Saturday, March 23 | 5:00 p.m. | Bojangles’ Coliseum
LET’S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS
While the Chicago Wolves were facing the Cleveland Monsters on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Charlotte Checkers and Iowa Wild were battling head-to-head to get the upper hand — and the final playoff position — in the Central Division Calder Cup Playoff race. Charlotte took control of its destiny and twice overcame Iowa to pick up four points and move into the final playoff spot in the Central Division. Unfortunately for the Wolves, the Checkers’ success — and the Wolves’ inability to reverse their historically bad record at Quicken Loans Arena as they lost two games to the reigning champs — stalled their opportunity to clinch a playoff berth until at Tuesday, March 28, when the Checkers and Monsters go head-to-head. The Wolves can help the cause by winning the next two games against the Checkers to put more distance between themselves and the fourth-place team.
After leading the Central Division early in the season, the Milwaukee Admirals are now the third-place team. However, they still have big divisional dreams. With wins over the Manitoba Moose on Thursday and Friday, the Admirals have pulled within 1 point (85-84) of the Wolves in the standings. The Wolves have gone four games without a win (0-1-2- 1) and can feel the Admirals breathing down their necks as Chicago attempts to catch the first-place Grand Rapids Griffins (.675) in hopes of earning the franchise’s sixth AHL division title. Now the club’s attention is divided as it tries to stay afloat as the Central Division second seed. With just 10 games left in the regular-season — and nearly all of the games coming against teams looking to claw their way into a top-four division position — the Wolves need to get back to their winning ways. They’ve earned a point in 13 of their last 14 games, but Chicago needs to start putting tallies in the W column and consistently record two points.
AHL 150 FOR BUTLER, WISNIEWSKI
Wednesday marked the 150th career American Hockey League game for defensemen Chris Butler and James Wisniewski. The veteran pair also have skated in a combined 939 games at the National Hockey League level throughout their careers. Butler — the Chicago Wolves captain — began his professional hockey career with the Buffalo Sabres organization when the club selected him in the fourth round — 96th overall — of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Butler went on to skate two more seasons at the University of Denver before forgoing his senior season to sign an entry-level NHL contract. A highly touted blueliner in the Ontario Hockey League, Wisniewski began his professional career two years after being selected in fifth round — 156th overall — in the 2002 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. Butler is in his third season with the Chicago Wolves and undertook a significantly larger role in both leadership and on-ice production this season. Following a season-ending injury after one game during the 2015-16 season with the Carolina Hurricanes, the organization bought out Wisniwski’s contract, and the 33-year-old signed with the Wolves on Jan. 29 in hopes of earning his way back into an NHL contract.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 2: Shootouts are not the Chicago Wolves’ most efficient way to end games in their favor. This season, the Wolves have gone to the shootout six times and have won just twice for a .333 success rate. Goaltenders Jordan Binnington and the recently departed Pheonix Copley had been in net for those six contests and carry identical 1-2 records. Copley owns a better save percentage (.533) compared to Binnington (.500) in part due to a nine-round shootout loss with the Cleveland Monsters on Jan. 28.
- 3: Left wing Kenny Agostino has been held scoreless for three consecutive games for his longest scoreless streak of the season. The American Hockey League’s leading scorer with 21 goals and 54 assists for 75 points, the 24-year-old will be looking to get back on track Saturday night against the Charlotte Checkers. And his odds are pretty good as he is the leading scorer in the Charlotte-Chicago season series — averaging more than two points per game. Through four contests, Agostino has nine points (3G, 6A).
- 4: The Chicago Wolves come into Saturday night’s game riding a four-game winless streak. Though they have not put a tally in the W column, they have managed to pick up a point in three of those four contests and have at least one point in 14 of the last 15 games. However, with dreams of a sixth division title still on their radar, they have not been doing themselves any favors losing in head-to-head divisional matchups with the Central’s top-seeded Grand Rapids Griffins or reigning Calder Cup champion Cleveland Monsters, who are looking to climb back into playoff contention.
- 7: In the wake of Wednesday’s shootout loss to the Cleveland Monsters, center Wade Megan’s goal-less streak has stretched to seven games. Megan has stalled at 27 tallies, and last night, the San Antonio Rampage’s Rocco Grimaldi caught up to Megan in San Antoni’s 3-2 loss to the Ontario Reign. And four other players — Greg Carey (Lehigh Valley), Pontus Åberg (Milwaukee) Nicklas Jensen (Hartford) and Byron Froese (Syracuse) — are hot on Megan’s heels with 26 goals.
- 46: In Wednesday’s 2-1 shootout loss, the Chicago Wolves amassed a season- high 46 shots on net. However, Cleveland goaltender Brad Thiessen accepted the challenge and stopped all but one of the attempts — plus two more in the shootout — to ensure a victory for the late-surging Monsters who are looking to get back into the Calder Cup Playoff picture and defend their title. Wolves goaltender Jordan Binnington was no slouch in the contest either. The 24-year-old turned in a 32- save performance but was beaten by both Cleveland skaters in the shootout.
- 235: Veteran left wing Brett Sterling netted his 235th career American Hockey League goal on Wednesday. The tally stood as the Chicago Wolves’ lone goal in the 2-1 shootout loss to the Cleveland Monsters. That contest was also Sterling’s first appearance since March 11 in Milwaukee against the Admirals. The 32-year-old’s 235 goals are the most of any active player in the AHL, and he is now just two markers shy of cracking the league’s top-50 all-time list. The former Colorado College standout is fast approaching another milestone; he is projected to skate in his 500th career AHL game before the end of the 2016-17 season.
- The Wolves fell to the Monsters for the third consecutive game.
- Veteran Brett Sterling notched the Wolves’ lone goal in his game since March 11.
- Both Cleveland shooters tallied in the shootout while neither Chicago shooter — Kenny Agostino or Andrew Agozzino — could solve Brad Thiessen.
- Goaltender Jordan Binnington made 32 saves in the loss.