Sunday, April 23 | 2:00 p.m. | Allstate Arena
SHIPPING UP TO ALLSTATE
Sunday afternoon marks Game 3 of the 2017 Calder Cup Central Division Semifinals between the Charlotte Checkers and Chicago Wolves. The contest is also the first of three potential home games for the Wolves in the five-game set. Since the clubs split the two contests in Charlotte — the Checkers blanked the Wolves on Thursday and Chicago edged Charlotte -32 on Friday — the Allstate Arena home crowd is guaranteed at least two games in the Central Division grudge match. The winner of the series will face the victor of the Grand Rapids Griffins-Milwaukee Admirals series. Game 2 of that series takes place at 3 p.m. Sunday. The Griffins lead the series 1-0 thanks to an overtime goal from Tomas Nosek on Friday night.
In regular-season action, the Chicago Wolves were perfect against the Charlotte Checkers at Allstate Arena: posting four wins and outscoring the Checkers 18-10. Three of those games were decided by at least two goals while the clubs’ regular-season finale on April 15 was a 4-3 thrilling come-from-behind victory for the Wolves in which Andrew Agozzino netted his second overtime goal of the season.
On Friday, the Chicago Wolves toughed out a 3-2 win to pull even in the Central Division Semifinals with the Charlotte Checkers. The previous night, Charlotte flexed their offensive muscles netting four goals while goaltender Tom McCollum kept all 20 Chicago shots out of the net for his second career postseason shutout. Coming into Friday’s game, the Wolves were down but not out. The pack rallied, and Alex Friesen registered Chicago’s first goal of the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs under five minutes into the game. The Checkers kept pace with the Wolves throughout the contest twice recording equalizing tallies. However, rookie Adam Musil — appearing in just two regular-season games following the conclusion of his Western Hockey League season — scored at 14:49 of the third period to put Chicago in front for good. Charlotte pressured, including pulling McCollum with more than three minutes left in the game, but the Wolves fended them off for the series-evening win.
Friday’s 3-2 victory featured one goal and two assists for Samuel Blais and one goal and one assist for Adam Musil. Skating in his first year of professional hockey, Blais quickly became a mainstay for the Wolves and missed just one game during the regular season. He morphed into an offensive dynamo who finished second in Wolves team goal scoring (26) and fifth in points (43). The 20-year-old also finished second among AHL rookies in regular- season goal scoring, just one shy of league leader Mark Jankowski of the Stockton Heat. On Friday, Blais factored on all three Chicago goals with a tally and two assists. Musil also played a large role in Friday’s victory as he scored his first professional points: an assist and the game-winning goal with 5:11 to play. Musil also sacrificed his face in the final second of the game to block a Charlotte shot.
By the Numbers
- 0: So far in the postseason, the Chicago Wolves’ top two scorers — left wing Kenny Agostino and center Wade Megan — have yet to contribute on the scoresheet. Through 65 regular-season games, Agostino put up 83 points and 59 assists to lead the league while Megan netted 33 goals to sit atop the AHL leaderboard in goal- scoring. Through two games of the Calder Cup Playoffs, Agostino and Megan have combined for just six shots on goal. They’re also responsible for four of the Wolves’ eight penalty minutes in postseason play. On the ip side, rookie center Andrew Poturalski led Charlotte with 52 points during the regular season — but has yet to register a point in the postseason.
- +1: Defenseman Jordan Schmaltz appeared in his first Calder Cup Playoff game on Friday and finished the contest with a +1 plus/minus rating and a shot on goal. Late Thursday night, the 23-year-old was returned on loan from the St. Louis Blues. Recalled from loan in early March, Schmaltz made his National Hockey League debut on March 5 against the Colorado Avalanche and his Stanley Cup Playoff debut on April 12 against the Minnesota Wild. Skating on the top defensive pairing with captain Chris Butler on Friday, Schmaltz also made his Calder Cup debut.
- 2: With two goals and two assists for four points, the Charlotte Checkers’ rookie center Lucas Wallmark is the American Hockey League’s leading scorer in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs. Wallmark has pained the Chicago Wolves all season as he recorded four assists through five regular-season games against the Wolves. While he had two goals and an assist in the Checkers’ win on Thursday, in Friday’s contest he was held to just one assist.
- 4: Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the Charlotte Checkers marked the Chicago Wolves’ first playoff shutout since May 16, 2014, when the Toronto Marlies blanked them 4-0 to sweep them in the Western Conference Semifinals.
- 8: For as many scrums that gathered after whistles — especially in Game 2 — the Charlotte Checkers and Chicago Wolves are the two most gentlemanly teams thus far during the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs. Each team has only generated eight minutes in penalties and is averaging four minutes per game.
- 60: Through two games of the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs, netminder Ville Husso has made 60 saves out of 65 shots from the Charlotte Checkers. The 22-year-old North American rookie ranks third in the postseason in saves. Oddly enough, one of the goaltenders who ranks ahead of him is former teammate Pheonix Copley, who has rejected 62 shots in two games while leading the Hershey Bears to a 2-0 lead over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the Atlantic Division Semifinals. Though the Wolves were better at shot blocking in Game 2 on Friday, they were still outshot 39-35 by Charlotte. On Thursday, they only mustered 20 shots toward goaltender Tom McCollum while the Checkers finished the game seven shots better
- 93.3: Why would a victory in Sunday’s Game 3 be particularly important for the Wolves? History has proven it’s a good thing when Chicago takes a 2-1 lead in a postseason series. It has happened 15 times in franchise history — and the Wolves went on to win 14 of those series (93.3 percent). Meanwhile, a loss in today’s Game 3 wouldn’t ruin the Wolves’ chances. They’ve trailed 2-1 in 11 series — yet found a way to survive and advance on four occasions.
WHILE IN CHARLOTTE
Friday, April 21 Chicago 3, (at) Charlotte 2
- The Wolves edged the Checkers to even the Central Division Semifinals 1-1.
- Rookie left wing Samuel Blais collected three points (G, 2A) while first-year center Adam Musil recorded the game-winning goal and an assist.
- Rookie goalie Ville Husso made 37 saves to pick up his first postseason victory.
Thursday, April 20 (at) Charlotte 4, Chicago 0
- The Checkers blanked the Wolves in the opening game of the Central Division Semifinals of the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs.
- Rookie Lucas Wallmark put up three points (2G, A) while Tom McCollum rejected 20 shots to earn the shutout.
- Wolves rookie netminder Ville Husso stopped 23 of 26 shots in his North American postseason debut.
Sunday’s Central Division Semifinal beings at 2:00 p.m on The U Too. It can also be streamed on www.ahllive.com and Facebook. Follow @Chicago_Wolves on Twitter for live in-game play-by-play.