CHICAGO WOLVES (6-1-0-1) at SAN ANTONIO RAMPAGE (1-8-0-0)
hey, don’t we know you?
The Chicago Wolves won the last two Central Division titles with markedly different rosters — in part because the organization changed its NHL partner from the St. Louis Blues to the Vegas Golden Knights during the summer of 2017.
Now the San Antonio Rampage are the Blues’ NHL affiliate, which means their roster features a bunch of former Wolves who helped win those division crowns. San Antonio’s cast of ex-Wolves includes goaltenders Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso, forwards Samuel Blais, Conner Bleackley, Robby Fabbri, Mackenzie MacEachern and Adam Musil and defensemen Chris Butler and Jake Walman. Fabbri, who’s on a conditioning stint with the Rampage, is the only one of the group who wasn’t a part of at least one of the division-winning teams.
Butler served as the captain of the 2016-17 squad while Blais ranked second on the roster with 26 goals. Binnington and Husso shared the crease with Pheonix Copley, who’s now with the Washington Capitals and earned his first NHL win on Saturday night. MacEachern, Walman and Bleackley played roles on the 2016-17 and 2017-18 teams.
For the fourth time in the Wolves’ 25-year history, the team has produced at least six wins in the first eight games. Rocky Thompson’s team owns an .813 winning percentage through eight games, which equals the starts by the 1997-98 Turner Cup champions (6-1-1) and the 2015-16 team (6-1-0-1). Only the 2007-08 Calder Cup champs, who opened 7-0-1-0, managed a better start than this year’s crew.
One of the statistics that lends legitimacy to the team’s fast start is their performance during 5-on-5 play. The Wolves have outscored their opponents 25 to 13 when both sides have been at full strength, which happens to mirror the team’s +12 goal differential overall (35-23).
The Daniel Carr–Gage Quinney–Brooks Macek line has been particularly effective at even-strength. Carr leads the AHL in plus-minus rating at +13 while Quinney and Macek share second place with Rochester’s Lawrence Pilut at +11. Defensemen Nic Hague (+8) and Zac Leslie (+7) also rank among the league’s Top 20 in plus-minus.
The Wolves also boast one of the league’s top shooting percentages. They’re taking just 26.38 shots per game, which ranks among the bottom five teams in the league, but they’re among the league’s top five teams with 4.38 goals per game. That works out to a 16.6 shooting percentage.`
by the numbers
4: Head coach Rocky Thompson has been rotating his goalies this year, so it figures that Max Lagace should be in net for the Wolves today. When Lagace plays, 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 ranks fourth with his .931 save percentage and shares ninth in the league with his 3 wins.
7: The Wolves have won their last seven games on San Antonio’s home ice by a combined score of 28-13. The streak began on Dec. 9, 2014, with current Rampage goaltender Jordan Binnington earning 28 saves in a 6-2 victory for the Wolves. Actually, Binnington owns three of the seven wins during this streak and Ville Husso owns another. The Rampage haven’t topped the Wolves at AT&T Center since Dec. 7, 2014.
9: Wolves right wing Brooks Macek scored a goal during the first period of Friday’s 4-3 win at Texas, which pushed him into a tie with Utica’s Reid Boucher for the most goals in the AHL with 9. Not only does Macek own a four-game goal streak and six goals in those four games, he has scored in the first period in each of the last three games.
69: Though Brooks Macek shares the league lead in goals, he doesn’t rank among the AHL’s top 100 in shots. In fact, the 26-year-old from Winnipeg has taken just 13 shots this season. That means he owns an absurd 69.2 shooting percentage this year, which took over the league lead on Saturday as Iowa’s Mike Liambas (3 goals on 5 shots) dropped behind him. Of the nine AHL players who’ve amassed at least six goals, Milwaukee defenseman Matt Donovan is the only one close to Macek in shooting percentage (6 of 13; 46.2 percent).
100: Forward Brandon Pirri scored his 100th AHL goal on Friday night with a one-timer from the right circle in the second period of the Wolves’ 4-3 win at Texas. Pirri owns 262 points in his 303 AHL games. Bridgeport’s Chris Bourque is the AHL’s active leader in goals (237) and points (695) in 729 games. Pirri also has notched 60 goals and 41 assists in 228 NHL appearances.
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).