Saturday, March 11 | 6:00 p.m. | UWM Panther Arena
The Final Voyage
Saturday night marks the final game of the 12-game Amtrak Rivalry series between the Chicago Wolves and Milwaukee Admirals. With five consecutive victories against the Admirals between Dec. 10 and Jan. 11, the Wolves own a 6-3-1-1 series lead. On Jan. 22, Chicago defeated Milwaukee 5-1 at Allstate Arena to clinch the Amtrak Rivalry title for the sixth time in eight years. The series started rocky for the Wolves and included three straight one-goal losses to their Central Division foe on Oct. 19, Nov. 4 and Nov. 9. Two of the setbacks went to extra time. The Admirals also handed the Wolves their only shutout of the season on Jan. 21 with a 1-0 final score. Admirals goaltender Marek Manzanec made 30 saves while rookie netminder Ville Husso gave up just one goal on 34 shots.
The Chicago Wolves have just 16 games remaining during the 2016-17 regular season. Thus far, the season has been a vast improvement from last season that ended with the Wolves below a .500 win percentage for the first time in franchise history and missing the playoffs for just the fifth time in their first 22 seasons. Through 60 games last season, Chicago recorded a 25-27-5-3 record for a .483 success rate. This season, the tides have turned, and Chicago is second in the Central Division — looking to unseat the top-seeded Grand Rapids Griffins — with a 35-17-5-3 record and .650 win percentage. The club’s 555 points (goals and assists) has already surpassed last season’s 526 total. The Wolves are averaging 9.25 points per game. Chicago’s defense has also been offensive-minded this season and has collected 188 points — 24 better than last season’s D corps for the year.
ADDING TAGE TO THE PAGE
The latest addition to the Chicago Wolves roster page is first-round NHL draft pick Tage Thompson. Drafted 26th overall by the St. Louis Blues in the 2016 Draft, the 19-year-old signed an entry-level deal with the club this week that will begin during the 2017-18 season. He joined the Wolves on Thursday as he signed an amateur tryout contract shortly after completing his sophomore season at the University of Connecticut. The Wolves recently parted ways with forwards Conner Bleackley and Emerson Clark. On March 8, the Wolves traded Clark to the Utica Comets for future considerations. The 24-year-old Clark began his AHL career last season with the Wolves and collected four goals and seven assists in 39 games. On Friday, the St. Louis Blues reassigned Bleackley to the Missouri Mavericks. The rookie center has been in and out of the Wolves lineup this season. He last skated for the Wolves on Feb. 25 against the Iowa Wild. Through 44 games, Bleackley has two goals and eight assists along with eight penalty minutes.
BY THE NUMBERS
- <1: Netminder C.J. Motte‘s AHL goals against average is 0.75. Though his AHL experience is limited, the Chicago Wolves signed the goalkeeper to a professional tryout contract on March 2. Earlier this season, the 25-year-old twice backstopped the Charlotte Checkers, including a game against the Wolves. That game marked Motte’s AHL debut: he played 19 minutes, 51 seconds on Jan. 7 and stopped 11 of 11 shots in relief of starting Charlotte goalie Daniel Altshuller, who gave up five goals on 29 shots in the first 40 minutes of play. The Wolves took that game 5-2 and rookie netminder Ville Husso made 22 saves for the victory.
5: On Thursday, rookie defenseman Kevin Tansey collected his first American Hockey League point — an assist. Tansey helped set up the play in the defensive end that sprung veteran left wing Brett Sterling up the left wing to score the Wolves’ first tally of the contest. Though Chicago twice overcame one-goal deficits to send the tilt to overtime, former Wolves player Jaime Sifers again delivered the game-winning goal for the Monsters 3:29 into the extra session. The Wolves suffered a 3-2 setback and their home winning streak ended at eight games; one shy of tying the franchise record last achieved in March 2003.
- 23: Happy belated birthday, Mackenzie MacEachern! The former Michigan State University standout turned 23 on Thursday. Skating with the Chicago Wolves in his rookie professional campaign, MacEachern opted out of his senior season to sign an entry-level contract with the St. Louis Blues in March 2016. During his three seasons as MSU, MacEachern totaled 33 goals and 35 assists for 68 points in 108 games. This year with Chicago, the Michigan native has appeared in 42 games and tallied nine points (4G, 5A).
- 32: If head coach Craig Berube inks his name on the lineup card, newcomer Tage Thompson will make his American Hockey League debut wearing No. 32. The 19-year-old signed an amateur tryout contract with the Chicago Wolves on Thursday. The signing comes on the heels of Thompson electing to forgo his remaining two seasons at Connecticut to sign a three-year entry-level NHL contract with the St. Louis Blues that begins with the 2017-18 campaign. No. 32 was donned earlier this season by Emerson Clark, who was traded to the Utica Comets on March 8 for future considerations. Other notables who have worn No. 32 with Chicago include Ivan Barbashev (2015-16), Zack Kassian (2012-13) and Dan Plante (2000-02).
- 44: The Chicago Wolves have outscored opponents 207-163 through 60 games this season. Their +44 goal differential is third-best among all 30 teams in the American Hockey League. Only the Central Division-leading Grand Rapids Griffins (+63) and the San Jose Barracuda (+49) have better differentials. The Wolves also averaging 3.41 goals per game, which ranks fourth in the league. Conversely, they’re allowing 2.72 goals per game, which ranks seventh-best in the AHL.
Last-Two Look Back
- The Wolves twice overcame one-goal deficits to force overtime, but the Monsters ended the Wolves’ home winning streak at eight games.
- Veterans Brett Sterling and James Wisniewski both tallied while Andrew Agozzino assisted on both goals.
- Goaltender Jordan Binnington turned aside 25 shots in the loss.
- Chicago overcame an early 2-0 deficit to defeat Manitoba and split the four-game season series.
Left wing Kenny Agostino registered his second consecutive three-point (G, 2A) performance.
- Center Andrew Agozzino netted two goals while defensemen Morgan Ellis and James Wisniewski each collected two assists.
- Forward Scooter Vaughan also tallied and goaltender Jordan Binnington made 37 saves in the win.
Saturday night’s game begins at 6:00 p.m. on CW50’s “Saturday Night with the Wolves,” presented by the Illinois Office of Tourism.