Welcome to Wolves Roundup, a weekly report of highlights, notes and transactions from the Chicago Wolves’ previous week of competition during the 2016-17 season.
This week, the Chicago Wolves and Grand Rapids Griffins will finish their season series and compete head-for-head for the first time since Feb. 3. There is a lot on the line as the teams tee up a home-and- home set that begins at Van Andel Arena on Friday (March 17).
The Wolves are lurking just behind the Griffins in the Central Division standings, hoping to leapfrog the division’s top dog to earn their sixth division title. Grand Rapids owns one more point than Chicago (81 to 80) and has played one less game.
Grand Rapids has struggled of late and is winless in its last three games (0-1-0-2) while Chicago has been flourishing. Despite a 3-2 overtime setback against the Cleveland Monsters on March 9, the Wolves are 8-0-2-0 in their last 10 games and haven’t lost in regulation since Feb. 11.
However, this season the Griffins have been Chicago’s kryptonite. Through the first eight games of the 10-game season series, Grand Rapids has had a strong upper hand, carrying an 6-2-0-0 record and outscoring the Wolves 31-21. Just two games have been decided by a one-goal margin, and, conversely, the Griffins shellacked Chicago 7-1 on Dec. 15 to hand the Wolves their largest margin of defeat this season.
Both clubs boast strong home records and are not terrible when away from their respective dens. Chicago is 22-6-2-1 playing at Allstate Arena and 14-11-3-2 on opponents’ stomping grounds. The Griffins own a 21-8-0-2 home record at Van Andel Arena and have strung together a 17-9-1-2 road record.
A thorn in the Wolves’ otherwise stellar rebound season — after finishing below .500 for the first time in franchise history — the Griffins have snuck out of Allstate Arena with victories in three of four games there and have only lost once to the Wolves at The Van this season.
With 15 games left in the Wolves’ regular season and their sights still set on winning their sixth division title since joining the American Hockey League in 2001, the Wolves need to win this week’s games to finally slay the Griffins and better their regular-season destiny.
Last week, the 24-year-old collected four more assists to extend his American Hockey League scoring lead to 19 points (21-52–73) and continue to lead the league in assists with 52. His three-point performance on Saturday marked his fourth multi-point outing in five games and his 19th overall. Agostino also pushed his scoring streak to five games with three goals and nine assists for 12 points.
Though the Chicago Wolves couldn’t overcome the reigning Calder Cup champion Cleveland Monsters and lost 3-2 on Thursday night after forcing overtime, Agozzino put on a great individual effort that included assisting on both Wolves goals. Most of his contributions did not show up on the scoresheet but they were apparent to spectators. Agozzino had a number of quality scoring chances throughout the game — including during the extra frame — and took a penalty to make a play that spoiled a near-breakaway chance for his former team.
The Richmond Hill, Ontario, native’s two starts last week pushed his current starting streak to five consecutive games. In that span, Binnington is unbeaten with a 4-0-1-0 record, a .910 save percentage and a 2.56 goals-against average. The 23-year-old recorded his first shutout of the season on Saturday with a 4-0 victory against the Milwaukee Admirals in the teams’ final game of the 12-game Amtrak Rivalry series that the Wolves won with a 7-3-1-1 record.
- Chicago blanked Milwaukee in the season series’ second shutout.
- Veterans Andrew Agozzino and James Wisniewski, as well as rookie Vince Dunn and Mackenzie MacEachern all tallied for the Wolves.
- Goaltender Jordan Binnington made 21 saves for his first shutout of the season.
- 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.
|Wednesday, March 15||vs. Texas^||Allstate Arena||7 p.m. CT|
|Friday, March 17||at. Grand Rapids*||Van Andel Arena||6 p.m. CT|
|Saturday, March 18||vs. Grand Rapids#||Allstate Arena||7 p.m. CT|
|Tuesday, March 21||at Cleveland^||Quicken Loans Arena||6 p.m. CT|
|Wednesday, March 22||at Cleveland^||Quicken Loans Arena||6 p.m. CT|
^ AHL Live and Facebook only, * U Too, # CW50