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.
Road Trip with a Chance of Playoffs
This week, the Chicago Wolves continue their quest for Central Division greatness with a two-game stint against the Cleveland Monsters at Quicken Loans Arena. The Wolves are one point behind the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Central and can clinch a Calder Cup Playoff berth as soon as Saturday (March 25).
The Wolves’ games on Tuesday (March 21) and Wednesday (March 22) at Cleveland will mark the 10th and 11th contests in the 12-game season series between the clubs. The reigning Calder Cup champion Monsters are struggling to defend their title as they sit sixth in the Central Division and are on the outside of the Playoff bubble. They’ll have to climb over the Charlotte Checkers and Iowa Wild to have a chance at back-to-back championships. The Monsters are 1.7 percentage points out of the fourth position and have just one game in hand on the Checkers in the No. 5 spot.
Conversely, the Wolves are second in the division and poised to appear in the playoffs after missing last season with an unprecedented .487 winning percentage. It marked the first time the club finished below .500 in franchise history, as well as the first time Chicago did not quality for the postseason since the 2012-13 campaign.
Over the weekend, the Wolves didn’t do themselves any favors — losing a pair of overtime thrillers to Grand Rapids Griffins — but there’s still a chance for them to take over the No. 1 seed in the division and earn their sixth division title.
But the road to the top starts with facing their foes from Ohio, who have been a thorn in the Wolves’ side all season. Cleveland holds a 5-4-0-0 lead in the series although the Chicago has outscored them by a 27-23 margin. Four of the nine games in the series have been decided by one goal. That includes three extra-time tilts, all of which the Wolves have lost.
Unfortunately for Chicago, the upcoming two contests are at Quicken Loans Arena where the Wolves have struggled. Three of Chicago’s five losses this season have come at The Q, and the Wolves hold an all-time record 9-11-3-0 in that building.
The league’s leading scorer mustered two assists through three games, which dropped his lead to 16 points. However, the 24-year-old again delivered when his team needed him most, scoring the “game-winning goal” in Wednesday’s 1-0 shootout Texas Stars. He also assisted on the victory over the Chicago Wolves’ first game-tying tally and their lone go-ahead marker in Friday’s overtime loss. Through all three contests, he — along with linemates Wade Megan and Samuel Blais — brought energy and scoring chances to help keep the Wolves a float.
On Saturday, the 20-year-old netted his 20th and 21st goals of the season to become the first rookie — and third skater — of the year to hit the benchmark. Blais left is mark in the franchise record book as the first rookie to collect 20 tallies since the 2013-14 season when his teammate Ty Rattie led the club with 31 goals and 48 points. Through three games last week, Blais averaged four shots a game.
The Helsinki, Finland, native returned to the Chicago Wolves lineup on Friday for the first since Feb. 22. Lindbohm also scored the Wolves’ go-ahead goal with 1:51 left in the third period in that contest. On Saturday, the 23-year-old didn’t make the scoresheet but his physical presence and back- checking abilities were felt throughout the game.
The Chicago Wolves prodigal son twice found the back of the net — though only one of them is in his stat line — for his first goal of the season. In Wednesday’s 1-0 shootout victory, Rattie scored the Wolves’ second goal in the shootout to solidify the win. On St. Patrick’s Day, the 24-year-old scored late in the first period to get Chicago on the board in a game they eventually lost 5-4 in overtime.
- The Wolves fell to the Griffins in overtime for the second time in as many nights.
- Grand Rapids led 2-0 early, but Samuel Blais rallied Chicago with two goals to force overtime.
- Center Ben Street delivered the game-winning goal at 3:49 of extra time for the Griffins win.
- Goaltender Ville Husso made 28 saves his first start in 13 games; the contest also marked his first overtime loss of the season.
- 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
|Tuesday, March 21||at Cleveland^||Quicken Loans Arena||6 p.m. CT|
|Wednesday, March 22||at Cleveland^||Quicken Loans Arena||6 p.m. CT|
|Saturday, March 25||at Charlotte#||Bojangles’ Coliseum||5 p.m. CT|
|Saturday, March 26||at Charlotte#||Bojangles’ Coliseum||12 p.m. CT|
|Friday, March 31||at Iowa*||Wells Fargo Arena||7 p.m. CT|
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