HOME, SWEET HOME FOR 25 SEASONS
Allstate Arena has been the Chicago Wolves’ home since Day 1 — and head coach Rocky Thompson’s squad can’t wait to play tonight’s 25th anniversary season home opener because the Wolves have done a ton of winning on Allstate Arena ice over the years.
The Wolves have built a .644 winning percentage during regular-season home games (564-289-9-31-60) and a .642 winning percentage during playoff games (77-43) since the inaugural home game on Oct. 14, 1994. Three of those 77 postseason wins tasted particularly sweet as the Wolves clinched the 1998 Turner Cup, the 2002 Calder Cup and the 2008 Calder Cup in front of the home fans.
Allstate Arena also feels like home to a few key members of tonight’s visiting team. First-year Grand Rapids head coach Ben Simon spent three seasons with the Wolves and contributed 34 points to help capture the 2002 Calder Cup championship. First-year Griffins assistant coach Brad Tapper scored 14 goals for the 2002 league champs and also spent two seasons (2014-16) as a Wolves assistant coach.
Then there’s Griffins center Wade Megan, who was an important piece of the Wolves’ Central Division champions the last two seasons. Megan captured the AHL’s goal-scoring title in 2016-17 as he delivered a career-high 33 goals for the Wolves. He scored his first with Grand Rapids on Friday night to kick-start a 6-3 home win over Hershey.
colorado kinda felt like home, too
The Wolves raced out to the sixth 2-0 start in franchise history with a pair of road wins against the Colorado Eagles last weekend. Rookie defenseman Erik Brännström scored two goals in the opener, including the game-winner in overtime, while rookie center Reid Duke and new Wolves center Gage Quinney led the offensive effort Saturday with two goals apiece.
While these three relative newcomers to the team played big roles last week and should continue to do so as the season unfolds, the Wolves roster features 14 returnees from last year’s squad that earned the Central Division crown. Forwards Brandon Pirri and Tomas Hyka finished last weekend’s games tied for the American Hockey League lead in assists with three apiece while first-line center T.J. Tynan produced one goal and one assist.
welcome back, bischoff
Defenseman Jake Bischoff was a stalwart on the Wolves’ blue line throughout his rookie season last year. He produced 7 goals and 16 assists in 69 regular-season games and was rewarded by making the Vegas Golden Knights’ Opening Night roster. Bischoff spent more than a week with the Golden Knights, but was loaned to the Wolves on Friday.
OPENING WEEKEND FLASHBACK
SATURDAY, OCT. 6: CHICAGO 5, (at) COLORADO 1
Rookie center Reid Duke scored his first two goals as a professional and Gage Quinney also scored his first two goals with the Wolves to spark the weekend sweep
Veteran forward Stefan Matteau also scored and rookie defenseman Nic Hague notched a +5 plus/minus rating
Goaltender Max Lagace picked up the win with 25 saves
FRIDAY, OCT. 5: CHICAGO 3, (at) COLORADO 2 (OT)
Rookie defenseman Erik Brännström scored 48 seconds into overtime to give the Wolves the victory in their 25th anniversary season opener.
Brännström scored twice in his professional debut on North American soil. Center T.J. Tynan scored the Wolves’ other goal on the power play while Tomas Hyka posted two assists.
Goaltender Oscar Dansk earned the win with 27 saves during regulation.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: Rookie center Reid Duke waited until his 16th professional game to score his first goal as pro, but he waited just 25 minutes and 20 seconds of game time to score his second goal as a pro. Duke tallied 1:15 into Saturday’s 5-1 win at Colorado — it stood up as the game-winning goal — and then the 22-year-old Alberta native scored again at 6:35 of the second.
5: Rookie defenseman Nic Hague was on the ice for all 5 of Chicago’s even-strength goals on Saturday night and was not on the ice for Colorado’s lone score. That gave Hague a +5 plus/minus rating for the night, which marked the first time a Wolves player accomplished the feat since forward Jeremy Welsh posted a +5 rating on April 7, 2015, in a 7-3 win over the Lake Erie Monsters at Allstate Arena. The franchise record is owned by Arturs Kulda, who notched a +6 plus/minus rating during a 7-1 win over the Abbotsford Heat on Oct. 24, 2009.
10: Forwards Gage Quinney and Reid Duke scored 10 seconds apart during the opening 75 seconds of Saturday’s 5-1 win at Colorado. It marked the shortest interval between two Wolves goals since Jan. 5, 2014, when Sergei Andronov and Pat Cannone scored seven seconds apart in a 4-3 shootout win over the Rockford IceHogs at Allstate Arena. Andronov, a Moscow native, served as assistant captain on the Olympic Athletes from Russia squad that earned the gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics. “OAR” defeated Germany 4-3 in overtime of the gold-medal game — and Wolves forward Brooks Macek played for Germany.
68.8: In the Wolves’ 24 previous home openers at Allstate Arena, the franchise has fashioned a 15-6-2-1 record that equates to a .688 winning percentage. This marks the sixth time the Grand Rapids Griffins have served as the opponent for the home openers (1998, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2016) — and things haven’t gone quite as well compared to other foes. The Wolves are 1-3-1-0 against the Griffins in home openers.
150: Top-line center T.J. Tynan handed out his 150th professional assist during Friday’s season-opening win at Colorado. Tynan helped set up Erik Brannstrom’s game-winning goal 48 seconds into overtime. The Orland Park native has been an assist machine throughout his career — dating back to when he was 17 years old and doling out 55 assists in 60 games for the Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL). Tynan went from there to Notre Dame, where he earned 2010-11 NCAA Rookie of the Year after stacking up 23 goals and 31 assists for the Fighting Irish. He finished with 107 helpers in 164 college games and has delivered 150 assists in 297 AHL games.
353: If you’ve suited up for the Wolves, chances are better than 50/50 that you’ve also played in the National Hockey League. When Daniel Carr, Curtis McKenzie and Zach Whitecloud made their Wolves debuts on Oct. 5, they became the 351st, 352nd and 353rd players (out of 614) who have competed for the Wolves and in the NHL. That 58.4 percent overall success rate is even higher among goaltenders. Of the 54 players who’ve tended the net for the Wolves over the years — starting with original goaltenders Ray LeBlanc and Wendell Young and continuing through current Wolves Max Lagace and Oscar Dansk — 37 boast NHL experience (68.5 percent).