Friday, Jan. 20 | 6 p.m. | Van Andel Arena
Game of Thrones
The Chicago Wolves, Grand Rapids Griffins and Milwaukee Admirals are all within 75 percentage points of each other for the No. 1 spot in the Central Division. The Griffins currently wear the crown with a .697 win percentage and a 25-10-1-2 record. The Admirals are second in the division with a 22-12-2-2 record and .632 win rate. Idle for the last four days — while both Milwaukee and Grand Rapids played games — the Wolves round out the top three with a .622 win percentage and a 23-13-3-2 record. With four and five more games played than Grand Rapids and Milwaukee, respectively, Chicago can help determine its own fate by winning as many head-to-head points as possible against both clubs during this three-in-three weekend. The Wolves and Griffins face each other tonight for the first time since Dec. 15 when Grand Rapids handed Chicago its biggest setback of the season, a 7-1 loss, in a School-Day matinee. On Saturday and Sunday, the Wolves and Admirals skate in their final Amtrak Rivalry games at Allstate Arena during the regular season. The Wolves are looking to extend a five-game winning streak versus their I-94 foe.
If you ain’t first, You’re Last
New Team, Who Dis?
On Jan. 16, the St. Louis Blues placed defenseman Brad Hunt on waivers hoping to return him on loan to the Chicago Wolves. However, the next day in the final hours of the waiver period, the Nashville Predators announced they claimed the 28-year-old blueliner. Prior to his recall on Dec. 8, the former Bemidji State University standout skated in 23 games for the Wolves and collected nine goals and 20 assists for 29 points. Those totals put him atop the American Hockey League scoring leaderboard. Even with his six-week absence, Hunt remains in the top 35. While with St. Louis, Hunt appeared in nine games and tallied one goal and four assists for five points. He also collected a -2 plus/minus rating and two penalty minutes. Three of his points came on the power play.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 3: Last time the Chicago Wolves faced the Grand Rapids Griffins (on Dec. 15), the Griffins put on a power-play clinic. The visitors netted three man-advantage markers in seven tries as part of a 7-1 victory over the Wolves at Allstate Arena. It marks the most power-play goals the Wolves have allowed in a game this season. Since then, Chicago’s penalty kill has been stingy — allowing just eight goals in 60 tries for a 86.7 penalty-kill percentage. Conversely, since that eight-goal affair, the Wolves’ power play has a 39 percent success rate as Chicago has tallied against opponents 13 of 59 times. That includes netting extra-man tallies in six consecutive games (Jan. 3-13).
- 6: The lopsided 7-1 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Dec. 15 also marked the Wolves’ largest margin of defeat this season. Previously, the Wolves’ largest margin of defeat was two goals on three occasions: Oct. 14 at Grand Rapids, Oct. 15 vs. Grand Rapids and Nov. 12 at Cleveland. Since that last meeting between the Wolves and Griffins, Chicago has outscored opponents 60-44 and produced a season-high eight- game win streak. The Wolves also set their victory margin benchmark at five goals with a 7-2 win over their Illinois Lottery Cup rival, the Rockford IceHogs.
- 44: On Jan. 15 against the Manitoba Moose, the Chicago Wolves fired a season-high 44 shots at netminder Ondrej Pavelec. The Calder Cup champion goaltender — and Wolves alumnus — turned aside all but one shot to secure a 4-1 victory for the Moose. The Wolves’ collective shooting percentage was just 2.3 percent for the contest, which was a stark contrast to what the high-powered Chicago offense — and defense — has been doing. The Wolves lead the American Hockey League in goals with 141. That total through 41 games gives them the league’s third-best goals-per-game with 3.44. The Wolves are behind the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (3.68) and the San Jose Barracuda (3.47).
- 98: Friday night, second-year defenseman Jordan Schmaltz is skating in his 98th career American Hockey League contest. Additionally, 2017 AHL All-Star and Chicago Wolves left wing Kenny Agostino is looking for assist No. 98 to inch toward his 100th career assist. The feat shouldn’t take much time to accomplish for Agostino, the league’s leading scorer with 51 points through 41 games. For Schmaltz, career game No. 100 is on the horizon even though he missed 15 games to start this 2016-17 season. During the 2015-16 campaign, he skated in 71 contests for the Wolves and collected six goals and 30 assists in that span. This season, the 23-year-old is on pace for a career-high 40 points.
- 475: On Sunday, left wing Brett Sterling appeared in his 475th career American Hockey League game. Most of those games — 337 — have come wearing a Chicago Wolves uniform. The 2008 Calder Cup champion has set numerous records and collected a variety of accolades while skating for the Wolves. The 32-year-old also has continued his ascent on various franchise lists. Most notably, Sterling has climbed the all-time games played list. On Dec. 15, he skated in his 323rd game to take sole possession of the No. 10 spot away from general manager and retired goaltender Wendell Young. On Jan. 3, Sterling appeared in game No. 331 as a Wolves player to pass Tim Breslin for the No. 9 spot. Sterling’s sights are next set on former teammate Darren Haydar, who dressed in 342 games for the Wolves. Sterling is on track to finish the season in the No. 5 slot with 372 games.
Recent Game Rewind
Sunday, Jan 15 Chicago 1, (at) Manitoba 4
- Manitoba netted four unanswered goals to hand Chicago its second loss in 12 games.
- Former Wolves goaltender Ondrej Pavelec turned aside 35 shots in the victory.
- Defenseman Petteri Lindbohm was the lone goal-scorer for Chicago, and rookie netminder Ville Husso made 16 saves.
Friday, Jan 13 Chicago 4, (at) Manitoba 2
- Chicago overcame Manitoba for its 10th win in 11 games.
- Goaltender Pheonix Copley recorded another 35-save performance in the victory.
- Center Bryce Gervais netted a game-winning breakaway goal at 16:41 of the third frame to break a 2-2 tie.
- Wing Kenny Agostino sniped an empty-net insurance marker for his 51st point of the season.
Friday’s game begins at 6:00 p.m. on The U Too presented by the Illinois Office of Tourism. The U Too is found over the air at WCIU-DT 26.2. Cable subscribers get the channel on Xfinity 230 and 360, RCN 35 and WOW 170 while Dish Network customers find the games on Ch. 48.
The game will also be streamed LIVE on Facebook and AHLLive.com starting at 6:00 with Jason Shaver and Billy Gardner.