SAN ANTONIO RAMPAGE (8-14-0-0) at CHICAGO WOLVES (10-6-2-1)
used to be their town too
If several of the players in the visiting uniforms look particularly familiar tonight, that’s because they wore the Chicago Wolves jersey within the last two years while the Wolves transitioned from being partners with the St. Louis Blues to being partners with the Vegas Golden Knights.
The San Antonio Rampage switched from being the Colorado Avalanche affiliate to the Blues’ NHL affiliate during the offseason, which means their roster features seven former Wolves who helped Chicago win the last two Central Division crowns.
San Antonio’s cast of ex-Wolves consists of goaltenders Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso, forwards Conner Bleackley, Mackenzie MacEachern and Adam Musil and defensemen Chris Butler and Jake Walman. In addition, Rampage rookies Jordan Kyrou and Tanner Kaspick spent time with the Wolves as “black aces” during recent postseasons.
Butler served as the captain of the 2016-17 Wolves squad that reached the Central Division Finals. Binnington and Husso shared the crease that year with Pheonix Copley, who’s now with the Washington Capitals and has posted a 5-2-1 record in nine games this season. MacEachern, Walman and Bleackley played roles on the 2016-17 and 2017-18 teams, while Musil had a late-season and playoff cameo for the 2016-17 squad.
When the Wolves and Rampage met on Oct. 28 in San Antonio, Binnington earned the win in the 3-2 verdict while MacEachern notched the opening goal and Butler handed out two assists.
MACEK ADDS TO HIS LEAD
You might notice that Wolves right wing Brooks Macek now has 15 goals to his credit — even though he has not been credited with a goal at the end of a game since Nov. 10. How did Macek acquire his league-leading 15th tally? Thanks to the magic of the reverse angle on the Wolves’ coaches camera, the AHL was able to review the goal credited to Tomas Hyka on Friday, Nov. 23, at Rockford.
In real time, it was too hard to tell whether Hyka’s blast from the left circle went into the net or bounced off the right post directly to Macek waiting outside the crease. The official’s call gave the goal to Hyka and the AHLTV feed did not contradict the call. But the Wolves camera located on the other side of the ice distinctly showed Hyka’s shot banged off the post to Macek, who deserved credit for the tally.
The change was made official on Thursday, which means Macek holds a two-goal lead over Cleveland’s Zac Dalpe and Rochester’s Zach Redmond entering today’s games.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: Several Wolves players are averaging at least 1 point per game over the last handful of games. Brandon Pirri, who leads the team and shares fourth in the AHL with 23 points, has produced 10 points over the last eight games and 6 over the last six. Rookie center Reid Duke has notched six of his 11 points over the last six games. Second-year forward Keegan Kolesar owns five points in the last five, rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud has scored five of his six points within the last four games and Tomas Hyka has contributed four points since returning to the Wolves from Vegas four games ago.
6: Wolves forward Alex Gallant leads the AHL in major penalties with six. The 25-year-old from Summerside, Prince Edward Island, incurred his sixth major on Wednesday at Grand Rapids with a fight against the Griffins’ Givani Smith. Gallant has accounted for 48 of the Wolves’ 287 penalty minutes this season — Chicago leads the Central Division with 14.35 PIMS per game — but only one of his majors has resulted in the other team receiving a power play.
8: Eight Wolves have appeared in all 20 games this season: Forwards Reid Duke, Keegan Kolesar, Brooks Macek, Curtis McKenzie, Brandon Pirri, Gage Quinney and T.J. Tynan and rookie defenseman Nic Hague. At this point last season, only five Wolves had appeared in the first 20 games. Tynan is the only repeater on the list. Since the AHL switched to a 76-game schedule prior to the 2011-12 season, only three Wolves have played in all 76 games: captain Paul Thompson (2017-18), Alex Friesen (2016-17) and Jordan Schroeder (2011-12).
15: Brooks Macek continues to lead the AHL with 15 goals, but the 26-year-old from Winnipeg does not own the franchise record for most goals after 20 games: Steve Maltais produced 23 goals in the Wolves’ first 20 games of 1995-96, Brett Sterling posted 18 in 2006-07, Rob Brown notched 17 in 1996-97 and Jason Krog delivered 15 goals in 2006-07.
85: Brandon Pirri ranks among the leading scorers and most dangerous players in the American Hockey League, so it makes sense that he leads the league in shots with 85. He’s firing a little more frequently than in years past. This is his sixth full or partial season in the AHL and this marks the first time he has averaged more than 3.65 shots per game. On the flip side, he’s converting just 10.6 percent of his shots, which is off his 11.6 percent career rate. This suggests there could be a bushel of goals in his future as he regresses to the mean.
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).