CHICAGO WOLVES (7-3-0-1) at Milwaukee Admirals (8-2-3-0)
WELCOME TO RIVALRY WEEK
It’s only one month into the regular season, but it’s never too soon to get excited about spending the week playing your closest neighbors. The Wolves get to play two games against the Central Division-leading Milwaukee Admirals and their first of the season against the third-place Rockford IceHogs.
The Wolves are lodged between the Admirals and the IceHogs in the Central Division, though Chicago has had the disadvantage of playing the fewest home games among the division’s eight teams. Today’s matinee wraps up the Wolves’ five-game, 13-day road trip, which ties their longest of the season.
The Wolves and the Admirals already have played two wildly entertaining games at Allstate Arena. In their first meeting on Oct. 14, the Wolves rallied from a two-goal deficit in the final seven minutes and earned a 5-4 overtime win on defenseman Dylan Coghlan’s first professional goal.
In their Oct. 21 game, the Admirals flipped the script by pulling even with 2:17 left in regulation and then grabbing a 5-4 shootout win.
FILLING THE NETS
In 2006-07, led by American Hockey League Most Valuable Player Darren Haydar, the Chicago Wolves led the AHL in scoring with 4.14 goals per game. Not only does that mark serve as the single-season franchise record for scoring, it represents the only time the Wolves have paced the AHL in the category.
This year’s group has the stuff to become the second Wolves team to lead the league. Chicago enters today’s game ranked third with 4.09 goals per game, but what has been particularly impressive is the team’s consistency. The Wolves have scored either 3, 4 or 5 goals in all but two games this season. Their season-high is six and their season-low is two.
THAT THIRD LINE, THOUGH
It’s crazy to think that first-liners Brandon Pirri (4 goals, 9 assists) and T.J. Tynan (4 goals, 8 assists) are averaging more than one point per game, but they don’t get to own the headlines thanks to the exploits of Wolves third-liners Brooks Macek, Daniel Carr and Gage Quinney.
Macek shares the AHL lead in goals (12) with Cleveland’s Zac Dalpe. He owns the AHL lead in shooting percentage (57.1). He shares the AHL lead in plus/minus rating with Carr at +15, while Quinney owns third place just one notch behind at +14 — and no other AHL forward is better than +8. Carr shares fourth in the league in assists (10) while Quinney is riding a five-game point streak that features five goals.
By The Numbers
2: Goaltender Oscar Dansk had the opportunity to https://theahl.com/stats/player/6881/61/keegan-kolesarplay back-to-back games for the first time this season on Nov. 2-3 in Manitoba. He overcame a tough outing on Nov. 2 to author his best effort of the season last Saturday when he stopped 29 of 30 shots in a 4-1 Chicago victory. Dansk and Max Lagace normally take turns starting, but Lagace missed last weekend due to an undisclosed injury. Zach Fucale was called up from the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets to fill Lagace’s void, but Dansk might keep making the starts while Lagace heals.
12: The Wolves have played 11 games and head coach Rocky Thompson has been able to plug 12 names into his lineup in every game: Forwards Daniel Carr, Reid Duke, Keegan Kolesar, Brooks Macek, Curtis McKenzie, Brandon Pirri, Gage Quinney and T.J. Tynan and defensemen Nic Hague, Zac Leslie, Jimmy Oligny and Griffin Reinhart. Last year through 11 games, only seven Wolves had seen action in every game. Tynan is the only one to accomplish the feat in both seasons.
12: Wolves right wing Brooks Macek shares the AHL lead in goals with 12. Considering he hadn’t played professional hockey in North America prior to this season, the 26-year-old from Winnipeg’s success has caught a few people by surprise — including Wolves record-keepers. According to the AHL website, which only provides daily box scores back to 2005, the closest Wolves player to matching Macek’s exploits during the team’s AHL era was Darren Haydar, who scored 9 goals in the first 11 games of the 2006-07 season.
Further research shows Macek needs to enjoy a career day in order to equal the feats by Steve Maltais during the Wolves’ International Hockey League era. In 1995-96, the franchise’s second season, Maltais stacked up 18 goals in the first 10 games and owned 19 goals through 12 games. So Macek merely needs seven goals this morning to match Maltais.
13: The Wolves have outscored their opponents 45-32 this season — and their +13 differential ranks third on the Western Conference (to the San Jose Barracuda and Iowa Wild). The Wolves are on pace for a +90 goal differential, which would have ranked first in the AHL last season — just ahead of the eventual Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies (+84).
14.9: The Wolves rank second in the AHL with a 14.9 shooting percentage. The only team that stands ahead of the Wolves is the Springfield Thunderbirds at 16.4 percent. Paul Thompson, last year’s Wolves captain, owns 6 goals in 10 games for Springfield, which boasts the league’s third-best winning percentage at .800.
49: Forward Brandon Pirri leads the AHL in shots attempted with 49 — 1 ahead of former Wolves forward (and 2017 AHL MVP) Kenny Agostino. Pirri has launched at least three shots in every game, except during this season’s first meeting between the Wolves and the Admirals when he was limited to 1 shot on goal.
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).