The Chicago Wolves look to rebound from Saturday night’s loss to Utica as they welcome the Rockford IceHogs for a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee. It is the final time this season that the Wolves host Rockford and the Illinois Lottery Cup is on the line.
Sunday, March 15, 3 p.m.
Team Record: 33-19-5-2
Last Game: 1-3 L at Grand Rapids (March 14)
2014-15 Season Series: 6-3-1-0
Last Meeting: 1-4 Road Loss (Jan. 31)
Team Record: 29-23-6-1
Last Game: 0-4 L vs. Utica (March 14)
2014-15 Season Series: 4-4-1-1
Last Meeting: 4-1 Home Win (Jan. 31)
The Chicago Wolves couldn’t build off Wednesday’s stirring overtime win over Utica as they suffered a 4-0 defeat to the Comets on Saturday night at Allstate Arena. The loss marked the Wolves’ third whitewashing in the last six games and sixth of the year. While all three recent shutouts have come against goaltenders who’ve split their season between the NHL and the AHL — Utica’s Jacob Markstrom, Lake Erie’s Calvin Pickard, and Detroit’s Petr Mrazek — that hasn’t made it any less frustrating for players and coaches.
Chicago’s result, when coupled with wins by the Texas Stars and Adirondack Flames, dropped the Wolves (65 points) into 10th place in the Western Conference with 17 games to play. They’re three points behind Texas for the eighth and final playoff spot.
When Rockford won five of the first seven games in this year’s Illinois Lottery Cup series, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the IceHogs would swipe the Cup from the Wolves. Chicago has claimed two wins and an overtime loss in the last three games, however, and can keep possession of the Cup with wins today and in the series finale on April 17 in Rockford.
By The Numbers
.676 – The team’s winning percentage (34-15-1-4) all-time when wearing commemorative St. Patrick’s Day jerseys, a tradition that started on March 16, 1997. The team debuted the 2015 edition of the sweaters March 11 and will don them for the final time this evening against Rockford. The jerseys are available via auctions and raffle, with proceeds benefiting Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago and Chicago Wolves Charities.
174 – The number of penalty minutes Chicago and Rockford racked up on March 17, 2013, when the teams met on Sunday of St. Patrick’s Day weekend. A whopping 142 of those minutes were handed out with four seconds left in the game as a melee broke out at the Rockford bench.
5 – The Wolves’ average shots per overtime period in extra-session wins going into Wednesday, when Chicago claimed the victory on its only shot beyond regulation. The team averages 2.5 per overtime in extra-session losses.
Follow The Action
Tonight’s game begins at 3 p.m. and can be seen on WCIU The U (channel 26). The game can also be streamed on www.ahllive.com.
#9 Shane Harper
With Grand Rapids forward Teemu Pulkkinen playing for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, Wolves right wing Shane Harper leaps to the top of the list for active AHL goal-scorers. When he buried the overtime winner in the Wolves’ 2-1 win over Utica on Wednesday, he took the lead with his 26th goal of 2014-15. That’s twice as many as his previous AHL career high.
The tally also served as his seventh game-winning goal this season, second-most in the AHL and three away from the franchise record owned by Mark Mancari (2011-12), Brett Sterling (2007-08), and Chris Marinucci (1998-99). Of that trio, Mancari accomplished it on the fewest total goals (30, versus Sterling’s 38 and Marinucci’s 41). The Wolves are 20-4-0-0 when Harper lights the lamp this season.
The 26-year-old is tied for the team lead with 39 points (26G, 13A) and is nearing 30 tallies with 17 games remaining. In the team’s 20-year history, the Wolves have never missed the playoffs with a 30-goal scorer on the roster. HARPER ranks tied for second among active skaters with 10 power-play goals, second with a 23.9 shooting percentage, and is one of four players to achieve a league-high 10-game point streak this season, racking up 14 (7G, 7A) from Jan. 19 to Feb. 11.
#31 Antti Raanta
Antti Raanta has not been with the IceHogs long this season — just three games — but he has made an impact and remains undefeated in regulation for Rockford. Through his trio of appearances the netminder has gone 2-0-1 with a 2.65 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. Prior to that he had spent the majority of the season with the Blackhawks, posting a 7-4-1 record, 1.89 goals-against average, and .936 save percentage through 14 games.
The 25-year-old appeared in 14 games for the IceHogs last season, going 7-5-0 with a 2.83 goals-against average and .914 save pecentage. Prior to that he had spent the previous five seasons developing his game in the SM-liiga in his native Finland.
With Michael Leighton getting the start in Rockford’s loss last night to Grand Rapids, head coach Ted Dent might opt to switch up the netminders and give Raanta a shot in Sunday’s matinee.