to cut the lead to one. Thompson placed Dansk back in the net for the next 90 seconds before once again pulling him just outside of the two-minute mark.
It’s playoff time and we needed two goals. It’s the coaches decision and I think he made the right call. It ended up getting us a goal and we had some opportunities after it. -Tye McGinn
To the Wolves, this is perfectly normal. In fact, the four players I asked about it all seemed to have the same type of response; something along the lines of “why wouldn’t we do that?” But, in the NHL, only 31 times this entire season (there are 1272 games in an NHL season) did a head coach remove their goalie from the net prior to 4:15 left on the clock.
In this case, it didn’t work, but it definitely helped give the Wolves a better chance, which is really all you can ask for.
We were two goals down so we had to get one quick and that’s what we did. Obviously pulling the goalie with five minutes it’s a big responsibility for us to play the right way and score a goal. It’s disappointing it didn’t work the second time, but we should have scored earlier to not force us to do that. -Tomas Hyka
It’s a philosophy Thompson has deployed all season. One time earlier in the year, he pulled the goalie with 15 minutes left in the game down by three goals. He went on to pull the goalie three more times in that same game and the Wolves cut the lead to one with more than a minute left on the clock. Another time Thompson pulled the goalie an a 4-on-4 situation to “manufacture a power play.” No matter what though, he’s shown a consistent aggressiveness to pulling the goalie, one he stands behind.