IHL: Wolves are Team to Beat

By Parker Neale
The games aren’t won on paper; they are contested on the ice.
Therefore, it would be extremely arrogant to announce the Turner Cup
champion for the 2000-2001 season after only a few games have been
played. The only proclamation that can be made at this point in time is
that it is going to be very difficult for opponents to beat the Chicago
Wolves this season as they aim to win their third championship in four

To start off with, the Wolves are oozing with experience from all levels
of professional hockey. There are only three players on the opening day
roster that have never competed in an NHL game; this includes the
youngsters Rick DiPietro, who has only played one year of college hockey
and Peter Nylander, who is playing in North America for the first time.
The third player, defenceman Bob Nardella is a veteran with loads of
professional hockey experience on this continent as well as abroad. The
other seventeen players have played an astounding three thousand, four
hundred and eighty-four NHL games between them. And, twelve of the
twenty players are age thirty or older. Such experience will go a long
way in an IHL campaign.

Up front, the Wolves are able to combine skill and grit. Jesse
Belanger, Guy Larose and Peter Nylander are mainly pure offensive
performers that can deliver on a consistent basis. Neil Brady, Glen
Featherstone, Mark Lawrence and Dan Plante are able to provide a
physical game and chip in goals when needed. Rob Brown, Steve Larouche,
Mike Maneluk and Brian Noonan are top-notch offensive performers that
don’t shy away from the rough stuff. And, Paul Kruse is the enforcer
that every team yearns for as he can provide decent point totals as well
as toughness.

There is again a blend between offence and defence on the blueline.
Kevin Dahl, Dallas Eakins and Chris LiPuma exemplify the latter aspect
while Nardella, Tom Tilley and Dan Trebil are more offensive.

The goaltending tandem of DiPietro and Wendell Young is a perfect
combination of youth and experience. Young has the ability to take
DiPietro under his wing and teach him the “tricks of the trade.” They
are both solid backstoppers as well.

Therefore, the Wolves have a well-rounded attack from all fronts. This
is not to say that they will not be challenged by any other teams.
Cincinnati has a solid squad and should benefit from the additions of
rising star Jeff Heerema and veteran defenceman Jon Rohloff. Cleveland
boosted their attack with J.J. Daigneault on defence and Christian Matte
up front. Detroit has youth on their side once again with the additions
of Sheldon Keefe, Kristian Kudroc and Jason Podollan. And, Utah added
the combination of toughness and scoring by bringing in David Ling and
John Erskine. These are only a few examples of changes undertaken by
other IHL teams that should make them more competitive this season.

However, the Wolves appear to have the best combination of offence and
defence on their side. This was indicated in their first game of the
season when they dismantled Cincinnati 8-3. Mark Lawrence was the hero
on this day as he provided a hat trick. A good start for the defending
Turner Cup champions.