CLEVELAND MONSTERS (5-2-0-0) at CHICAGO WOLVES (4-1-0-1)
YOUTH SERVED TO SCHOOL-DAY CROWD
Today marks the first of three School-Day home games this year for the Chicago Wolves. Thousands of elementary, middle school and high school are hopping yellow school buses and enjoying the best field trip ever. Each student receives a workbook that relates hockey activities to every subject they’re taught.
One other thing the students deserve to learn: Several of the players in Wolves uniforms aren’t much older than they are. Chicago’s blue line is particularly green as assistant coach Chris Dennis’ crew features 19-year-olds Erik Brännström and Nic Hague, 20-year-old Dylan Coghlan and 21-year-old Zach Whitecloud.
All of them are top prospects for the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights — and all of them are learning quickly on this stage. When Hague scored a goal in Sunday’s 5-4 shootout loss against Milwaukee, he joined Brännström and Coghlan on the list of Wolves who’ve scored their first professional goal since the season began on Oct. 5. Whitecloud, meanwhile, registered his first professional point Saturday when he set up Brooks Macek’s goal at Grand Rapids.
A GAME 10 YEARS IN THE MAKING
It’s no big deal for the Chicago Wolves and Cleveland Monsters to meet on the ice. Ever since the Lake Erie Monsters came into existence in 2007, the two franchises have competed every season and played a total of 60 games.
So what makes today so special? Well, as part of the American Hockey League’s realignment when the Colorado Eagles entered the fray as the league’s 31st team, the Cleveland Monsters moved from the Central Division (where the Wolves reside) into the Eastern Conference’s North Division. Today’s game serves as the first time the Wolves have faced an Eastern Conference foe since suffering a 7-2 home loss to the Manchester Monarchs on Nov. 25, 2008 (the result, by the way, is not the reason the Wolves haven’t played an Eastern Conference team in nearly 10 years).
A 22-year-old named Jonathan Quick was in goal for Manchester that night. Colin Stuart scored with 1:46 to play to become the last Wolves player to post a goal against the Eastern Conference. The Wolves’ last home win against an Eastern Conference team occurred on Oct. 29, 2008, versus the Providence Bruins. Ondrej Pavelec stopped 35 shots to outduel Tuukka Rask while Joe Motzko produced two goals.
by the numbers
5: The Chicago Wolves did not earn their fifth win last season until Nov. 25 — when the squad hosted the Rockford IceHogs two days after Thanksgiving and posted a 4-3 victory that snapped an eight-game winless streak. Those Wolves found a way to rally for the Central Division crown, which suggests this year’s team could move a full month ahead of schedule with a win today.
6: Today’s game features two of the AHL’s top four goal-scorers in the Wolves’ Brooks Macek and Cleveland’s Zac Dalpe. They each have six goals this season, which shares second place with Toronto’s Trevor Moore and ranks behind only Utica’s Reid Boucher (9 goals in 8 games). The 26-year-old Macek, who spent his first five years as a pro in Germany, is enjoying his first year as a pro in North America as he has delivered six goals in six career AHL games. The 28-year-old Dalpe, who made his AHL debut in March 2010 with the Albany River Rats, has produced 114 goals in 312 AHL regular-season games.
9: Left wing Daniel Carr didn’t dent the scoresheet in his Wolves debut on Oct. 5, but he delivered in every game since and paces the team with 9 points (2G, 7A). Carr’s point total shares seventh place in the league with several players including Cleveland’s Zac Dalpe. Carr also boasts a team-high +7 plus/minus rating, which shares third place in the AHL (Monsters defenseman Doyle Somerby leads the way with a +9).
49: Cleveland Monsters assistant coach Steve McCarthy is one of the 49 National Hockey League first-round draft picks who has worn the Wolves sweater. McCarthy, the first-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1999 NHL draft, appeared in 25 games for the Wolves in 2009-10 and stacked up 2 goals and 5 assists. Wolves defenseman Erik Brännström, a 2017 first-round pick by the Vegas Golden Knights, became the 49th first-rounder to suit up for the Wolves. He produced two goals in his Wolves debut, which included the game-winner in overtime.
99: The next time left wing Daniel Carr scores a point for the Wolves, it will be his 100th point for the AHL portion of his career. The 26-year-old has produced 53 goals and 46 assists in 146 career AHL appearances for Hamilton, St. John’s, Laval and the Wolves. This marks Carr’s first year outside the Montreal Canadiens organization as he contributed 14 goals and 20 assists in 94 games for the Canadiens over the last three seasons. Wolves forward Alex Gallant also nears the century mark in a category as the 25-year-old’s next game will be his 100th AHL tilt. He has played 99 games since making his AHL debut with the San Jose Barracuda in 2015-16.
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 615 Wolves all-time) who have competed for the Wolves and in the NHL. That 57.4 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).