Saturday, April 8 | 7:00 p.m. | Allstate Arena
SHOT AT THE TOP TALE OF THE TAPE
The Chicago Wolves and Grand Rapids Griffins have been jockeying for the top spot in the Central Division. The Griffins’ two games in hand disappeared between March 31 and April 5 as they skated in four games and were the victors just once (against the Manitoba Moose in overtime on Wednesday). Chicago had a one-point lead on Grand Rapids until the Griffs’ overtime win gave them a 93-92 lead in points. Both teams have five regular season games remaining, so it should be a fight to the finish. Grand Rapids holds the tiebreaker (regulation and overtime wins), so the Wolves need to amass two more points than the Griffins between now and April 15 to take the Central Division title. Both teams also need to keep an eye on the third-place Milwaukee Admirals. They locked up a playoff spot this week and have 88 points. They could still grab the Central Division, but their 1-0 home loss to Cleveland on Friday night hurt their cause.
On Thursday, left wing Kenny Agostino and center Wade Megan were named to the 2016- 17 AHL First All-Star Team. Both skaters are enjoying a career year in their first season with the Wolves. Agostino leads the AHL in scoring with 79 points and assists with 57, which are both career-bests for the 24-year-old. Megan shares the league lead in goals with 31 and has already surpassed all of his previous career-highs in points (60), goals and assists (29). The announcement marks the first time the Wolves have had an AHL First All-Star Team Team member since the 2013-14 campaign when goaltender Jake Allen was named to the squad. Chicago had not placed two players on the AHL First All-Star Team since 2006-07 when Darren Haydar and Brett Sterling were the wings.
KYROU AND THE FIRST KNIGHT
This week, two more skaters joined the Chicago Wolves roster. The most recent move came Friday when Reid Duke inked a professional tryout contract (PTO). The 21-year-old joins the Wolves after finishing his overage season in the Western Hockey League where he led his team — the Brandon Wheat Kings — with 37 goals and 34 assists through 59 games. He registered three goals in four games against the Medicine Hat Tigers during the 2017 WHL Playoffs. On March 6, Duke became the first player to sign with the Vegas Golden Knights, the National Hockey League’s new franchise that begins play next season. On Tuesday, forward Jordan Kyrou was reassigned by the St. Louis Blues to the Wolves following the conclusion of his third season in the Ontario Hockey League with the Sarnia Sting. The 18-year-old was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the second round, 35th overall, of the 2016 NHL Draft and signed an entry-level contract with the club on July 27, 2016. Kyrou has skated in 194 OHL regular-season games and registered 191 points (60G, 121A). He has helped Sarnia to the postseason all three years and appeared in 16 playoff contests while averaging a point per game
By the Numbers
- 3: Three spots have been clinched in the Central Division for the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs. With the Cleveland Monsters’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Iowa Wild on Tuesday, the Milwaukee Admirals became the third Central Division team to clinch a postseason berth. The Wild are sitting sixth in the division and still hoping for a shot at that fourth and final playoff spot, but Iowa (74 points) needs to jump Cleveland (80 points) and Charlotte (79 points) in the standings. Iowa and Charlotte have five games left while Cleveland has four. When the Wolves blanked the Wild 4-0 on March 31 at Wells Fargo Arena, they clinched their 18th playoff bid in the organization’s 23-year history. As for the division-leading Grand Rapids Griffins, they toppled the Admirals 3-2 on March 26 to claim the first playoff position in the division. The Central and Pacific Divisions have the most spots clinched in the league. With eight days left in the AHL regular season, eight of the 16 Calder Cup Playoff spots are still up for grabs.
- 5: Saturday night marks the first of the Chicago Wolves’ final five games of the 2016-17 regular season. All those games are against lower-ranked Central Division opponents, but four of those games are against opponents vying for the final playoff spot in the division. The Iowa Wild — who the Wolves face in three of their final games, including tonight — are one of those teams, and they’re the farthest out, still looking in. Right now, the Charlotte Checkers and Cleveland Monsters are virtually tied for the final playoff spot as they both own a .556 winning percentage Charlotte holds the tiebreaker over Cleveland and Iowa because it owns more regulation and overtime wins.
- 238: Of the Wolves’ 234 goals scored by players this season, only 22 of them have been unassisted. The Wolves have registered nearly 400 assists on the season. Leading the team — and the league — in setting up goals is Kenny Agostino with 57 helpers. Eight other Wolves have reached the 20-assist plateau: Andrew Agozzino (31), Wade Megan (29), Vince Dunn (28), Jordan Schmaltz (22), Brad Hunt (20), Chris Butler (20) and Morgan Ellis (20). The Wolves’ defensive corps, which has been stellar at outletting passes from the defensive zone or teeing up a scoring chance from the blue line, has accounted for 34 percent of the Wolves’ assists this season.
- 894: The Chicago Wolves are one of a dozen American Hockey League teams to have been assessed fewer than 900 penalty minutes on the season. Chicago’s penalty-minute record breaks down as 317 minors, 26 majors, six 10-minute misconducts, six game misconducts and one match penalty. Center Brad Malone leads the Wolves in penalty minutes. However, the bulk of those minutes, 66, came while Malone played for the Hershey Bears. Since joining the Wolves on Feb. 27, Malone has received just six penalty minutes. Chicago’s true leader in penalty minutes is rookie defenseman Vince Dunn with 62. His record features two fighting majors, one of which occurred on Dec. 21 at Rockford when he was assessed a season-high 17 penalty minutes.
- Chicago defeated Charlotte for its third consecutive victory at Allstate Arena in the season series.
- Rookies Vince Dunn and Bryce Gervais scored while first-year Jake Walman netted his first professional goal in just his second career game.
- Centers Alex Friesen and Brad Malone also tallied.
- Rookie netminder Ville Husso made 36 saves for the victory.
Saturday, April 1 Cleveland 5, (at) Chicago 2
- The Wolves dropped their eighth game to the Monsters and finished the season series with a 4-4-2-2 record.
- Center Wade Megan collected his league-leading 31st goal and 19-year-old Tage Thompson netted his first professional goal.
- Goaltender Jordan Binnington made 30 saves in the loss.
Start your Saturday night with Jason Shaver and Billy Gardner starting at 7:00 p.m. on CW50. Saturday’s game will also stream on AHLLive.com and Facebook.