Tuesday, March 21 | 6:00 p.m. | Quicken Loans Arena
Postseason Arms Race
The only teams the Chicago Wolves need to worry about in their rearview mirror are their next two opponents: the Charlotte Checkers and Cleveland Monsters. If Chicago can run away from Quicken Loans Arena with two wins — including one in regulation — then that will prevent the Monsters from catching the Wolves in the standings and continuing to haunt their postseason dream. While Chicago is busy battling Cleveland, they will also be hoping that the Iowa Wild can king the Checkers. Chicago cannot afford for Charlotte to collect more than a point through the next three games — including their head-to-head match on Saturday (March 25) — if they want to clinch a spot that same evening. The Milwaukee Admirals took advantage of the Grand Rapids Griffins in the final contest of a 3-in-3 for the Griffs and handled them 6-3. The Wolves are back within a more realistic striking distance so their chance for a sixth division crown lives another day.
Not much love when we go OT
Overtime has not been kind to the Chicago Wolves this season as the club is 3-7 when games have been decided in the 3-on-3 session. Most recently, the Wolves lost two overtime contests to their Great Lakes rival, the Grand Rapids Griffins. In both games — Friday and Saturday — the Wolves rallied in the third period but fell short in extra time. Friday’s rally included a go-ahead goal from Petteri Lindbohm, but the Griffins spoiled the comeback with a goal in the final nine seconds of regulation time. In Saturday’s contest, rookie left wing Samuel Blais netted two goals to get the Wolves to extra time, but Ben Street pushed the Griffins over the edge of glory at 3:49 of OT for the win. Of the 10 games that have gone to overtime this season, the Wolves have forced the extra time in just four of the tilts. Rookie goaltender Ville Husso is the only netminder above .500 for Chicago in overtime with a 2-1 record. Jordan Binnington has seen the most OT action and carries a 1-5 record while the recently departed Pheonix Copley was 0-1.
SKILL, WILL AND PENALTY KILL
Both the Chicago Wolves’ and Cleveland Monsters’ penalty-killers have been the backbone of this series with 92.6 and 85.6 percent success rates, respectively. Both clubs are also among the league’s best short-handed teams — each having scored seven short-handed tallies this season, including one apiece in head-to-head competition. Center Wade Megan is the Wolves leading shortie scorer with three while Sonny Milano leads the Monsters with a pair. As stingy as the PK units have been, the Wolves have managed to squeeze out four goals while on the power play, including two in the same contest on Feb. 22. Cleveland has capitalized on the man advantage once on two occasions. The clubs have been relatively disciplined throughout the season series with each averaging just three penalties per game.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 2: The Wolves are still looking for their second win of the season at Quicken Loans Arena to tie the team’s season-high for wins in that building. There’s still a chance for the Chicago Wolves to finish the season with a 3-2-0-1 record and get above .500 when playing at The Q, but history would suggest otherwise. Through 10 seasons, the Wolves have not fared well in the Cleveland Monsters’ domain and have a 9-11-4-0 all-time record. This season, Chicago stands 1-2-0-1 when facing the Monsters at Quicken Loans Arena.
- 5: It has been five games since Wade Megan last scored a goal. The stint marks the third time this season the 26-year-old has been held goal-less for five contests. The first time it occurred, Megan snapped out of it with a goal on Nov. 12 at Cleveland. The second time, Megan delivered two goals vs. Iowa on Feb. 26. The former Boston University Terriers captain is clinging to a one-goal lead in the American Hockey League scoring race with 27 tallies. Of course, Megan hasn’t been totally pointless in that stretch, collecting three assists. During his drought, the Wolves have posted a 2-0-3-0 record with Megan’s line — featuring Kenny Agostino and Samuel Blais on the wings — consistently helping push the team to wins and overtime. At least one of the three players on that line has a point — or a hand — in each of Chicago’s game-tying or -winning goals in the last five games.
- 14: Defenseman Petteri Lindbohm — No. 14 — returned to the Chicago Wolves lineup over the weekend for the first time since Feb. 22. The 23-year-old made an instant impact, scoring the 4-3 go-ahead goal for the Wolves in Friday’s game that Chicago eventually lost 5-4 in overtime. Lindbohm hasn’t put up big numbers this season — just six goals and eight assists for 14 points through 42 games — but that’s also not his primary M.O. The 6’2”, 212-pound blueliner is known more for his physical presence and ability to harp on the competition to force turnovers.
- 20: On Saturday, Samuel Blais netted his 20th and 21st goals of the season to become the first rookie on the team — and third skater — of the year to hit the benchmark. The 20-year-old left wing marked the Chicago Wolves record book as the first rookie to collect 20 tallies since the 2013-14 season when current teammate Ty Rattie led the club with 31 goals and 48 points. Blais has proven himself as one of the Wolves’ top rookies this season. He and defenseman Vince Dunn (12G, 24A) are tied for the rookies’ team lead in scoring with 36 points each, and the duo also shares the No. 5 spot in team scoring. Saturday’s contest also marked his fourth two-goal performance of the year and his first in front of the hometown crowd at Allstate Arena.
- 56: Rookies Samuel Blais and Vince Dunn have accounted for nearly 56 percent of the first-year-class scoring. The tandem leads the pack with 36 points each of the 129 total points scored by rookies during 2016-17. Overall, rookies have recorded 22.2 percent of the Wolves’ 581 total points this season. Last season’s new kids compiled 18.3 percent of the team’s scoring — just 96 of 526 total points through 76 games. Blais leads the first-years with 21 goals while Dunn leads the eld with 24 assists. The duo ranks among the top 20 rookies for scoring in the American Hockey League.
- 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