Friday, April 13 | 7:00 p.m. | BMO Harris Bank Center | Facebook | The U Too
Still a Chance
The Chicago Wolves have an opportunity on Friday night to clinch back-to-back Central Division titles, which would be the franchise’s first consecutive division crowns since 1997-98 and 1998-99. All it requires is a Wolves victory over the Rockford IceHogs and a Manitoba Moose regulation loss on the road against the Cleveland Monsters. In addition, there’s a chance the Wolves can learn the identity of their first-round opponent in the Calder Cup Playoffs. If the Moose lose in regulation and the Wolves knock off the IceHogs in regulation, then the Wolves take the No. 1 seed in the Central Division and Rockford ends up with the No. 4 seed
Do or Die
Friday marks the first of two final Illinois Lottery Cup games between the Chicago Wolves and Rockford IceHogs. The Wolves won the Cup last year, but Rockford holds a 6-4 lead in wins this season. For the Wolves to keep the Cup, they need to win tonight and again Saturday at Allstate Arena. That would split the 12-game series and the Wolves own both tiebreakers: most head-to-head points (the Wolves own a 4-2-3-1 record while the IceHogs have a 6-4-0-0 mark) and the status as defending champs.
When the Chicago Wolves and Rockford IceHogs began their 12-game set for the 2017-18 season, the teams were deadlocked with 56 wins apiece — which speaks to the level of rivalry between the camps for the previous 10 seasons. With two games remaining in the 2017-18 series, the IceHogs have gained a slight advantage as they have won the last three meetings. Prior to their three-game streak that began on Feb. 3, the teams had primarily traded wins. The IceHogs own a 62-48-8-4 record while the Wolves have produced a 60-48-7-7 mark. Chicago can even the all-time series if it can conquer Rockford in the final two games.
Since both the Chicago Wolves and Rockford IceHogs punched their tickets to the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs, they could be seeing a lot more of each other after the regular season comes to a close and the Central Division Semifinals begin. If the Wolves and IceHogs meet in the postseason, it will be just the second time they have done so since Rockford joined the AHL prior to the 2007-08 season. Of course, that Western Division Final was a seven-game slugfest in which the Wolves rallied from a 3-2 series deficit to go on and win the franchise’s fourth championship in an 11-year stretch.
By the Numbers:
- 0.96: Forward Tomas Hyka again reigns supreme and leads the Chicago Wolves with a 0.96 points-per-game average. The 25-year-old Czech Republic native collected three assists in the last two games to bring his average back within 0.04 of his previous best point-per-game pace. He quelled a three-game point drought — his second-longest of the season — with the trio of helpers. Overall, he owns 45 points (15G, 30A) in 47 games with the Wolves this season.
- 1: On Tuesday, the Chicago Wolves sunk the Milwaukee Admirals with a 4-3 shootout victory. In that shootout, Philip Holm became the first Wolves defenseman of the season to participate and score in the shootout. The 26-year-old Swede became the seventh Chicago player to appear in the shootout this season and the first blueliner since the 2015-16 campaign. Two seasons ago, Andre Benoit and Jordan Schmaltz were the last defensemen to participate in the shootout for the Wolves. Benoit was perfect (1 for 1) while Schmaltz was 1 for 3 (66.7%).
- 10: Forward Teemu Pulkkinen has stretched his scoring streak to eight games with 10 points, including six goals. With those points, the 26-year-old Finn has pushed his season point total to 59, which matches his second-highest season total from the 2013- 14 season when he registered 31 goals and 59 points to lead the Grand Rapids Griffins. If Pulkkinen can gather three more points in the final trio of games, he’ll surpass his best single-season performance he set during the 2014-15 season when he accrued 61 points and 34 goals with Grand Rapids. His 34 goals led the AHL and earned him the Willie Marshall Award as the league’s top goal-getter.
- 12: Center Brandon Pirri owns one dozen power-play goals this season. That total leads the Chicago Wolves and ranks him fourth among all skaters in the American Hockey League. The 27-year-old Toronto native is the Wolves’ leading goal-scorer with 29 tallies. One more goal and he’ll give Chicago a 30-goal scorer for the fourth time in five seasons. Last season, his now-teammate Wade Megan led the Wolves — and the league — with 33 goals. Megan only netted six PPG last season, and the Wolves’ leading power-play goal-scorer was Andrew Agozzino who leads his club this year — the San Antonio Rampage — with nine PPG.
- 18.4: The Chicago Wolves have a number of sharpshooters this season, but their sharpest is 33-year-old Brett Sterling. Sterling leads the Wolves with an 18.4 shooting percentage — that’s 2.6 percentage points better than Chicago’s next-best shooter, team leading scorer Brandon Pirri. Through 42 games, Sterling has collected 14 goals and sits sixth in team goal-scoring. Those 14 tallies also give him 192 in a Wolves sweater. Because the Wolves’ all-time leading goal-getter, Steve Maltais, owns 454 markers, Sterling won’t catch him for the top spot. However, he is the American Hockey League’s leading active goal-scorer with 249 and has ascended the league ranks to the No. 43 spot on the all-time goal-scorers register.
- +23: Rookie defenseman Jake Bischoff leads the Chicago Wolves with a +23 plus/ minus rating. His +23 matches former captain Chris Butler’s rating during the 2016-17 campaign — his plus/minus rating was third-best among Wolves skaters last season. Additionally, the 23-year-old Minnesota native is the first defenseman to lead the team in plus/minus since Brent Regner did so during the 2014-15 season.
- Chicago scored twice in a five-round shootout to finish the 12-game season series with Milwaukee on a winning note.
- Defenseman Jake Bischoff and forwards Teemu Pulkkinen and Paul Thompson accounted for the Wolves’ regulation goals.
- Birthday boy Brandon Pirri and defenseman Philip Holm scored in the shootout while Trevor Smith was the Admirals’ lone scorer.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk made 24 saves through 65 minutes and stopped four of five shootout attempted in the victory.
- The Wolves defeated the Admirals to clinch the franchise’s 19th postseason berth in 24 years.
- Forwards Wade Megan, Brett Sterling and Scooter Vaughan as well as defensemen Jake Bischoff and Jason Garrison scored goals.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk made 25 saves in the win.
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March 24, 2018
|11/19/2017||BMO Harris Bank Center||SOL, 3-4|
|11/25/2017||Allstate Arena||W, 4-3|
|12/01/2017||BMO Harris Bank Center||OTL, 3-4|
|12/12/2017||BMO Harris Bank Center||W, 2-1|
|12/22/2017||BMO Harris Bank Center||OTL, 2-3|
|12/30/2017||Allstate Arena||W, 6-2|
|02/03/2017||Allstate Arena||W, 7-4|
|03/11/2018||Allstate Arena||OTL, 1-2|
|03/17/2018||Allstate Arena||L, 2-3|
|03/24/2017||BMO Harris Bank Center||L, 3-5|
|04/13/2018||BMO Harris Bank Center|