Saturday, March 18 | 7:00 p.m. | Allstate Arena
There’s Still A Chance
The Chicago Wolves are still looking to get into Central Division’s top spot, but they’re going to need some help from their other division rivals. While the Wolves can tighten the gap between themselves and the division-leading Grand Rapids Griffins by winning tonight’s game, they’re also going have to cheer on five of their six other division foes. Through their final 14 contests — after tonight — the Griffins face the Charlotte Checkers (3), Cleveland Monsters (2), Manitoba Moose (2), Milwaukee Admirals (4) and Rockford IceHogs (3). The Griffins own a collective 19-10-1-1 record against those teams. The Wolves will also need to snap up as many points as possible through their final 12 games of the regular season. The Wolves also play divisional opponents exclusively: the Charlotte Checkers (4), Cleveland Monsters (3), Iowa Wild (4) and Rockford IceHogs (1). Against those opponents, the Wolves are 19-7-2-2.
True to the 2016-17 season series between the Chicago Wolves and Grand Rapids Griffins, special teams played a role in Friday night’s contest — especially in the first period. Two of the frame’s three goals were power-play tallies. First, the Griffins extended their lead 2-0 on a man-advantage goal from Matt Ford, and in the latter half of the period the Wolves pulled back within a goal while on the power play. Grand Rapids has been stellar this season against the Wolves, boasting a 30.6 percent success rate with an extra attacker. Their penalty kill has also been dependable, clicking along at nearly 80 percent. Conversely, the Wolves have a 20.7 percent power-play conversion rate against the Griffins while their penalty kill is just a tad below 70 percent.
For the second time and final time, forwards Brad Malone and Tage Thompson are wearing No. 28 and No. 39, respectively, as the Wolves don their annual St. Patrick’s Day- themed jerseys. Usually sporting No. 40, Malone is just the second player in franchise history to don the digit; goaltender Fred Brathwaite wore it for two seasons (2006-08). He joined the Wolves as part of an NHL trade between the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals. Thompson made his AHL debut on March 11 and wore No. 32. With his collegiate career at a permanent close and his NHL deal not taking effect until the 2017-18 season, Thompson inked an amateur tryout contract with the Wolves on March 9.
Lucky Number Seven
On Friday night, Jordan Binnington started his seventh consecutive game to mark the longest starting streak for any Wolves goaltender this season. As the Wolves goaltending carousel was decommissioned and rookie Ville Husso was bit by the injury bug, Binnington rose to the starting position. Previously, the 23-year-old was the odd man out as Husso and Pheonix Copley — who departed the Wolves as part of an NHL trade — rotated starts and victories. Husso has been back from injury since March 15 and backing up Binnington while Binnington has collected a 5-0-2 record, 2.50 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 18: Kevin Tansey and Ty Rattie each notched their first American Hockey League goal of the season Friday night. Rattie, a proven scorer his entire career, finally got the suffocating monkey off his back while Tansey got to enjoy his first tally in the AHL. Friday night marked Rattie’s 20th game — NHL or AHL — of the season. Through his first 19 professional games of the season, Rattie had just four assists, including one with the Wolves that he nabbed while on a three-game conditioning stint. Tansey began the season with the Wolves after earning himself a standard player’s contract out of training camp, but was eventually loaned to the Missouri Mavericks. The 2016 ECHL All-Star returned to the Wolves lineup on March 7, following the release of Josh Atkinson from a PTO.
- 26: Rookie Vince Dunn is the Chicago Wolves’ top-scoring rookie — and defenseman — with 12 goals and 24 assists for 36 points. The second- youngest player on the roster — recently dethroned by college sophomore-turned-pro Tage Thompson — the 20-year-old has been impressive all year both on and off the scoresheet. Dunn has shown a lot of growth in 59 games this season, spending time on special teams and being relied upon in critical situations. Dunn typically rounds out the Wolves’ third defensive set and has played with an array of partners, but lately Dunn has been skating on the Wolves’ top D pairing with captain Chris Butler.
- 75: Coming into tonight’s game, Kenny Agostino is pacing the American Hockey League with 21 goals and 54 assists for 75 points. The 24-year-old has a commanding 19-point lead in the points race as the Hartford Wolf Pack’s Taylor Beck — the league’s No. 2 scorer — has just 56 points. With two assists in Friday’s 5-4 overtime loss against the Grand Rapids Griffins, Agostino’s linemate Wade Megan is now third in the points race with 27 goals and 27 assists for 54 points. Both Agostino and Megan have missed games — six and three, respectively — due to recalls from loan to the NHL but are still holding their own on the AHL leaderboards. Megan is the league’s leading goal-scorer while Kenny is the league’s leading playmaker with 54 assists.
- 250: Center Wade Megan appeared in his 250th career American Hockey League game last night. The 26-year-old from Canton, New York, is having a breakout season, leading the league in goals (27) and ranking third in points (54). Megan has set new personal-best benchmarks in goals (27), assists (27) and points (54). Previously, the five-year pro mustered just 14 goals, nine assists and 23 points. If Megan keeps scoring at his current pace, he will nearly triple that 23 points from last season. He also boasts a +21 plus/minus rating that is more than double his previous best rating and leads all Wolves players. That is also the ninth-best in the AHL.
- 7559: Jordan Binnington’s 7,559-second — a.k.a. 125 minutes, 59 seconds — shutout streak came to a close early into Friday’s game against the Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena. Just 59 seconds into the 5-4 overtime loss, Joe Hicketts chipped the puck behind Binnington to get the Griffins on the board first and close the 23-year-old’s shutout streak that spanned more than two games. Binnington has started seven consecutive games since Feb. 26, and stopped 51 combined shots in his two shutouts during that span. Binnington’s shutout streak ended 47:48 shy of tying the Wolves franchise record held by Matt Climie. Climie turned in 173:57 of goalless hockey from Jan. 11-16, 2013.
Last-Two Look Back
Friday, March 17 Chicago, (at) Grand Rapids
- Chicago couldn’t slay the Griffins to take over first place in the Central Division.
- Forwards Kevin Tansey and Ty Rattie each scored their first goal of the season while Petteri Lindbohm tallied in his first game back from injury and Brad Malone also scored.
- Goaltender Jordan Binnington made 33 saves in the loss but remained unbeaten in regulation over his last seven starts
Wednesday, March 15 (at) Chicago 1, Texas 0 (SO)
- The Wolves shut out the Stars to finish the four-game season series 3-0-1-0.
- Goaltender Jordan Binnington made 30 saves, as well as stopping both Stars shooters in the shootout, for his second consecutive shutouts.
- Forwards Kenny Agostino and Ty Rattie scored in the shootout to secure the win.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
Spend Saturday night with the Wolves as they battle the Griffins for the top of the Central Division. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. on CW50 with Jason Shaver and Billy Gardner. It will also stream on AHLLive.com.