Sunday, April 2 | 4:00 p.m. | Allstate Arena
Checkered past, BRIGHT FUTURE
The Charlotte Checkers are battling for the fourth and final Calder Cup Playoff spot in the Central Division with the Cleveland Monsters on their heels and the Iowa Wild trying to climb back within striking distance. Charlotte and Cleveland are tied for fourth place with 75 points, but the Checkers hold one game in hand. While Charlotte had the chance to rest Saturday night, Cleveland hopped on a bus after its win over the Wolves and traveled to Iowa to play a Sunday matinee. Why is Charlotte in position for a postseason berth? Look no further than their second-half surge. Since losing to the Wolves on Jan. 7 in their last visit to Allstate Arena, Charlotte has posted a 22-8-3-0 record for a .712 winning clip. However, Chicago could be a road block in the Checkers’ second-half upswing. Charlotte lost both contests — Jan. 3 and 7 — at Allstate Arena. The Wolves own a 4-1-0-1 lead in the eight-game season series.
The next time Brett Sterling takes the ice, it will be the 500th American Hockey League of his career. It’s yet another milestone in Sterling’s remarkable career. This season alone, the 32-year-old has cracked the Wolves’ top-10 games list and now owns the No. 8 spot, he moved into the sixth position on the Wolves all-time assists list and is within five points of Jason Krog for the No. 4 spot on the franchise scoring list. Sterling also boasts 235 career AHL goals — No. 1 among active players — and is just two markers shy of joining the league’s top-50 goal-scorer list. The California native already has earned a number of accolades including a Calder Cup championship (2008), a Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL Rookie of the Year (2007) and the Willie Marshall Award as the league’s leading goal-scorer (2007), but today he gets to add another: bobblehead model. The Chicago Wolves are celebrating Sterling’s career by bobble-izing him and allowing the first 2,500 fans inside Allstate Arena to take home a mini-Brett.
TOTAL (EMERGENCY) RECALL
Prior to Saturday’s divisional showdown with the Cleveland Monsters, left wing Kenny Agostino and defenseman Petteri Lindbohm were recalled from loan under emergency conditions by the St. Louis Blues. The Blues have struggled with injuries throughout the 2016-17 season. Most recently, center Ivan Barbashev and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo left St. Louis’ March 31 game against the Colorado Avalanche with possible injuries. The Blues lost in a shootout to the Avalanche but were able to clinch a spot in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the extra-time point.
By the Numbers
- 1: One point separates the Central Division-leading Grand Rapids Griffins and the second-place Chicago Wolves. Both clubs have also officially punched their tickets to the postseason and now are just jockeying for the top spot in the division. The Griffins have been in the driver’s seat for a while but are on a three-game losing skid. The Wolves have also been struggling of late — needing extra time to finish five of their last 10 games and losing four of those contests. But earning a point in those games helped them to clinch the 18th playoff berth in their 23-year history.
- 2: There are two games left in the eight-game season series between the Charlotte Checkers and the Chicago Wolves. So far, Chicago has recorded a 4-1-0-1 record against Charlotte. Two of those four wins have come at Allstate Arena, and with the final two contests between the Checkers and the Wolves in that venue, Chicago is looking to sweep at home.
- 4: On Saturday night, center Wade Megan stretched his current goal-scoring streak to four games as he netted his league-leading 31st marker of the season. On Friday, the 26-year-old became the first player in the league to reach the 30-goal plateau. It also marked the first time in Megan’s five-year professional career he has reached the milestone. As a matter of fact, Megan’s entire season has been filled with milestones. The New York native played his 250th career AHL game, collected his 100th AHL point, made his NHL debut with the St. Louis Blues in December and scored his first NHL goal. He also has set career-bests in points (59), goals (31) and assists (28).
- 22: Left wing Samuel Blais leads the rookie class with 22 goals, which is also good enough for second-best among all Chicago Wolves skaters. The 20-year-old has been one of Chicago’s top rookies and ranks second in scoring for first-year skaters with 38 points through 69 games. The Quebec native also boasts four two-goal games — the last one coming March 18 versus Grand Rapids. In the absence of Kenny Agostino— the American Hockey League’s leading scorer called up to St. Louis under emergency conditions — Blais will be tapped to heat up again. The Wolves consistently netted four or more goals per game earlier this season but they’ve since cooled off, scoring four goals just five times since March 4.
- 50: Andrew Agozzino is just four points shy of 50. The 26-year-old has quietly snuck into third among the Chicago Wolves in scoring with his 16 goals and 30 assists for 46 points. The Ontario native has been an unsung hero for the Wolves, spending significant time on special teams and extra-time 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 and helped to clinch the Illinois Lottery Cup trophy.
- 90: Through six games this season, the Wolves have a 90 percent success rate on the penalty kill against the Charlotte Checkers. Charlotte has struggled on the power play this season and sits 30th in the league with an 11.1 percent success rate. Of course, they’ve also struggled against the Wolves’ penalty kill that is ranked 10th in the league. The Checkers have only netted two man-advantage markers in 20 tries against Chicago. Conversely, the Wolves have faired far better with the extra man, notching eight tallies for a 29.6 percent success rate. Chicago’s power play is eighth in the American Hockey League.
- Chicago clinched a Calder Cup Playoff bid for the 18th time in its 23-year history.
- Center Wade Megan collected his league-leading 30th goal while left wing Kenny Agostino picked up points No. 78 and 79 to continue leading the league in scoring.
- Defenseman Petteri Lindbohm and forward Ty Rattie also scored in the win.
- Rookie netminder Ville Husso posted 26 saves for his first AHL shutout.