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The Chicago Wolves are looking for the team’s fifth consecutive victory in the month of January. If met, their 5-0-0-0 record would be Chicago’s hottest start to a calendar year since 2012 when that squad also went 5-0-0-0 from Jan. 6 to 13. Those ve games included contests against the Charlotte Checkers, Lake Erie Monsters, Milwaukee Admirals, Peoria Rivermen and Rockford IceHogs. The Wolves kicked off 2012 with a win in Peoria and then took four straight games at Allstate Arena.
STREAKING UP THE STANDINGS
Since the Chicago Wolves began their point streak, they’ve been the hottest team in the American Hockey League. Since Dec. 9 — when the streak began — the Wolves have collected 26 of a possible 28 points and accrued a 12-0-1-1 record with a .929 winning percentage. Who’s No. 2? San Diego has produced a 9-2-0-0 record (.818) since losing on Dec. 6 at Allstate Arena. Next on the list is the AHL’s best team, the Manitoba Moose, who in the same time span are 8-1-2-1 with 19 points and a .729 win percentage. Prior to the point streak, Chicago was ranked 29th in the league and owned a 6-12-4-1 record with 17 points and a .370 win percentage.
Through their franchise record 14-game point streak, the Chicago Wolves have used three netminders: Max Lagace, Michael Leighton and Kasimir Kaskisuo.
Returned to the Wolves on loan by the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 10, the 24-year-old Lagace has been a workhorse. He has appeared in 10 of the 14 contests and strung together an 8-0-2 record. Lagace has kept opponents at bay with a .918 save percentage and 2.36 goals against average.
Leighton was perfect in the game that began the point streak on Dec. 9 against the Cleveland Monsters. The 36-year-old veteran — since recalled from loan by the Arizona Coyotes and traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins organization — stopped 24 shots through 60 minutes to earn the first of two streak shutouts.
Kaskisuo has appeared in three games and earned three wins, including the other shutout. His 32-save shutout came Jan. 6 against the Grand Rapids Griffins. It was the second time this season Kaskisuo blanked the Griffins; the first was a 33-save performance on Nov. 3 at Van Andel Arena. In his three contests during the point streak, Kaskisuo owns a .938 save percentage and 1.67 goals-against average.
By the Numbers:
- 3: In the Chicago Wolves’ last two victories, just three players have accounted for all six goals. On Jan. 5 against the league-leading Manitoba Moose, center Brandon Pirri registered his second career three-goal performance and forward Teemu Pulkkinen netted the game-winning goal 49 seconds into overtime to end a eight-game goal drought. The next night, captain Paul Thompson collected both Chicago goals as the Wolves blanked the Grand Rapids Griffins 2-0 with Kasimir Kaskisuo between the pipes for the second time this season.
- 13: With his second shutout of the season on Jan. 6 against the Grand Rapids Griffins, Kasimir Kaskisuo became the 12th of 13 goaltenders to own a league-best two shutouts on the 2017-18 campaign. Hershey’s Vitek Vanecek was the 13th goaltender with a 29-save shutout on Sunday against Charlotte. Kaskisuo’s shutout set is unique as he is the only goaltender to post both goose eggs against the same team with the same score. In two games — Nov. 3 and Jan. 6 — the 24-year-old has made 62 saves through 120 minutes against the Griffins en route to 2-0 victories for the Chicago Wolves. Prior to this season, the Wolves had not shut out Grand Rapids since Jan. 29, 2010. Incidentally, that shutout was Game 3 of the Wolves’ 14-game point streak from Jan. 24 to Feb. 21 when the franchise record was reached for the second time.
- 15: Forward Tomas Hyka is the Chicago Wolves’ top point producer since Dec. 9 when the team began its franchise-record point streak. Since that date, the 24-year-old has accrued seven goals and eight assists for 15 points. That’s two points better than the team’s overall leading scorer, Brandon Pirri, who owns 13 points (8G, 5A) in the same span. Hyka has appeared in 12 of the 14 games — missing two due to injury — and owns a 1.25 point-per-game pace. The Czech Republic native has also produced four multi-point performances since Dec. 15
- 30: Center Brandon Pirri is the rst Chicago Wolves player to reach the 30-point benchmark this season. With 15 goals and 15 assists for 30 points through 31 games, the 2018 AHL All-Star selection leads the team in points and goals and owns a team-leading 0.97 points per game. The 26-year-old Toronto native ranks 17th in league scoring. The league’s best scorers, Chris Terry (18G, 22A) and Chris Bourque (11G, 29A), have a 10-point lead on Pirri. The six games Pirri has missed — Oct. 21 through Nov. 3 — were due to injury.
- 84.6: During their 14-game point streak, the Chicago Wolves own a 84.6 percent penalty kill. That percentage is 1.3 percentage points better than their season penalty kill rate that stands at 83.3 percent. In 14 games, the Wolves have staved off 44 of 52 opponent power plays. Those numbers have helped elevate them to the No. 14 spot among the 30 AHL teams.
- 432: In the last 14 games, the Chicago Wolves have outshot opponents 432 to 397. The 35-shot differential is modest as the Wolves have outshot their foes 1,212- 1,058 over the course of the entire season. The largest margin occurs during the second period when Chicago outshoots opponents 440 to 364 for a 76-shot differential. The first period shot differential is 60 in the Wolves’ favor: 397 to 337. Third periods are tightly contested with Chicago outshooting opponents by just 11 shots, 352 to 341.
- Chicago extended its point streak to 13 games with an overtime win over the league leaders.
- Forward Teemu Pulkkinen scored the game-winning goal just 49 seconds into the extra frame.
- 2018 All-Star selection Brandon Pirri nettted his second career three-goal performance.
- Manitoba’s Buddy Robinson also collected a hat trick.
- Goaltender Max Lagace made 21 saves in the victory.
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SIX DEGREES OF RETO BERRA
The last time San Diego Gulls goaltender Reto Berra showed up at Allstate Arena, he scored an empty-net goal against the Wolves for the Lake Erie Monsters. Berra’s tally at 18:34 of the third helped the Monsters take a 5-1 win. Among Berra’s teammates that night was forward Andrew Agozzino, who spent last season helping the Wolves win the Central Division. The only Wolves player that night who’s still on the team’s roster is defenseman Petteri Lindbohm. And why was Berra even playing for Lake Erie? Because he was on a conditioning stint, which required Calvin Pickard to move up to the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. Two months ago, the Vegas Golden Knights traded Pickard to the Toronto Maple Leafs to bring Tobias Lindberg to the Wolves.