Thursday, April 13 | 7:00 p.m. | Wells Fargo Arena
The Chicago Wolves have secured their spot in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs and the club can finish no worse than second place in the Central Division, which guarantees home-ice advantage for the first round of the postseason. However, which opponent the Wolves face in the second season remains to be determined and will likely come down to the final day of regular-season AHL competition on Saturday. The Wolves enter tonight’s game with 96 points just like the Grand Rapids Griffins, who earned a 2-1 shootout win over Charlotte on Wednesday night. However, the Wolves have three games left and the Griffins have just two. The Wolves’ magic number for the division title is five — and the number drops each time the Wolves earn points or the Griffins miss opportunities to add them. If the Wolves slide back to second place, they’ll face their Amtrak Rival, the Milwaukee Admirals, in the first round. But if they claim their sixth division title in their 16-year AHL tenure, they will play either the Charlotte Checkers or the reigning Calder Cup Champion Cleveland Monsters. The Checkers and Monsters both have 84 points with two games to play, but Charlotte holds the tiebreaker (regulation and overtime wins) for the fourth and final spot in the Central Division.
Thursday night marks the ninth of 10 meetings between the Chicago Wolves and the Iowa Wild. The Wild opened the season series with a 3-2 victory against the Wolves at Wells Fargo Arena on Nov. 18. The Wolves rebounded the next night with a decisive 5-0 shutout at Allstate Arena. That game marked the first of seven consecutive wins over the Wild, including two 4-3 overtime victories and another shutout.
This week, the Chicago Wolves have added four skaters to their roster in preparation for the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs. On Monday, former Red Deer Rebels (WHL) Conner Bleackley and Adam Musil were reassigned to the Wolves by the St. Louis Blues (NHL). Bleackley began the 2016-17 campaign with Chicago and skated in 44 games before being reassigned to the Missouri Mavericks (ECHL) on March 10. Musil joins the Wolves after wrapping his fourth full season in the Western Hockey League. Bleackley and Musil skated together for Red Deer for three full seasons and part of a fourth. Team captain Chris Butler also returned to the Wolves following a recall from loan under emergency conditions by St. Louis. On Tuesday, the Blues reassigned defenseman Tommy Vannelli to the Wolves. Vannelli began the season with Chicago but was reassigned to Missouri in early December. During his ECHL stint — split between Missouri and the Atlanta Gladiators — Vannelli dressed for 46 games and collected 19 points (G, 18A).
By the Numbers
- 0: The Chicago Wolves have blanked the Iowa Wild twice this season. The decisive victories were earned by Pheonix Copley and rookie Ville Husso. On March 31, Husso turned aside 26 shots to backstop Chicago to a 4-0 victory at Wells Fargo Arena that clinched the team’s playoff berth. Copley — now with the Hershey Bears — collected the Wolves’ first shutout of the season on Nov. 19 against Iowa. He made 20 saves at Allstate Arena while Bryce Gervais netted two goals en route to a 5-0 win.
- 1.66: Through three games against the Iowa Wild, rookie goaltender Ville Husso has posted a 1.66 goals-against average with a 3-0- 0 record. The 22-year-old has put together a strong campaign during his first season playing on North American soil. Through 20 games, Husso has a 12-6-1 record and leads Wolves goaltenders with a 2.41 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. His 26-save shutout performance against the Iowa Wild on March 31 marked the first of Husso’s North American career. Husso enters the final week riding a four-game winning streak during which he has posted a 1.75 GAA and a .940 save percentage. The Finland native also has given up four or more goals on just four occasions this season.
- 2: The reigning Calder Cup champion Cleveland Monsters are looking to make it back to the postseason. But with two games left on their schedule, they are going to need some help getting there. If Cleveland can finish the week with a pair of wins against the Manitoba Moose, they still need the Charlotte Checkers — who currently hold down the fourth and final Central Division playoff spot by virtue of the regulation/overtime win (ROW) tiebreaker — to lose one game in regulation or overtime. If the Chicago Wolves can fend off the Grand Rapids Griffins and the keep top spot in the division, they’ll face the fourth seed. This season, the Wolves are 5-1-0-1 against Charlotte and 4-4-2-2 versus Cleveland.
- 16: Thursday night, the Chicago Wolves are on the prowl for win No. 16 at Wells Fargo Arena since the Iowa Wild began playing there during the 2013-14 season. In 18 games at Iowa’s barn, the Wolves have lost just three times. Once was this season, and the blemish ended their franchise-record streak for wins on an opponent’s home ice. Chicago toppled Iowa 12 consecutive times from Feb. 7, 2014, to April 15, 2016, at Wells Fargo Arena.
- 22: This season, left wing Kenny Agostino has appeared in 65 games for the Chicago Wolves and collected at least two points in 22 of those contests. The 24-year-old is enjoying a breakout year, surpassing all his previous career-bests in points (57), goals (23) and assists (34). Most recently, he collected two goals in the Wolves’ 3-1 victory against the Rockford IceHogs to catapult his season goal total to 24. The New Jersey native has also logged at personal-best +24 plus/minus rating. The AHL First All-Star Team honoree also leads the AHL in scoring and assists by a wide margin, which he has done for most of the season.
- 45: If the Chicago Wolves can win their final three games of the regular- season, the club will finish with 45 wins. It would be the first time since the 2013-14 season that the Wolves accomplished the feat. If Chicago can nab at least four points in the next three days, the Wolves hit the 100-point mark for the ninth time in the franchise’s 23-year history. If the Wolves finish with 101 or 102 points, they’ll post their finest regular-season winning percentage since the 2007-08 squad posted a .694 win percentage on its way to the Calder Cup championship.
- Chicago topped Rockford in the final Illinois Lottery Cup contest of the 2016-17 campaign.
- Linemates Kenny Agostino (2G) and Andrew Agozzino (2A) each tallied two points in the victory.
- Rookie right wing Samuel Blais’ late first-period goal stood as the game-winner.
- Goaltender Jordan Binnington made 28 saves for his first victory in five starts.
- The Wolves defeated the Wild for their seventh victory in the season series.
- Defenseman Petteri Lindbohm tallied just 1:01 into overtime for the victory.
- Right wing Andrew Agozzino netted the game-tying goal and collected two assists while rookies Bryce Gervais and Jake Walman also scored.
- Rookie netminder Ville Husso made 19 saves for his 12th victory.