Sunday, March 26 | 12:00 p.m. | Bojangles’ Coliseum
HANGING ON BY A THREAD
Sunday afternoon, the Chicago Wolves are looking to snap a season-high five-game winless streak and get back into the win column. The Wolves have managed to snag a point in 15 of their last 16 games, so they’re hanging onto the second seed in the Central Division by a thread. While they are two points ahead of the Milwaukee Admirals, less than a percentage point (.006) — which dictates league standings — separates the two clubs. Meanwhile, the division-leading Grand Rapids Griffins pushed their record to 42-18-1-4 for a .685 win percentage and to stretch their lead to 3 points over Chicago (89-86) with two games in hand. While it’s highly unlikely the Wolves will miss the postseason, it would behoove them to get back to winning ways as they continue to face teams fighting for the fourth and final Calder Cup Playoff spot in the division.
BEING FIRST THE WORST
The Chicago Wolves have scored the opening goal in their last three consecutive games. Unfortunately, the Wolves have also lost all three of those contests as part of a five- game winless streak (0-1-2-2) that began on March 17. The streak marks Chicago’s longest losing stint of the season. In that span, the Wolves have outshot opponents 167-150 and have only three goals on eight tries in the shootout. Prior to this latest losing streak, the Wolves went on four-game skids two times this season: Nov. 9-18 and Dec. 15-21.
Flying under the radar this season is left-wing-turned-center Andrew Agozzino. In his fifth full-time season in the American Hockey League, the 26-year-old has been a workhorse and a key component to the Wolves success all season. Agozzino has quietly but consistently contributed to the offense, putting up 15 goals and 27 assists for 42 points to rank third in team scoring behind only Kenny Agostino (21-54—75) and Wade Megan (28-27—55). He’s also been a major player on the team’s power play and has put in significant time on the penalty kill, as well as in overtime situations. While most of his work doesn’t necessarily show up on the scoresheet, Agozzino has had a few highlight- reel moments. His biggest goal of the season was the game-winner in a 3-2 overtime thriller against the Rockford IceHogs on Feb. 4 at BMO Harris Bank Center. That contest was the first in a pair of back-to-back OT victories against the Wolves’ in-state rival. In Saturday’s contest, Agozzino moved from center back to the wing to skate on the Wolves’ top line with Agostino and Megan.
By the Numbers
- 1: Tage Thompson recorded his first professional point on March 22 against the Cleveland Monsters. The 19-year-old collected the primary assist on Brett Sterling’s 235th AHL goal that opened scoring in a 2-1 loss to the reigning Calder Cup champions. However, Thompson is still on the prowl for his first professional goal. With his next game being his eighth professional contest, Thompson looks more comfortable each time he hits the ice. In Saturday’s tilt with the Charlotte Checkers, in an effort to mix up line combinations, Thompson skated as a center for the first game this season. Listed as a center, Thompson began his professional career at right wing, as the Wolves have a successful four-man set down the middle. But with Chicago on a four-game winless streak, going into Saturday’s contest with the Charlotte Checkers, head coach Craig Berube elected to switch up lines, moving Andrew Agozzino to a wing on the top line and sliding Thompson into the center position.
- 10: Since Feb. 3, the Chicago Wolves have gone to extra time 10 times and have a 4-0-4-2 record in that span. Five of the club’s last six games have gone to extra time, including three times to the shootout and twice to the 3-on-3 overtime session. Netminder Jordan Binnington has appeared in four of those five contests while rookie goaltender Ville Husso was in net for just one of those contests – March 18 against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
- 28: Though the Chicago Wolves were again bested in the shootout, center Wade Megan scored his league-leading 28th goal of the year to send the game to overtime. The 26-year-old is having a breakout season, collecting 28 goals along with 27 assists for 55 points, which are his best totals in all three offensive categories. Megan is also sixth in league scoring. The Canton, New York, native has also been centering Chicago’s top line with Kenny Agostino — the league’s leading scorer with 75 points — on his wing. Forwards Andrew Agozzino and Samuel Blais each have spent time skating on the other wing to round out the top offensive unit.
- 40: Rookies Samuel Blais and Vince Dunn are projected to reach the 40-point mark this season. Currently, Dunn leads the Chicago Wolves’ first-year class, and defensive corps, with 12 goals and 26 assists for 38 points. Blais is two points behind Dunn with 36 points and leads rookie goal-scorers with 21 markers. His goal total places him in a tie with Kenny Agostino for the second-most goals among Wolves skaters. If one, or both, cracks the 40-point plateau, it would be the first time a Chicago rookie has accomplished the feat since the 2013-14 season when Ty Rattie put up 48 points, and 31 goals, to lead the Wolves in scoring. Last season, Jordan Schmaltz came close with 36 points (6G, 30A) and led all defensemen in scoring.
- 500: Veteran left wing Brett Sterling is closing in on his 500th American Hockey League game. The 32-year-old is projected to hit the milestone on Saturday, April 1, against the reigning Calder Cup champion Cleveland Monsters. Sterling already has checked off some Wolves franchise milestones his list this season, including passing three players — Darren Haydar (342), Tim Breslin (330) and Wendell Young (322) — for the No. 8 spot on the all-time game list, as well as moving into the No. 6 spot on the franchise assists list. He is also just six points behind Jason Krog (342) for the No. 4 spot on the Wolves all-time scoring list. The California native is also three tallies shy of breaking onto the league’s top-50 goal list. His 235 tallies are the most among active AHL players.
- Chicago dropped its fifth extra-time decision in six games to push its winless streak to a season-high five games.
- Right wing Jordan Caron opened game-scoring near the midway point of the first period while center Wade Megan netted his league-leading 28th goal to force overtime late in the third period.
- Goaltender Jordan Binnington made 16 saves in the loss while Tom McCollum turned aside 30 shots to push his perfect record to 7-0-0.
- 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.