CHICAGO WOLVES (10-9-2-1) AT IOWA WILD (13-4-3-2)
how ’bout a history lesson?
Just for fun, let’s rewind to the first Wednesday of December last year. The Chicago Wolves hosted the San Diego Gulls at Allstate Arena that night — and things weren’t going so well in the weeks leading up to the game. The Wolves had lost 11 of their last 12 and totaled just six points over that stretch. They had surrendered 18 goals in their last four games.
Things are somewhat similar on the first Wednesday of December this year. Entering tonight’s game against the Iowa Wild, the Wolves have lost eight of their last 10 games and totaled just six points over that stretch. They have surrendered 20 goals in their last four games.
So what happened on the first Wednesday in December last year? Goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo allowed just one goal, Tyler Wong ignited the offense with a goal and the Wolves earned a 3-1 victory. That triggered a run where Rocky Thompson’s squad won 13 of their next 16 games and posted an .875 points percentage over that stretch to zoom toward the top of the Central Division standings.
Now, this parallel certainly doesn’t mean the Wolves will win tonight — nor would a win tonight assure a long winning streak. But knowing it has been done recently ought to provide a measure of calm as the team seeks positive results.
venturing into the wild
The Wolves won’t have the home ice advantage this weekend, and they’re OK with that. After four straight weekends of home games, and a 1-6-1-0 record in those contests, Chicago might feel more comfortable in Des Moines with its 17-4-2-1 all-time road record against the Wild.
Iowa, tied with Milwaukee for the Central Division lead with 31 points, allows just 2.50 goals per game and boasts the top goaltender in the league in Kaapo Kahkonen with a 1.45 goals-against average. The Wolves, on the other hand, average 3.77 goals per game and are one of just two teams in the AHL (Providence being the other) to score at least two goals in every contest this season.
BOOST FROm THE D-Men
In recent games, the Wolves’ youthful defensive core has kicked it up a notch at the offensive end as the team has received goals from at least one defenseman in five of the last six games.
Nic Hague, Zach Whitecloud and Zac Leslie started the spree with goals on Nov. 23 at Rockford, Griffin Reinhart scored on Nov. 24, Jake Bischoff delivered on Nov. 28 at Grand Rapids, Erik Brännström scored on Saturday and Dylan Coghlan produced on Sunday.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: The American Hockey League announced Tuesday that Wolves forward Alex Gallant has been suspended for two games for his actions that led to a match penalty during the third period of Sunday’s game against the Texas Stars. Gallant’s penalty came as a result of his decision to defend goaltender Max Lagace after a brief skirmish with a Stars skater. Gallant will miss tonight’s game as well as Friday’s game against Iowa.
8: Eight Wolves have appeared in all 22 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 four Wolves had appeared in the first 22 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).
9: The Wolves are unstoppable when leading after two periods at 9-0-0-0. In contrast, the Wolves are 1-9-1-2 when trailing or tied after two, with that win coming in a 5-4 overtime decision against Milwaukee on Oct. 14 when the Wolves scored three third-period goals to force an extra session.
35.7: Brooks Macek continues to lead the AHL with 15 goals, but it might be his accuracy that is the most impressive. The 26-year-old from Winnipeg has scored his 15 goals off of just 42 shots, a 35.7 percent conversion rate that also tops the AHL. Syracuse rookie right wing Taylor Raddysh ranks second with a 33.3 percent conversion rate (8 of 24).
89: 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 89. 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 11.2 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 — and the process already has started as he owns two goals in the last three games and six goals over the last eight games.
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).