TEXAS STARS (9-9-1-1) at CHICAGO WOLVES (10-8-2-1)
wrapping up the texas two-step
While Saturday night’s 5-3 loss to the San Antonio Rampage featured seven former Wolves making their return to Allstate Arena, today’s clash with the Texas Stars features one current Wolves player (forward Curtis McKenzie) getting to show several former teammates his new digs.
McKenzie, who spent his entire professional career in the Stars organization prior to signing with the Vegas Golden Knights in the offseason, served as captain and leading goal-scorer last season for the Texas Stars squad that reached the Calder Cup Final.
The Stars retain several top scorers from that team — Travis Morin, Justin Dowling, Denis Gurianov among them. When the Wolves played at Texas on Oct. 26, McKenzie admitted afterward that it felt weird to be on the ice in an adversarial position against his former team. That doesn’t figure to be as much of an issue today — now that the newness of the situation has worn off.
Moreover, the Wolves are just focused on getting back in the win column. Or, to be more precise, trying not to focus so much on getting back in the win column.
“We’ve got to prepare for tomorrow and focus on the things that we can do and the things that we’re good at and the things that we can have success at,” Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson said after Saturday night’s loss. “Take five minutes with it, cut it loose, let it go and start preparing yourself mentally and physically for what we’re going to have (Sunday) — because Texas is a very good team. Very dynamic offensively. And we’re going to have to be at our best tomorrow.”
does number of shots matter?
When the Chicago Wolves broke out to a 6-1-0-1 start during the season’s first three weeks — an arbitrary baseline that ended with the Wolves’ 4-3 win on Oct. 26 at Texas — Rocky Thompson’s team outshot the opponent just twice in those eight games. Over the last 13 games, though, the Wolves have outshot their opponent 10 times yet lost more often than not.
Overall, the Wolves are 6-1-1-1 (.778) when their opponents take more shots and 4-7-1-0 (.375) when they outshoot their opponents. The spread wasn’t quite as dramatic last year, but it was in the ballpark. The Wolves fashioned an 18-16-4-2 mark (.525) when outshooting their foes but 21-5-3-2 (.758) when their opponents took more shots.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: As part of the Wolves’ plans to launch new initiatives throughout the franchise’s 25th anniversary season, the team is hosting a Teddy Bear Toss for the first time today. The teddy bears and other stuffed animals that are thrown on the ice during first intermission will be donated to Toys For Tots. Also, as part of the team’s annual toy drive, the Wolves are collecting new, unwrapped toys during all home games through Dec. 21 that will be donated to Toys For Tots.
8: Eight Wolves have appeared in all 21 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 21 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: The Wolves tied their franchise record for fewest shots allowed in a game as the San Antonio Rampage posted just 15 shots Saturday night. San Antonio became the eighth team to manage 15 shots and the first since the Wolves defeated the Charlotte Checkers on Oct. 11, 2014 in the team’s season opener. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the Wolves own a 4-4-0-0 record in the games when they’ve allowed 15 shots.
54: Brooks Macek continues to lead the AHL with 15 goals, but Grand Rapids’ Chris Terry scored twice Saturday night against Texas to pull within one goal of Macek’s lead. The 26-year-old from Winnipeg is on pace for 54 goals, which would rank as the sixth-best season in Wolves annals. Steve Maltais owns four of the six 50-plus seasons in franchise history, which includes years of 60, 57, 56 and 56 goals. Brett Sterling posted 55 goals during his rookie year in 2006-07.
86: 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 86. 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 10.5 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).