Wednesday, Dec. 28 | 7 p.m. | At Rockford
On to the Next One
Wednesday is the seventh of 12 Illinois Lottery Cup contests between the Chicago Wolves and Rockford IceHogs. The series is still up for grabs with each team claiming three wins, and the Wolves only holding only a one-point lead — based on the tiebreaker of total points in head-to-head competition — as the IceHogs came back to force extra time and earn a shootout win on Dec. 18. A victory Wednesday would help Rockford as it tries to claim the Cup for back-to-back seasons. Chicago last claimed the Cup in 2013-14 on its way to the AHL’s Midwest Division title.
Stop the Skid
The Chicago Wolves are on the hunt for a W and hope to stave off a third straight loss to the Rockford IceHogs. Prior to their 4-3 shootout loss on home ice to their in-state rivals on Dec. 18, the Wolves rattled off three consecutive wins – including a road victory at BMO Harris Bank Center – to match the longest win streak for either team since Rockford joined the American Hockey League for the 2007-08 season. In tonight’s contest, the IceHogs are looking for back-to-back victories at home to also match the head-to-head win streak record.
Everyone Gets a Penalty
When the Chicago Wolves and Rockford IceHogs last met on Dec. 21, the two clubs combined for 88 minutes in penalties. Only four players — two from each squad — nabbed double-digit totals, but the night’s contest featured plenty of between-whistles scrums and chin music. The night also featured the second suspension in head-to-head competition between the two teams. Wolves goaltender Jordan Binnington is available for tonight’s game after serving a one-game suspension Monday that he incurred on Dec. 21 during the final minutes of Chicago’s 6-2 loss to Rockford. Binnington and IceHogs left wing P.C. Labrie got into an altercation as Laurie was being escorted off the ice by an official. In the ordeal, Binnington was assessed 17 minutes in penalties that included unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting and game misconduct infractions. Wolves rookie defenseman Vince Dunn jumped to Binnington’s defense in the melee and logged 17 penalty minutes with the same infractions.
Keep it up, kids
The rookies are shining this season for the Wolves. Most recently, wing Samuel Blais carried the first-timer torch as he netted two goals in the Wolves’ 5-2 Amtrak Rivalry victory over the Milwaukee Admirals on Monday. The win was the third consecutive for the Wolves against the Admirals; it also marked the Admirals’ first three-game winless streak of the season. Blais has six goals and five assists for 11 points on the season, which ranks second among Wolves rookies. In the absence of veteran blueliner Brad Hunt, who has spent the last three weeks with the St. Louis Blues, first-year pro Vince Dunn has been showing his worth. The 20-year-old collected points in three consecutive games — including two goals — and filled pivotal time on special teams. Dunn is the Wolves’ leading rookie scorer with five goals and seven assists for 12 points in 27 games.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 2: It’s déjà vu as center Wade Megan is leading the American Hockey League with three short-handed goals. In the Wolves’ 5-2 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals on Monday night, Megan tallied his league-leading third short-handed tally at 17:23 of the third period. The 26-year-old grabbed the puck and skated to the middle of the left defensive circle for a nearly 200-foot shot that hit the open net. Last season, Megan ended the year as the AHL’s leading short-handed goal-scorer with seven man- short tallies. The former Boston University Terriers captain is also leading the Wolves with 14 goals — good enough for a three-way tie for second in the league — and sits third in team scoring with 25 points (14G, 11A).
- 5: Last season, Chicago Wolves rookie netminder Ville Husso registered five shutouts — a professional career high — during his third year in the Finland’s top professional league, Liiga. Along with his five shutouts, Husso compiled a 1.91 goals-against average and .927 save percentage — all of which helped earn him top honors as Liiga Goaltender of the Year. Husso followed up his regular-season performance with a stellar playoff run — though his team fell short of the league title — with a 1.55 goals- against average and .935 save percentage in 15 games.
- 32: Wednesday marks Game No. 32 for the Chicago Wolves. In that span, the team carries a 15-11-3-2 record with a .565 win percentage that places the Wolves fourth in the Central Division behind the Cleveland Monsters (.569), Milwaukee Admirals (.661) and Grand Rapids Griffins (.696). The squad is averaging 3.23 goals per game and allowing only 2.87 goals per game. The Wolves are riding a two-game win streak and are 5-2-2-1 in their last 10 games. Chicago is the only team in the 30-team American Hockey League that has yet to claim a victory in extra time. Thus far, the Wolves have skated in five games that needed extra time — three overtime and two shootouts —and have not come out with a W on any occasion.
- 35: Chicago Wolves wing Kenny Agostino can’t be held off the scoresheet. The 24-year-old leads the American Hockey League in points (35) and assists (26) through 31 games. The former Yale University Bulldog extended his latest point streak to four games with a secondary assist on Ivan Barbashev’s empty- net goal in the Wolves’ 5-2 romp against the Milwaukee Admirals on Dec. 26. This season, Agostino has only been held scoreless in nine contests and has eight multi-point performances, including a four-assist tilt in the Wolves’ 6-5 overtime setback against the Grand Rapids Griffins on Dec. 7 at Van Andel Arena. The Morristown, New Jersey, native was just the third AHL player this season to accomplish the feat and the first Wolves player since Jason Krog on April 12, 2008.
- 200: Defenseman Reid McNeill’s next game will be his 200th American Hockey League contest. The 24-year-old came to the Chicago Wolves on Nov. 19 when the Pittsburgh Penguins traded McNeill to the St. Louis Blues for right wing Danny Kristo. With the Wolves this season, McNeill has skated in nine games and collected an assist. He also has a +4 plus/minus rating and 11 penalty minutes. McNeill started his career with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and played parts of five seasons with the club. Through 199 career AHL games, the former London Knight (OHL) has four goals and 22 assists for 26 points. He also has logged a +33 plus/minus rating and 330 penalty minutes.
- The Wolves wrecked the Admirals for the third consecutive game.
- Rookie Samuel Blais netted two goals and veteran Brett Sterling registered two points (G, A).
- Center Wade Megan notched his league-leading 14th goal — a short-handed tally.
- Goaltender Pheonix Copley made 17 saves in his third straight start.
- Chicago’s offense exploded for eights goal to sink the Admirals.
- Centers Ivan Barbashev and Bryce Gervais each collected two goals while wing Kenny Agostino dished three assists.
- Goaltender Pheonix Copley turned aside 30 shots in the victory.
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