Saturday, March 31 | 7:00 p.m. | CW50 | Facebook
THE LAST STAND
The Chicago Wolves are in the market for their third win of season against the Texas Stars and avoid a sixth season series in which they finish with .500 points percentage or less against the Stars. Right now, the Wolves own a 2-1-2-0 record for .600 points percentage. With a win, they can better that to .667 for their third-best finish against the Stars in a season series. Last season was Chicago’s best against Texas as they produced a 3-0-1-0 record for an .875 points percentage. There also have been three seasons (2010-11, 2013-14, 2014-15) in which Chicago finished without a victory against Texas.
IT’S NOT HOW YOU START
This season, the Chicago Wolves faced four new opponents — all of which are part of the Pacific Division. The Wolves have fared OK against the Pacific as they’ve produced a 10-6-3-0 record. Chicago began the season with five straight games against the Pacific and the team’s performance was just all right as it collected a 2-2-1-0 record. In January, the Wolves visited the West Coast for the first time in nearly two decades and returned to the Midwest with a 1-2-0-0 record. However, since that disappointing road trip — that roadie also included a game against the Iowa Wild in Des Moines that dipped their record to 1-3-0-0 — the Wolves have been nearly perfect against the Pacific with a 6-1-1-0 record that began with a 6-1 victory against the Bakersfield Condors on Jan. 20. The lone regulation loss occurred on Feb. 17 against the San Antonio Rampage. Since that contest, the Wolves have been perfect with a four-game winning streak that they’ll look to extend as they finish their 2017-18 Pacific schedule Saturday against the Texas Stars.
WHAT TIME IS IT, MR. WOLFE?
On Wednesday, forward Brett Sterling skated in his 400th game wearing a Chicago Wolves sweater. The 33-year-old has spent seven of his nine seasons in the American Hockey League with Chicago and now he is just one of three Wolves players to hit the 400-game threshold. Only now-assistant coach Bob Nardella (476) and all-time great Steve Maltais (839) have skated in more games that Sterling. The California native also has left his mark on several other franchise lists — his 190 goals are second in franchise goal production — only Maltais has more (454) — and his 355 points rank him fourth in franchise points — he’s sandwiched between former teammates Darren Haydar (368) and Jason Krog (342).
REAPING! THE BENNEFITS
It’s good to be a 26-year-old on the Chicago Wolves roster. Specifically, it’s even better to be a 26-year-old from Gardena, California, named Beau Bennett. This season is Bennett’s best professional campaign since he began his career six years ago with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. After lighting up the BCHL for 120 points for the Penticton Vees, Bennett became the highest-drafted California-born player when he was selected 20th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins. After skating two seasons (2010-12) at the University of Denver, Bennett signed his entry-level contract and split time with Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton — collecting a then-career best 42 points (10G, 32A) between the two clubs. This season through 59 games — including six in the NHL — Bennett has pushed all his career-highs with 49 points, 38 assists and 11 goals.
By the Numbers:
- 0: Reid Duke, the first player signed by the Vegas Golden Knights, is just nine games into his professional career and is still on the hunt for his first point. While the 22-year-old Alberta native still seeks to score a point, he has already left his mark on a few scoresheets. In his pro debut on March 3 against the Texas Stars, Duke logged two penalty minutes and a -1 plus/minus rating. Overall, Duke owns four penalty minutes, a -3 plus/minus rating and is averaging one shot on goal per game.
- 20: With an empty-net goal in Wednesday’s win over the Iowa Wild, captain Paul Thompson became the third Chicago Wolves player this season to capture 20 goals as he joins Brandon Pirri (28) and Teemu Pulkkinen (22) in the club. It is the third season in his nine-year career that Thompson has collected 20 goals. The 29-year-old’s last 20-tally campaign came in the 2014-15 season when he led the Albany Devils with 33 markers and finished second in scoring with 55 points. His first 20-goal season came during his third season pro, 2012-13, when he skated with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Thompson is also enjoying the fourth 30-point campaign of his career — he has finished with 30-plus points each of the last four seasons.
- 28: On Wednesday, center Brandon Pirri scored his team-leading 28th goal of the 2017- 18 campaign. Not only did that mid third-period goal stand as the game-winner, it also moved him into the No. 3 spot on the American Hockey League goal-scoring leaderboard. Pirri shared the position with Laval’s Chris Terry and Lehigh Valley’s Greg Carey, but Terry and Carey tallied Friday night to bump Pirri into a share of fifth place with Springfield’s Anthony Greco. Everyone has some work to do with they wish to catch Charlotte’s dynamic Valentin Zykov, who leads the league with 32 goals. Aside from Zykov, the scoring race is so tight that Teemu Pulkkinen’s 22 goals rank him 23rd in the league and he shares the distinction with three other skaters.
- 50: The Chicago Wolves are the verge of boasting four 50-point scorers. Right now, T.J. Tynan (13-43—56), Teemu Pulkkinen (22-31—53) and Brandon Pirri (28-22—50) all own 50-plus on the season and one point shy is Beau Bennett (11-38—49). If Bennett can complete the feat, it will be the first time in his six-year career he has reached the benchmark. For the Wolves, it would signify the first time since the American Hockey League moved to a 76-game schedule that the club has four 50-point scorers in a season. The last quartet was Jason Krog (19- 56—75), Darren Haydar (27-47—74), Jared Ross (15-40—55) and Spencer Machacek (21-32—53) during the 2010-11 campaign.
- 133: Originally on Wednesday, the Chicago Wolves were excited just to climb within one point of the Central Division-leading Manitoba Moose if they beat the Iowa Wild. However at the end of the night, after they collected a 3-1 victory and their in-state rival the Rockford IceHogs knocked off the Moose, the Wolves not only pulled within one point but also leaped over them for the No. 1 spot in the Central Division by a difference of .002 points percentage (.625 to .623). With eight games remaining in the regular season and the previously unstoppable Moose losing momentum — they led the Central for 133 days dating back to Nov. 16 — Chicago has a true shot at capturing its ninth division title. If the Wolves can make it happen, it would just the second time in the team’s 24-year existence that they recorded back-to-back division titles — they last did so in 1998 and 1999 as members of the International Hockey League.
- The Wolves beat the Wild for the second time this season at Allstate Arena.
- Forwards Beau Bennett, Brandon Pirri and captain Paul Thompson scored for Chicago.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk made 27 saves in his 10th victory of the season.
- Chicago rallied to cap the season series with a shootout victory.
- Forward Teemu Pulkkinen kicked off the rally just 3:32 into the third frame.
- With 31 seconds to play, defenseman Zac Leslie netted the game-tying goal.
- Center Brandon Pirri was the lone scorer in the shootout.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk made 30 saves and stopped all three shootout attempts for the win.
FOLLOW. LISTEN. WATCH.Watch on CW50 Listen on Facebook LIVE Watch on AHL LIVE
Feb. 27, 2018
|10/06/2017||H-E-B Center||L, 5-6|
|10/07/2017||H-E-B Center||OTL, 5-6|
|11/21/2017||Allstate Arena||L, 2-1|
|02/27/2018||Allstate Arena||W (SO), 4-3|
- Saturday night marks Game 2 of Chicago’s third four-game road trip of the season.
- On Feb. 27, the Wolves recorded their first win of the season against the Texas Stars and began their series rally in which they will need a win Saturday in Cedar Park to continue.
- The season series with the Stars concludes on Saturday, March 31, at Allstate Arena. The Wolves are looking for their second season series tie in eight seasons. Otherwise, it’ll be their fifth series loss in that same stretch