Saturday, Dec. 18 | 4 p.m. | at Allstate Arena
Lottery Cup Update
The Chicago Wolves and Rockford IceHogs are a third of the way through their 12 contests in Illinois Lottery Cup action. In a competition determined by wins in head-to-heads games — with the tiebreaker being total points — the Wolves are leading three victories to one against Rockford. Chicago last claimed the Cup in 2013-14 on its way to the AHL’s Midwest Division title. However, last season Rockford took home the Cup with a 7-2-3-0 record against the Wolves. The IceHogs took the first game of this year’s series at BMO Harris Bank Center with a 3-2 victory in a goaltender duel between Jordan Binnington (34 saves on 37 shots) and Lars Johansson (25-27). But the Wolves have won the last three contests — two at Allstate Arena and one at BMO Harris Bank Center — against Rockford. On Oct. 29, in the Wolves’ widest margin of victory this season, they topped the IceHogs 7-3. Almost a month later on Nov. 26, the Wolves edged the IceHogs 3-2 for their second victory of the season series, and then less than a week later, Chicago topped Rockford 4-1 in the second of six consecutive games in which they scored four or more goals.
Schmaltz vs Schmaltz
For the first time in their professional hockey careers, Wolves defenseman Jordan Schmaltz and his younger brother, Nick, will be on opposing sides of the puck. The Verona, Wisconsin, natives previously have played together at both the junior and collegiate levels. Jordan played two seasons and nine games of a third as a member of the United States Hockey League’s Sioux City Musketeers before being traded to the Green Bay Gamblers where Nick was skating in his rookie USHL season. Together they helped the Gamblers claim the 2012 Clark Cup, Green Bay’s fourth USHL league championship. In fall 2012, Jordan began his two-year tenure at the University of North Dakota. Nick followed in 2014, and the duo again united to help NoDak to its 21st appearance at the NCAA Frozen Four. Unfortunately, North Dakota fell to the Jack Eichel-led Boston University Terriers, 5-3, in the semifinal. Following the tournament loss on May 25, 2015, Jordan signed his entry-level contract with the St. Louis Blues, who drafted him in the first round, 25th overall, of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Nick would skate one more season at North Dakota and help the newly named Fighting Hawks capture North Dakota’s eighth national title — the second-most of any school; one shy of the University of Michigan’s nine. On June 19, 2016, the younger Schmaltz decided to begin his professional career, signing an entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, who drafted him in the first round, 20th overall, in the 2014 NHL Draft. This season, Nick skated in 26 games with the Blackhawks (G, 3A) before being reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs. He owns three goals and two assists in four games for the IceHogs.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
In the Chicago Wolves’ 2-1 overtime setback against the reigning Calder Cup champion Cleveland Monsters on Saturday night, forward Kenny Agostino was held off the scoresheet to end his scoring streak at seven games and 13 points (3G, 10A). That stint includes multi-point performances against the Texas Stars (1-2–3) on Nov. 30 and Grand Rapids Griffins (0-4–4) on Dec. 7. In Agostino’s four- point performance during Chicago’s 6-5 overtime loss against the Griffins, the former Yale University Bulldog became just the third AHL player to tally four assists in a single game this season. He was also the first Wolves player to complete the feat since Jason Krog did it against the Rockford IceHogs on April 12, 2008. Agostino’s 13 points brought his season totals to 9 goals and 19 assists for 28 points. He has snuck up the AHL scoring leader board and ranks fifth in league scoring — one spot behind teammate Brad Hunt. Thirteen (6G, 7A) of Agostino’s 28 points have come on the power play. He’s also one of just four Wolves players to have appeared in all 27 games this season.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 2: Chicago Wolves right wing Brett Sterling has two gold medals as a member of Team USA. Sterling captured his most recent gold medal in 2004 — the first time the United States won the World Junior Championship — as a member of the U.S. National Junior Team. In that tournament — which traditionally begins on Dec. 26 and this year takes place in Toronto and Montreal — Sterling tallied three goals en route to the tournament title; he also logged a +4 plus/minus rating. The 32-year-old won his first gold medal — another first-time top finish for the United States — as a member of the U.S. National Under-18 Team that competed in the 2002 Under-18 World Championship. Sterling finished sixth in tournament scoring, tallying 9 goals and 3 assists for 12 points in eight games. The names ahead of the two-time gold medalist on the event scoring leaderboard were Alexander Ovechkin (1st, 14-4–18), Alexander Semin (2nd, 8-7–15), USA teammate Patrick O’Sullivan (3rd, 7-8–15), Kevin Romy (9-5–14) and Jiri Hudler (5th, 7-7–14). Sterling also skated in 2003 World Juniors as a member of the U.S. squad that finished fourth.
4: Through four NHL appearances this season, Brad Hunt has a goal and 3 assists for a point-per-game point average. Saturday night marked the first game since the St. Louis Blues recalled Hunt from loan to the Chicago Wolves that the defenseman did not play. St. Louis dropped the contest 6-4 to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues are 2-2-0 with Hunt in the lineup and 0-1-0 when he’s not dressed for competition. This stint is Hunt’s first with the Blues since signing with the organization on July 3, 2016.
- 6: The Chicago Wolves have six undrafted players on their roster. Defensemen Jared Nightingale and Scooter Vaughan, goaltender Pheonix Copley and forwards Andrew Agozzino, Bryce Gervais and Justin Selman all started their professional careers without being selected in the NHL Draft. Copley (Michigan Tech University), Gervais (University of Minnesota Mankato), Nightingale (Michigan State University), Selman (University of Michigan) and Vaughan (University of Michigan) each signed AHL or NHL contracts following the conclusion of four-year college hockey careers. Agozzino — a five-year member of the Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara IceDogs — earned his way into an NHL deal with the Colorado Avalanche playing the 2012-13 season on an AHL contract with the Lake Erie Monsters. Through 76 games that season in his rookie professional campaign, Agozzino tallied 20 goals and 32 assists to lead the Monsters with 52 points. His performance earned him a spot in the 2013 AHL All-Star Game.
- 93: Chicago Wolves center Alex Friesen has 93 points (31G, 62A) through 248 career AHL regular-season games. The 25-year-old made his AHL debut four seasons ago with the Wolves on Oct. 13, 2012, against the Rockford IceHogs. He then recorded his first professional point, an assist, on Oct. 27 versus the San Antonio Rampage. Friesen skated in 42 games for Chicago that season and collected a goal and four assists in his rookie campaign. The St. Catharines, Ontario, native then spent three seasons in the Vancouver Canucks organization — and made his NHL debut on Feb. 15, 2016, against the Minnesota Wild — skating with the Utica Comets before returning to the Wolves for the 2016-17 season. Through 27 games this year, Friesen has tallied 7 assists. Of centerman with at least 100 faceoffs under their belts, Friesen has been one of the top Wolves players in the faceoff circle, hovering around 50 percent. Only top-line center Wade Megan has a better faceoff percentage (51%).
- 907: If contacting Santa Claus or Chicago Wolves goaltender Pheonix Copley, the area code to dial is 907. Copley, a native of North Pole, Alaska, will be the focus of a segment during the NBC5 “Sports Sunday” broadcast on Christmas Day. The 24-year-old chatted with reporter Mike Berman about sharing a hometown with the elusive Santa Claus. His teammates — fellow goaltender Jordan Binnington and defenseman Scooter Vaughan — also sat down to talk about the man with candy canes on his mask.
Recent Games Recaps
Saturday, Dec. 17 (at) Chicago 1, Cleveland 2
- The Wolves dropped their second consecutive game in a setback against Cleveland.
- Monsters defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron scored just 55 seconds into overtime.
- Part-time forward Scooter Vaughan netted his second goal of the season to open scoring at 9:44 of the second period
- Goaltender Pheonix Copley turned aside 21 shots in the loss.
Thursday, Dec. 15 (at) Chicago 1, Grand Rapids 7
- Chicago lost its second straight School-Day Game to Grand Rapids
- The Griffins scored six consecutive goals before Ivan Barbashev got on the board at 7:33 of the third period.
- Goaltender Jordan Binnington relieved Pheonix Copley with 3:19 to play in the middle frame; each netminder turned aside 10 shots with Copley getting the loss.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
Sunday’s Little Debbie Sunday game game begins at 4:00 p.m. on The U Too, presented by the Illinois Office of Tourism.
Complete broadcast schedule; all games stream live on AHLLive.com
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