CHICAGO WOLVES (12-9-2-1) AT ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (11-9-1-4)
KINGS OF THE GOALS
The Chicago Wolves arrived Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Arena with a tall task at hand: trying to snap a five-game winless streak while dealing with the American Hockey League’s hottest team and best goalie.
When the Wolves showed up, Iowa netminder Kaapo Kahkonen owned a 6-1-3 record and a 1.55 goals-against average and he had just been honored as the AHL’s Goaltender of the Month for November.
When the Wolves wrapped up their two-game sweep at Iowa, Kahkonen owned a 6-2-4 record and a 1.94 GAA as Rocky Thompson’s bunch piled up nine goals in 124 minutes.
Now the Wolves lead the AHL in scoring with 92 goals in 24 games. This year’s crew averages 3.83 goals per game, which ranks as the No. 2 rate in franchise history. Only the 2006-07 squad, which produced 4.14 goals per game, has been more explosive. Coincidentally enough, the Wolves set their season-high for goals the last time they visited Rockford when they crunched the IceHogs 7-2 on Nov. 23.
THIS CARR FUELS THE WOLVES
It might be a coincidence, but probably not: The Wolves’ five-game winless streak occurred while forward Daniel Carr was playing in the NHL for the Vegas Golden Knights. Since he has returned, he has produced 2 goals and 2 assists and the Wolves have posted two victories.
Despite missing six Wolves games while hanging with the Golden Knights, Carr shares eighth in the league in goals (11), shares sixth in points (26), ranks second in plus/minus rating (+18) and shares first in power-play goals (7).
Put another way: The Wolves own an 11-5-1-1 record (.667) with Carr in the lineup and a 1-4-1-0 record (.250) with Carr out of the lineup.
HELLO, NEW GUY
The Wolves signed center Marco Roy on Friday morning and he made his Chicago debut Friday night against Iowa. Roy centered the fourth line as he became the 616th player to wear the Wolves jersey in the Wolves’ 25 seasons.
The 24-year-old Roy spent the first two months of this season with the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets, where he posted 5 goals and 7 assists in 13 games. Friday’s game marked his 79th AHL appearance. He posted 11 goals and 17 assists for the Bakersfield Condors, Utica Comets and San Jose Barracuda.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: Second-year forward Tyler Wong scored the Wolves’ first two goals in Friday night’s 5-4 win at Iowa, which marked the first multi-goal game as a professional during the regular season. Wong had been seeking such a night ever since he delivered a hat trick on Sept. 17, 2017, against the Vancouver Canucks during the Vegas Golden Knights’ first exhibition game. Wong also set a personal best with 5 shots — as he created more good scoring chances in his effort to earn the Wolves’ fourth hat trick of the year.
7: With Gage Quinney unable to play in Friday’s game, that reduced the number of Wolves who have played in all 24 games to seven: Forwards Reid Duke, Keegan Kolesar, Brooks Macek, Curtis McKenzie, Brandon Pirri and T.J. Tynan and rookie defenseman Nic Hague. At this point last season, only four Wolves had appeared in the first 24 games. Tynan is the only repeater on the list.
19: Defenseman Erik Brännström continues to keep climbing the scoring charts. He earned another assist Friday night, which pushed his point streak to four games (2G, 6A) and gave him 19 points (4G, 15A) in 22 games this season. He’s the only defenseman ranked among the Top 20 rookie scorers and he shares fifth place overall in scorers. On Wednesday, the Eksjö native was named to Sweden’s preliminary roster for the 2019 World Junior Championship, taking place Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia. Media reports say he has been cleared by the organization to join his national team.
21.6: Prior to Wednesday’s and Friday’s games, the Wild had given up just eight power-play goals all year as the league’s second-best penalty-killing unit. The Wolves came into Des Moines and scored four goals in eight power-play opportunities to improve the team’s power play to a conversion rate of 21.6 percent.
31: Brandon Pirri keeps producing every night he’s on the ice. The 27-year-old assisted on Daniel Carr’s first-period goal Friday night, which pushed his league-leading point total to 31 (10G, 21A). He also paces the AHL with 21 assists. Pirri handed out four assists on Wednesday at Iowa, which marked the first time he’d accomplished that since in a game on April 12, 2013, when he produced 1 goal and 5 assists in a Rockford IceHogs’ 7-3 win over the Wolves. Syracuse’s Cory Conacher, Lehigh Valley’s Phil Varone and Texas’ Erik Condra sit in second with 28 points (11G, 17A).
354: 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 goaltender Eddie Pasquale won his NHL debut Tuesday night for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Detroit Red Wings, he became the 354th player (out of 615 Wolves all-time) who have competed for the Wolves and in the NHL. That 57.6 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 — 38 boast NHL experience (70.4 percent).