Saturday, Jan. 26, 2018 | 8:00 p.m. | Facebook | CW50
NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART
On Friday night, the Chicago Wolves competed against a team in Arizona for the first time in 21 years. However, the outcome was not desired as they dropped the contest 2-1 in overtime. Alton, Illinois, native Dakota Mermis delivered the death blow with seven seconds left in the 3-on-3 overtime to lift the Tucson Roadrunners over the Wolves. The closely contested game was a battle of former University of Minnesota Duluth goaltenders. The Wolves’ Kasimir Kaskisuo — who backstopped the UMD Bulldogs for two seasons (2014-16) — kept the team in the game with 24 consecutive saves before giving up a goal to Lawson Crouse with 3:16 left in the third period. At the other end of the ice, Hunter Miska — Kaskisuo’s successor at UMD who backstopped the Bulldogs for one season (2016-17) with a Frozen Four appearance — made 21 saves.
STILL NOT MUCH LOVE WHEN WE GO OT
The Chicago Wolves competed in their 11th extra-time game of the season and suffered their sixth OT setback of the year in Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Tucson Roadrunners. The Wolves have been anything but stellar in the 3-on-3 bonus frame with just three wins to their name. The shootout is not better as they are 0-2 in that stage of the game. Interestingly, the Wolves are outshooting their opponents 26-16 during overtime but have scored on just 11.5 percent of their shots. Conversely, opponents are converting 37.5 percent of the time.
Center Brandon Pirri earned his team-leading 18th goal in Friday’s 2-1 setback against the Tucson Roadrunners. His goal total ranks him ninth among all American Hockey League goal scorers. He, Matthew Highmore (RFD), Nick Merkley (TUC), Buddy Robinson (MB) and Ben Smith (TOR) all share the spot. One of Merkley’s 18 markers is a short-handed tally he netted against the Wolves on Oct. 22 — one of just two Chicago has given up this season. On Jan. 5, Robinson and Pirri went goal-for-goal as both netted hat tricks but the Wolves earned the W with an overtime victory against the then top-ranked Manitoba Moose. Friday’s goal marked Pirri’s fourth point in the last three games. The 26-year-old owns three goals and an assist in that timespan.
Defenseman Jason Garrison skated for the Chicago Wolves Friday night despite having arrived in Tucson just hours earlier. On Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights recalled the 33-year-old from loan and he skated for the Golden Knights in their 2-1 loss against the New York Islanders Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena. In his game with Vegas, Garrison logged 18 minutes, 59 seconds of ice time. Prior to Thursday, Garrison last appeared in an NHL game on Oct. 13 against the Detroit Red Wings. With the Wolves on Friday, Garrison also logged major minutes that included special teams and overtime.
By the Numbers:
- 5: With his fifth consecutive appearance in net for the Chicago Wolves on Friday night, Kasimir Kaskisuo matched Max Lagace’s season-high for consecutive games in net for the Wolves. Loaned to the Wolves on Oct. 23 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kaskisuo has appeared in 20 games this season for the Wolves. In that time, he has collected a 8-10-2 record with two shutouts — both against the Grand Rapids Griffins. He leads all Wolves netminders with a 2.47 goals-against average and his .913 save percentage C.J. Motte.
- 7: Captain Paul Thompson logged seven penalty minutes in Friday’s game to bring his season total to 70. With that total, the 29-year-old leads the Wolves by a 35-minute margin — center Wade Megan is second with 35 minutes to his credit. Forty-four games into the season, Thompson is one minute away from matching the Wolves’ penalty-minute leader last season, thenrookie Vince Dunn. Last season’s squad finished the year as the least penalized rendition of the Wolves to date with just 947 penalty minutes. But, with Chicago averaging just 11 minutes a game this season, the club is on pace to lower the season PIM bar to 811 minutes.
- 22: The Chicago Wolves fired 22 shots at Hunter Miska Friday, which is the club’s fewest shots on goal in a game all season. The team’s previous season-low — one shot more — came on Oct. 28 against the Milwaukee Admirals at Allstate Arena. While the Wolves didn’t get much on net, they did manage to be the victor in that contest. It was one of Chicago’s 24 one-goal games this season as C.J. Motte made 27 saves en route to his first win wearing a Wolves sweater.
- 24: With a 2-1 overtime loss Friday, the Chicago Wolves upped their season total of on egoal games to 24. The Wolves own a 9-7-6-2 record in one-goal contests this season. The first three games of Chicago and the Tucson Roadrunners’ season series have all been one-goal affairs and two of those — including Friday night — needed extra time to decide a victor. Illinois native Dakota Mermis downed the Wolves Friday night while forward Teemu Pulkkinen was Chicago’s Hero After Zero on Oct. 22.
- 500: Center Brandon Pirri’s next game will be his 500th professional contest. In the first 499, the 26-year-old skated in 226 National Hockey League games and earned 98 points (57G, 41A). That includes a 22-goal campaign during the 2014-15 season to lead the Florida Panthers in goal scoring. Selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round, 59th overall, of the 2009 NHL Draft, Pirri’s NHL career has spanned seven seasons (2010-17) and four teams: the Anaheim Ducks, Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Panthers. At the American Hockey League level, the Toronto native has appeared in 273 contests and compiled 233 points (85G, 148A). The Chicago Wolves are just the second AHL team Pirri has represented — he spent four seasons with the Rockford IceHogs (2010-14).
- 598: Veteran Brett Sterling has already ticked numerous milestones off his list this season. The next: his 600th career point. The 33-year-old owns 598 points through 701 professional games. His 318 goals and 280 assists span four leagues and 12 seasons. Sterling’s most productive season was his rookie campaign during 2006- 07 when he skated in 77 games for the Chicago Wolves and collected 97 points. His 55 goals led the league to earn the Willie Marshall Award as the AHL top goal-scorer. The California native also earned the Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award as the league’s most outstanding rookie.
- Chicago fell to Tucson in the third game of their four-game season series.
- Illinois native Dakota Mermis scored with seven seconds left in overtime to earn the win.
- Center Brandon Pirri scored Chicago’s only goal.
- Goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo turned aside 26 shots, including the first 24 he faced.
- The Wolves set a franchise record with their 10th consecutive home victory.
- Rookie Defenseman Jake Bischoff and forward Tomas Hyka each registered a goal and an assist.
- Center Wade Megan netted the empty-net insurance marker.
- Goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo made 25 saves in his second consecutive start.
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Jan. 26, 2017
|10/21/2017||Allstate Arena||L, 3-4|
|10/22/2017||Allstate Arena||W, 2-1 (OT)|
|01/26/2018||Tucson Arena||OTL, 1-2|
Two weeks ago, the Wolves made their first pilgrimage to California since May 2000. With this trip to Tucson, the franchise makes its first visit to Arizona since February 1997.
Those were the days when the Wolves and the Phoenix Roadrunners battled in the International Hockey League. During the Wolves’ first three seasons in the IHL, they fashioned an 8-1-3 record (.792) during their 12 tussles with Phoenix.
Wendell Young, who’s in his ninth season serving as the Wolves general manager, earned five of those wins. Wolves all-time leading scorer Steve Maltais registered three game-winning goals. The final game between the Wolves and the Roadrunners occurred on Feb. 26, 1997, when the Wolves earned a 2-1 shootout win on the road. Ray LeBlanc posted 26 saves to pick up the victory in a duel with Jamie Storr.