The Chicago Wolves look for goaltender Jordan Binnington to ride his current unbeaten streak into this weekend’s Central Division grudge match. Already making Wolves franchise history, Binnington will have his sights set on helping his club wrest the division’s top seed away from the Grand Rapids Griffins.
The a 23-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ontario, became just the third goaltender in Wolves history to earn back-to-back shutouts as he defeated the Milwaukee Admirals on March 11 and led the team to a 1-0 shootout victory over the Texas Stars on March 15. It also marked the first consecutive shutouts by a Chicago netminder since Pheonix Copley’s performances on Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, 2015.
It wasn’t too long ago that Binnington was in a unique situation. For nearly a month Ville Husso and Copley were sharing the crease and winning almost every night, which left him as the odd man out.
@Chicago_Wolves that guy still goes here!? Jk jk
— Jordan Binnington (@binnnasty) January 16, 2017
“It was new to me at the start, but I quickly learned that you can’t feel sorry for yourself,” Binnington said. “It [was a] matter of pushing myself on my own time and doing the extra work that the guys playing games didn’t have to.”
Binnington’s work off the ice paid dividends on Feb. 10 when Husso left the game due to an injury that would sideline him for more than a month. That earned him a spot start and a job as Copley’s backup. But when Copley departed in a trade on Feb. 27, Binnington was ready to seize the opportunity.
His return came with warning:
Snowmans on his way.
— Jordan Binnington (@binnnasty) February 11, 2017
In Husso’s absence, Binnington started five consecutive games and recorded a 4-0-1-0 record, a .910 save percentage and a 2.56 goals-against average. He also delivered his first shutout since January 2016 in the 4-0 victory on March 11 against the Admirals. Binnington made 21 saves for the win.
The goaltender credits the conversations he shared with mentors for helping him stay in the game even when he wasn’t playing.
“[They] said just let it create fire underneath you, and remember when you were playing well the times in the past and what made you play well,” Binnington said.
Since returning to a regular role in Chicago’s goaltending rotation on Feb. 12, Binnington has fashioned a 6-0-2 record in eight games with a 2.32 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.
“I think he’s more aggressive in net,” said Wolves head coach Craig Berube. “That’s what I see. He’s challenging more. He’s out of the blue paint, so he’s really cutting the angles off.”
Binnington’s shutout streak stands at exactly 125 minutes. The franchise record belongs to Matt Climie, who went 173 minutes, 57 seconds without allowing a goal from Jan. 11 to Jan. 16, 2013.
“I’m riding it right now, feeling good, and we’re winning games,” Binnington said.
With 14 games left in the team’s 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 weekend’s games to pass the Griffins and better their regular-season destiny.
“Good teams find ways to win,” Binnington said. “I know it’s been said many times, but we’re going to stick with it and keep battling heading into a big weekend.”
“They’ve been ahead of us most of the season,” Berube said. “They’re a very good team, so I think we’re going to be pumped up to play them and prove that we can play with them.”
Chicago travels to Grand Rapids on Friday for the first of a home-and-home set, and the victor will gain – or retain – the Central Division lead. Puck drop is set for 6 p.m., and the contest will be broadcast on The U Too.
The Wolves get their chance to host on Saturday night as the Griffins come to Allstate Arena for a 7 p.m. game. Chicago enters the weekend with 1 more point than Grand Rapids, but the Griffins hold two games in hand and the superior winning percentage.