Sunday, April 22 | 4:00 p.m. | BMO Harris Bank Center | Facebook
THIS IS FAMILIAR
On Saturday, the Chicago Wolves fell to the Rockford IceHogs 2-1 at Allstate Arena in Game 1 of the Central Division Semifinals. While unfortunate, a Game 1 loss is not unfamiliar territory for the Wolves. Last season, Chicago elected to kick off its Central Division Semifinals series with the Charlotte Checkers at Bojangles’ Coliseum after they had handled Charlotte with a 6-1-0-1 record during the regular season. However, the scrappy Checkers — they earned the Central Division fourth seed by forcing overtime against the Wolves at Allstate Arena on the final day of the regular season — had other plans and gave Chicago more than it bargained for with a 4-0 win in Game 1. The Wolves did not waver long — the next night, Chicago edged Charlotte to head back to Allstate with a 1-1 series and the home-ice advantage. Spoiler: the Wolves won in five games and outscored the Checkers 14-9 through the last four games.
IT’S HOW YOU FINISH
The Chicago Wolves are two-time Calder Cup champions — the first of which they collected in their inaugural American Hockey League season (2001-02). Overall, the Wolves played 25 games through five rounds of playoff hockey. In four of the five rounds, Chicago lost Game 1 and in one series lost the first two games. The only series in which the Wolves did not suffer a Game 1 setback in was the Calder Cup Final against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers — they pulled out a 5-4 overtime win on the road.
In 24 years, the Chicago Wolves have skated in 952 regular-season road games and produced a 465- 372-15-46-54 (W-L-T-OTL-SOL) record for .549 points percentage. During the 2017-18 campaign, Chicago finished with a 18-13-5-2 mark — not too shabby. However, the Wolves have not been quite as successful during the postseason with an all-time 49-55 record in playoff road games. But where there’s a will there’s a way — and the Wolves have managed to get the job done to win championships. In the four seasons that Chicago has captured a Cup, it’s needed at maximum seven road wins. In 2000, the club won seven road contests and played exactly half of their 16 games on enemy ice. Their other three championship seasons — 1998, 2002, 2008 — they’ve only played up to 46 percent of their games on the road and needed just five (1998, 2002) or four (2008) road victories.
YOU’VE BEEN HERE
Saturday’s lineup for the Chicago Wolves included three Calder Cup champions and one Stanley Cup title-holder. Forward Teemu Pulkkinen — Chicago’s lone postseason goal-scorer — helped the Grand Rapids Griffins to their first championship in 2013. Fresh from Finland, Pulkkinen slotted right into the Griffins lineup for their championship run. In 2016, T.J. Tynan lifted the Calder Cup as a member of the then-Lake Erie Monsters. Ten years ago, Brett Sterling hoisted the Calder Cup as a member of the Wolves. Lastly — but not least — Beau Bennett is a Stanley Cup champion as a member of the 2016 Pittsburgh Penguins. Unfortunately, Bennett did not meet the requirements to get his name etched on the chalice, but he was granted a day with the Cup. While Bennett has 21 Stanley Cup Playoff games to his name, Saturday marked the 26-year-old’s Calder Cup Playoff debut.
By the Numbers:
- 3: Special teams powered Game 1 of the Central Division Semifinals as the Chicago Wolves and Rockford IceHogs scored all three of the game’s goals on the man-advantage. During the 12-game regular-season series, the Wolves owned a respectable 82 percent penalty-kill rate and the power play was solid with 11 goals for a 22 percent success rate. Rockford was subjectively subpar in both categories only converting 18 percent of the time (nine goals) on the power play and allowing 11 power-play goals for just a 78 percent penalty-kill rate. In Game 1, the tides turned as Rockford netted two power-play markers for a 33 percent success rate and held Chicago to just a single PPG for an 80 percent kill rate. The Wolves looked subpar as they allowed two PPGs for a 67 percent penalty-kill rate and scored one goal on five chances.
- 7: The Chicago Wolves ended the 2017-18 regular season with their seventh division title as a member of the American Hockey League. Since the Wolves joined the league for the 2001- 02 season, they own the most division titles of any team. Along with those seven titles — 2005, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2017, 2018 — Chicago owns two division banners as member of the late International Hockey League (1998, 1999), so all in all the Wolves have nine titles. That’s a division title at least every third season.
- 8: Three days shy of his 34th birthday, Brett Sterling entered his sixth Calder Cup Playoffs ranked No. 8 on the Chicago Wolves’ all-time playoff scoring list. Through 45 postseason contests, Sterling owns 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points. The California native is just four points shy of passing Steve Martins for the No. 7 spot. Overall — including his 12-game run with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2011 — Sterling owns 39 points (18G, 21A) in 57 career Calder Cup games.
- 9: On Saturday, nine of the 19 players in the Chicago Wolves game lineup made their Calder Cup debut. The list includes rookies Jake Bischoff, Nicolas Hague, Oscar Dansk, Reid Duke and Keegan Kolesar. In their first seasons of North American hockey, Philip Holm and Tomas Hyka also debuted. More surprisingly, seasoned skaters Beau Bennett and Brandon Pirri now have Calder Cup statistic lines in their biographies. With 300-plus regular-season hockey games to their names, Bennett and Pirri had never skated in a Calder Cup Playoff game. For the 27-year-old Pirri, Saturday marked his first career postseason game. Bennett has participated in 21 Stanley Cup Playoff games and is considered a Stanley Cup champion as a member of the 2016 Pittsburgh Penguins although he did not meet the requirements to get his name on the Cup.
- 55: Easily the most seasoned veteran on the Chicago Wolves roster, defenseman Jason Garrison leads the playoff experience category with 55 combined American and National Hockey League postseason contests on his resume. The 33-year-old British Columbia native has appeared in 48 Stanley Cup Playoff games and seven Calder Cup contests. In addition to playing six games in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final for Tampa Bay, Garrison also skated seven games against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2016 Eastern Conference Final.
Central Division Semifinals
2018 Calder Cup Playoffs
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April 21, 2018
2017-18 Regular-Season Series
6-6-0-0 Rockford | 6-2-3-1 Chicago
|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||W, 6-4|
|04/14/2018||Allstate Arena||W, 5-4|
|04/21/2018||Allstate Arena||L, 2-1|