CHICAGO WOLVES (5-1-0-1) at TEXAS STARS (4-1-1-1)
MCKENZIE HEADS HOME
Until he signed with the Vegas Golden Knights over the summer, Chicago Wolves forward Curtis McKenzie spent his entire professional career in the Dallas Stars organization. McKenzie, who was Dallas’ sixth-round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, turned pro in April 2013 after completing four years at Miami (Ohio). Over the course of the next five-plus seasons, McKenzie produced 10 goals and 13 assists in 99 games for Dallas along with 82 goals and 108 assists in 223 games for the Texas Stars.
McKenzie enjoyed two extended postseason runs with Texas. In 2014, he contributed 3 goals and 11 assists to help the Stars capture the Calder Cup title. Last season as Texas’ captain, McKenzie topped all AHL players with 11 postseason goals and added 9 assists to lead the Stars to the Calder Cup Final.
“We had a great run,” McKenzie said. “Texas became home for five years there. With that, you make a lot of great relationships over time with players and the organization. It’s going to be a lot of fun playing them. The fans are awesome.” Texas retains several players from last year’s runnerups, but McKenzie noted that former teammate Justin Dowling — a part of the Stars organization even longer than he — was called up to Dallas on Tuesday night. McKenzie was happy for his buddy, but bummed they wouldn’t get to play each other.
When the AHL added the Colorado Eagles as the 31st team over the summer, a handful of teams switched divisions to accommodate the Eagles’ landing in the Pacific Division. The Texas Stars moved from the Pacific to the Central, which means the Wolves and the Stars are in the same division for the first time since 2010-11.
That adds some significant to tonight’s game because the Wolves and the Stars both have high expectations and have fulfilled them in the early going. The Wolves share the AHL’s fifth-best winning percentage (.786) and rank second in the Central Division standings. The Stars have won three games in a row and stand just 1 point behind the Wolves.
Chicago’s coaching staff has watched plenty of video on the Stars, but also plans to tap Curtis McKenzie’s expertise on his former teammates. “There’ll be details that we can’t pick up on the video that he’ll already know,” Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson said with a smile. “Any resource we have at our disposal, we will use.”
by the numbers
3: Wolves center Gage Quinney earned his first AHL hat trick on Wednesday when he delivered three goals during the School-Day Game win over the Cleveland Monsters. The Las Vegas native opened the scoring just 34 seconds into the morning and wrapped it up with an empty-net goal at 16:35 of the third period. It marked the second hat trick of Quinney’s professional career as he notched three goals on March 15, 2017, for the Wheeling Nailers against Elmira.
4: When Max Lagace is in net for the Wolves, it’s fair to expect the Wolves to win by four goals. In Lagace’s first game this season on Oct. 6, the Wolves defeated Colorado 5-1. In the 25-year-old’s second game on Oct. 13, the Wolves defeated Grand Rapids 5-1. On Wednesday, Lagace and the Wolves knocked off Cleveland 6-2. The only game that didn’t fit this pattern was the Wolves’ 5-3 loss at Grand Rapids last Friday.
5: Among AHL goalies who’ve appeared in more than one game this season, Max Lagace ranks fifth in goals-against average with a 2.03 mark (8 goals in 236 minutes). He also ranks fifth with his .931 save percentage and shares fourth in the league with his 3 wins.
8: Wolves right wing Brooks Macek needed some time to readjust to smaller North American rinks after spending the last five seasons in Germany, but apparently he didn’t need much. The 26-year-old Winnipeg native didn’t score in either of the Wolves’ first two games, but he has stacked up eight goals in the last five games to move into second place on the AHL’s list — one behind Utica’s Reid Boucher. Macek recorded the AHL’s first hat trick of the season on Oct. 13 and has followed up with two-goal games on Oct. 21 and Oct. 24. He shares seventh place in the AHL with 10 points and ranks second with his +10 plus/minus rating — one behind teammate Daniel Carr.
50: When center T.J. Tynan flipped a backhand past Cleveland’s Jean-Francois Berube on Wednesday afternoon, he earned his 50th AHL goal. The two-time AHL All-Star Classic participant (2016, 2018) also has racked up 152 assists in his 303 regular-season games. Tynan set career-highs for goals (15), assists (45), points (60) and plus-minus rating (+19) last season in his first go-round with the Wolves.
100: The next time forward Brandon Pirri scores a goal for the Wolves, it will be the 100th goal of his AHL career. The 27-year-old has rolled up 99 goals and 161 assists in 302 AHL games. He also owns 60 goals and 41 assists in 228 NHL appearances. Meanwhile, teammate Daniel Carr celebrated his 100th AHL point on Wednesday when he assisted on Gage Quinney’s goal 34 seconds into the game. Wolves forward Alex Gallant also hit the century mark in a category as the 25-year-old appeared in his 100th AHL game on Wednesday.
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).