The Chicago Wolves completed their 21st regular season last week and turn their attention to the opening round of the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs and their opponent, the top-ranked Utica Comets.
Wednesday, April 22, 7 p.m.
Regular Season Record: 47-20-7-2
Last Game: 3-2 W at Adirondack (April 18)
2014-15 Season Series: 2-1-1-0
Last Meeting: 4-0 Road Win (March 14)
Team Record: 40-29-6-1
Last Game: 2-5 L vs. Toronto (April 19)
2014-15 Season Series: 2-2-0-0
Last Meeting: 0-4 Home Loss (March 14)
The Chicago Wolves completed their 21st regular season last week and turn their attention to the opening round of the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs and their opponent, the top-ranked Utica Comets. The two squads have never faced off in the postseason and have seen each other just six times total since Utica joined the American Hockey League in 2013-14. The results are almost exactly even, with each team posting three wins, 13 goals, and one shutout head-to-head.
The Wolves knew Sunday that they were going to draw one of the Western Conference’s two 100-point teams in the first round. No. 8 is an unfamiliar spot for Chicago, which has never been seeded below seventh in a conference format (2002) or third in a divisional format (2004). In 2002 the team, including now-assistant coach BRAD TAPPER, won the Calder Cup and in 2004 they fell in the division final.
Despite the lower seeding, the coaching staff has made clear that the regular season does not matter once the playoffs roll around, and no one would know better than head coach JOHN ANDERSON. The bench boss, who has guided the Wolves to 12 postseason berths and four championships in his 13 seasons, holds a 7-0 series record in AHL conference quarterfinals/division semifinals with Chicago.
After tandeming with veteran MATT CLIMIE for most of March, it appears that goaltender JORDAN BINNINGTON has claimed the starter’s role for the postseason with his strong play in the season’s final month. The rookie has impressed all season but has been particularly solid as of late, posting a 4-2-0 record, 1.81 goals-against average, .936 save percentage, and one shutout in April, holding opposing teams to one or fewer goals in five of his last seven appearances.
By The Numbers
10-3– The Wolves’ all-time series record in conference quarterfinal and division semifinal matchups, with the three losses coming in 1995, 1997, and 2012. They are 8-1 since joining the AHL and 7-0 under head coach JOHN ANDERSON.
5 – Times since 2000 that a No. 1 seed has fallen in the first round. Quebec in 2000, Rochester in 2001, Manchester in 2005, Hartford in 2009, and Manchester in 2014 all suffered opening-round upsets.
21 – Series, of 22 all-time, that the Wolves have won when posting a victory in the first game.
Follow The Action
Tonight’s game begins at 7 p.m. and can be seen on WCIU The U (channel 26). The game can also be streamed on www.ahllive.com.
#30 Jordan Binnington
Of the 22 playoff series’ that the Wolves have won the first game in, they have gone on to win 21 of them. Goaltender Jordan Binnington will try to get that daunting first game out of the way as he gets the nod in the crease in Game 1 tonight.
The 21-year-old has posted a 25-15-4 record with a 2.35 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 45 games this season, his second as a pro and first full-time in the AHL. One of his three shutouts came in his only appearance against the Comets this season, a 3-0 whitewashing in Utica on Nov. 12. He has been even more impressive over his last seven appearances, posting a 4-2-0 record, 1.81 goals-against average, .936 save percentage, and one shutout in April. Binnington was only in net for one of the four games against Utica this season, and he posted a 30-save shutout.
Players stated while starting the series at home didn’t necessarily give them home-ice advantage, it was comforting to know they weren’t traveling so soon after the last game of the season on Sunday. We’ll see if that comfortability pays off tonight.
#33 Jacob Markstrom
Of the four matchups between Utica and the Wolves this season, Comets’ star netminder Jacob Markstrom has only sat between the pipes for two of them, winning both with a .949 save percentage, a 1.50 goals-against average and one shutout.
The Western Conference All-Star finished the regular season 22-7-2 with a 1.88 goals-against average, .934 save percentage and five shutouts — all AHL-career bests while his goals-against average and save percentage sit second in the league this season. Vancouver (NHL) recalled him this season where he had three appearances, posting a 1-1-0 record and giving up four goals in 78 minutes of action.
It’s no secret Markstrom has been a key factor in the Comets’ run this season, and leading them into the No. 1 seed in the West. The 25-year-old hasn’t lost a game in the AHL since Feb. 21 and has only lost two since Jan. 30. He’s also only allowed more than two goals once since Jan. 30, and he still earned the win.