Friday, April 14 | 7:00 p.m. | Wells Fargo Arena
CENTRAL CROWN CLINCH
The Chicago Wolves own a two-point lead over the Grand Rapids Griffins and each team has two games to play. Because the Griffins hold the tiebreaker (regulation and overtime wins), the Wolves need to finish one point ahead to claim their fourth division title in eight seasons. Chicago can clinch the crown as soon as Friday night with one of two scenarios. Either the Wolves need to win while Grand Rapids loses at home to the Charlotte Checkers, or Chicago needs an extra-time loss while the Griffins lose in regulation.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
If the Chicago Wolves win the division title, then they’ll claim the top seed in the Central Division semifinals and face the No. 4 seed in the opening round. The Cleveland Monsters hold a two-point lead over the Charlotte Checkers for that No. 4 spot, but the Checkers have two games remaining compared to the Monsters’ one. Charlotte also holds the tiebreaker over Cleveland. If the Monsters get one more point from their Friday night home game against the Manitoba Moose than Charlotte collects from its road game in Grand Rapids, then the Monsters will clinch the division’s final playoff spot. Conversely, the Checkers also can clinch the No. 4 spot on Friday night. If Charlotte defeats the Grand Rapids Griffins, and the Monsters lose in regulation to Manitoba, then Charlotte gets the last spot in the Central.
TURN DOWN FOR WHAT
While the Chicago Wolves roster has grown to 31 players, the team traveled to Iowa a few players lighter. With just two games left in the regular season, Chicago is gearing up for the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs and that includes resting some of its mainstays. The most notable on the list is left wing Kenny Agostino. The league’s leading scorer sat out Thursday night’s 2-1 win over the Iowa Wild, so he did not improve on his AHL-leading totals of 83 points and 59 assists. Tucson center Chris Mueller will need to score 16 points in the Roadrunners’ season finale on Saturday night — 11 of them being assists — in order to catch Agostino atop the AHL’s points and assists lists. Defenseman Reid McNeill hasn’t played a game since the Wolves’ last road trip to Des Moines on March 31. Veteran left wing Brett Sterling, who received the team’s Dan Snyder Man of the Year Award prior to the April 9 game versus the Rockford IceHogs, has sat out the last two games. Lastly, defenseman-turned-forward Scooter Vaughan last skated on April 9 against the Rockford IceHogs.
By the Numbers
- 5: Backstopping the Chicago Wolves to a 2-1 victory against the Iowa Wild Friday night, rookie netminder Ville Husso stretched his win streak to five games and matched a season-high he set Oct. 23 to Jan. 7. In that span, Husso posted a 1.80 GAA and .937 save percentage. This time around, in five games dating back to March 26, the 22-year-old has posted a 1.60 goals-against average, a .947 save percentage and a 26-save shutout. The shutout marked his first on North American soil. Overall, Husso has put together a nice rookie campaign, posting a respectable 2.34 goals-against average and .921 save percentage with a 13-6-1 record through 21 contests.
- 9: Friday night, the Chicago Wolves are looking for their ninth consecutive win in the season series against the Iowa Wild. After suffering a 3-2 loss on Nov. 18 at Wells Fargo that ended the Wolves’ franchise-record streak for wins on an opponent’s home ice at 12 games, Chicago rebounded the next night with a decisive 5-0 shutout at Allstate Arena. On March 31, Husso earned the Wolves’ second shutout of the season series with a 26-save performance. In Chicago’s eight straight victories, they have outscored the Wild 32-12. However, three of those game have been one-goal affairs and two of them — with identical 4-3 scores — needed overtime. Special teams have helped the Wolves’ cause against Iowa as the power-play boasts a 26.7 percent success rate while the penalty kill is clicking along at 88.5 percent.
- 10: On Monday, center Conner Bleackley rejoined the Chicago Wolves after a 14-game stint in the ECHL with the Missouri Mavericks. In that span, the 21-year-old collected seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points. The Alberta native began his season with the Wolves and appeared in 44 games before being loaned Missouri on March 10. With several players out, Bleackley was able to jump right back into the Wolves lineup last night and skated on the third line with center Alex Friesen and fellow wing Mackenzie MacEachern. MacEachern appeared in his first game since April 1 against the Cleveland Monsters.
- 32: With the Chicago Wolves’ opening goal in Friday night’s game against the Iowa Wild, center Wade Megan became the American Hockey League’s sole leader in goals. Going into Thursday’s contest, Megan and the Milwaukee Admirals’ Pontus Åberg were tied atop the league standings with 31 tallies a piece. However, Åberg was recalled from loan by the Nashville Predators on April 10 and hasn’t seen AHL action since. Megan’s tally also extended his current scoring streak to eight games — a season-high for the 2016-17 AHL First All-Star Team honoree — with 10 points (5G, 5A). Prior to Thursday night, the Canton, New York, native had not potted a goal since April 1 against the Cleveland Monsters.
- 43: Rookie defenseman Vince Dunn has collected 13 goals and 30 assists for 43 points. With that total, the 20-year-old leads the Wolves’ 13-man rookie class, as well as the team’s D corps. Additionally, he is in a three-way tie for the top spot among American Hockey League rookie blueliners for points with Devon Toews (Bridgeport) and Kyle Wood (Tucson). Dunn’s point total also lands him in the No. 16 spot among all AHL first-years. The Lindsay, Ontario, native has skated in 70 games for the Chicago Wolves this season and has spent time in all situations for the Wolves, including special teams and overtime
- 60: Thursday night, center Wade Megan netted the Chicago Wolves’ 60th power-play goal of the season. The Wolves check in at No. 6 in the American Hockey League in power-play goals, and are second in the Central Division to the league-leading Grand Rapids Griffins, who have found the back of the net on the man advantage 76 times this season. Chicago’s power play conversion rate — 20.3 percent — is eighth in league and ranked in the top-10 for the majority of the season.
Last Two Lookback
- 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.