Welcome to Wolves Insider: the weekly report that gives you the scoop on all Chicago Wolves developments throughout the team’s 25th anniversary season.
WE’RE ENTERING THE SECOND QUARTER
Over the weekend, the Wolves wrapped up the first quarter of the 2018-19 schedule. What have we learned about Rocky Thompson’s team aside from their 10-6-2-1 record?
1) It’s explosive: The Wolves are averaging 3.89 goals through 19 games, which ranks third in the 31-team American Hockey League. If the Wolves maintain this pace, then this edition will rank second in the team’s 25-year history in goals per game. Chicago boasts three of the league’s top 10 scorers in Brandon Pirri (8G, 14A), Daniel Carr (9G, 13A) and Brooks Macek (14G, 7A). Carr led the AHL in points when he was recalled from loan by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights on Thanksgiving while Macek continues to pace the league in goals.
2) It’s only going to get better: While the Wolves boast plenty of high-end talent that already boasts NHL experience (most lineups include eight players who’ve been in the NHL), the team also features several high-end prospects who get a little bit better each game. Most Wolves lineups feature seven blue-chippers who are in their first full year of professional hockey.
3) It’s going to contend for a third consecutive Central Division crown: The Wolves currently rank third in the division standings when it comes to points (23), but second when it comes to goal differential (+13). Most intriguingly, each of the last two Wolves squads have started slowly and built steam as the season progressed. Last season, for example, Thompson’s squad stood at 5-10-3-1 after the first quarter of the season, but it was just 10 days away from launching a team-record 14-game point streak that featured 12 wins. This year’s team has a similar feeling: guys learning how to play together and maximize their strengths.
BE A PART OF OUR FIRST TEDDY BEAR TOSS!
The Wolves are hosting the team’s inaugural Teddy Bear Toss on Sunday, Dec. 2, during the first intermission of the 4 p.m. game against the Texas Stars. Another of the team’s new events during the 25th anniversary season, the Wolves ask fans to bring new teddy bears and stuffed animals that will be donated to Toys For Tots for the holidays.
The rookie defenseman not only scored his first professional goal on Friday at Rockford, he handed out two assists and posted a +5 plus/minus rating that came within one of the Wolves record. Whitecloud, who turns 22 on Wednesday, ranks fifth on the team with a +8 plus/minus rating.
Continuing with the theme of rookies enjoying excellent weeks, first-year center Reid Duke (the first player to sign with the Vegas Golden Knights) scored one goal on Sunday against Rockford and handed out two assists on Friday to give him two goals and four assists in the last five games.
This Orland Park native continues to be a stabilizing influence as a first-line center and as a leader. Tynan carries a six-game point streak into Wednesday’s game at Grand Rapids and has delivered at least one assist in 11 of the team’s last 13 games. Tynan owns 163 assists in 315 career AHL appearances.
SUNDAY, NOV. 25 ROCKFORD 3, (at) CHICAGO 2
- The Wolves removed the goalie and forward Reid Duke scored a late goal to pull the team within 1, but Rockford held on for the Illinois Lottery Cup victory at Allstate Arena
- Forward Tomas Hyka joined Duke in the scoring column while center T.J. Tynan earned an assist for the sixth game in a row
- Goaltender Max Lagace notched 19 saves
SATURDAY, NOV. 24: GRAND RAPIDS 4, (at) CHICAGO 3 (OT)
- Defenseman Griffin Reinhart scored a short-handed goal late in the third period to force overtime, but Grand Rapids’ Filip Hronek scored the game-winner 2:36 into extra time
- Forwards Tyler Wong and Keegan Kolesar scored first-period goals to stake the Wolves to a 2-0 lead while defenseman Jake Bischoff posted two assists
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk recorded 27 saves
FRIDAY, NOV. 23: CHICAGO 7, (at) ROCKFORD 2
- The Wolves piled up seven goals in a 28-minute stretch of the first two periods to set the tone for an Illinois Lottery Cup rout at Rockford
- Defenseman Zach Whitecloud scored his first pro goal and Curtis McKenzie, Keegan Kolesar, Tomas Hyka, Brandon Pirri, Zac Leslie and Nic Hague also scored
- Goaltender Max Lagace posted a season-high 33 saves in the win