Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018 | 6:00 P.M. | Facebook
THE END IS NEAR
The Chicago Wolves-Grand Rapids Griffins season series only has two games left, which includes Wednesday’s showdown at Van Andel Arena. While this season’s eight-game series is two contests smaller than it was in the 2016-17 campaign, the finale will be played six days later, on March 25, than last season’s regular-season finale on March 19.
EDGE OF GLORY
Through the six games of the season series, the Chicago Wolves own a 4-2-0-0 record against their Great Lake rival, the Grand Rapids Griffins. If the Wolves can hang on through the next two games and win the season campaign, it would be their first series victory versus Grand Rapids since the 2011-12 season. In 2015-16 and 2016-17, the Griffins took the season series and only allowed the Wolves four combined wins over two seasons. However, the two seasons prior — 2013-14 and 2014-15 — Chicago and Grand Rapids split their series with identical records.
IN THE VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER
Wednesday marks the final game of the Chicago Wolves-Grand Rapids Griffins season series held at Van Andel Arena. The Wolves are on the verge of recording their first above-.500 record at The Van since the 2014-15 campaign. In 2016-17, Chicago finished with a 1-2-2-0 regular-season record at Van Andel and dropped both games there in the Central Division Finals. The club broke even in 2015-16 with a 2-1-1-0 record. In 2014-15, the Wolves completed the year with a 3-1-0-0 record. A victory on Wednesday would give them that same record three seasons later.
Goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo has backstopped the Chicago Wolves for four of the six games between the Wolves and Grand Rapids Griffins. The 24-year-old Finn, who joined Chicago’s roster in the wake of the rash of Vegas Golden Knights goalie injuries, has especially excelled against the Griffins. In two games — Nov. 3 and Jan. 6 — Kaskisuo made a combined 65 saves to shut out Grand Rapids twice. In Kaskisuo’s four games against the Griffins, he has compiled a 2-2-0 record, 1.81 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. Kaskisuo also owns two of Chicago’s three shutouts this season.
TWO FOR THE RECORD BOOK
This season, the Chicago own two shutouts against the Grand Rapids Griffins. When Kasimir Kaskisuo made 33 saves on Nov. 3 at Van Andel Arena, it was the first the time the Wolves had blanked the Griffins in seven years — they last held the Griffins scoreless on Jan. 29, 2010. Nine weeks later, on Jan. 6, Kaskisuo made another 32 saves to help the Wolves again blank the pesky Griffins. Prior to the 2017-18 campaign, Chicago had only shut out Grand Rapids three times: March 16, 2003; April 2, 2004; and Jan. 19, 2010. Conversely, Grands Rapids has shut out the Wolves seven times since the clubs began competing in 1996
RULE OF THREES
For the first time in 12 days, the Chicago Wolves are on the road looking to get back in the win column after suffering a 4-1 loss to the Iowa Wild at Wells Fargo Arena on Feb. 9. That loss wasn’t the first time the Wild beat the Wolves by a three-goal margin. They topped Chicago by a 5-2 count on Jan. 17.
Wednesday’s opponent, the Grand Rapids Griffins, also have battered the Wolves by a three-goal margin. On Dec. 2, the Griffins managed to stifle the Wolves 5-2 en route to their second victory in the season series.
While Grand Rapids looks for just its third win of the season series, Chicago seeks its third consecutive victory at Van Andel Arena. That third win would give the Wolves their first winning record at The Van in three seasons. Chicago last finished the 2014-15 season with a 3-1-0-0 record on Grand Rapids’ home ice.
In the hunt for their third victory at Van Andel, the Wolves will look to avoid allowing the Griffins to score three goals in one period. Grand Rapids is one of five teams to accomplish that feat against Chicago this season. However, the Griffins three times have managed to score three goals in a single period — it has happened twice at Van Andel Arena and once at Allstate Arena.
Aside from keeping the Griffins from battering the net each period, the Wolves will have to keep an extra eye out for Matt Lorito. The 5-9, 171-pound left wing was the first player this season to notch three goals in a game against Chicago. Lorito recorded a hat trick on Oct. 27 in the Griffins’ first victory of the year over the Wolves. Lorito has appeared in all six games of the season series and owns seven points (4G, 3A).
If Chicago brings its “A” game to Van Andel, odds are good it could collect its third shutout of the season against Grand Rapids. Prior to this season, the Wolves only blanked the Griffins three times in 21 seasons with the most recent shutout being seven years ago. With two shutouts this year, Chicago has a chance to double its collective shutout count against Grand Rapids. While the Wolves have not been too shabby in his absence, they could benefit from No. 27 Brandon Pirri’s scoring touch. The 26-year-old Pirri has missed 15 games due to injury this season and has been out of the lineup since Jan. 26.
The Wolves have managed to accrue an 8-7-0-0 record and average 2.87 goals per game without Pirri, but everything is better when he’s on the ice. In the 36 games the Toronto native has skated in for the Wolves, they own an 18-10-6-2 record and average 3.19 goals per game.
Additionally, Pirri is the team’s top goal-scorer with 18 goals, four goals better than Chicago’s next best scorer. Those goals are also 11.4 percent of the team’s combined goal output this season; that’s one player accounting more than a tenth of the team’s goal scoring. Pirri also owns the highest point per-game (0.94) on the Wolves’ current roster.
- Chicago pushed its series win streak to five consecutive games against Cleveland.
- Defenseman Zac Leslie netted his first goal as a member of the Wolves.
- Forwards Beau Bennett, Wade Megan and Brett Sterling and blueliner Kevin Lough also scored.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk earned his second win in as many starts with a 19-save performance.
- The Wolves’ franchise-record home win streak ended at 13 games with a loss to the Rampage.
- Defenseman Griffin Reinhart was Chicago’s lone scorer.
- Goaltender Ville Husso made 30 saves en route to victory over his former squad while former Wolves Andrew Agozzino and Samuel Blais teamed up for San Antonio’s first goal.
- Goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo stopped 20 shots in the loss.
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Jan. 6, 2018
|10/27/2017||Van Andel Arena||L, 5-3|
|11/03/2017||Van Andel Arena||W, 2-0|
|12/02/2017||Allstate Arena||L, 2-5|
|12/15/2017||Van Andel Arena||W, 6-3|
|12/21/2017||Allstate Arena||W, 5-4|
|01/06/2018||Allstate Arena||W, 2-0|
|02/21/2018||Van Andel Arena|