TUCSON ROADRUNNERS (15-6-2-1) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (13-9-2-1)
The Chicago Wolves know a thing or two when it comes to scoring goals. The Wolves posted 12 goals in three games last week and share third place in the AHL with 96 goals — just two behind the Texas Stars and Toronto Marlies. Chicago averages 3.84 goals per game, the third-highest rate in the league, and are outscoring teams 96-85 this year.
Recently the Wolves have been a force on special teams, allowing just two power-play goals in the last six games, going 13-15 (.867) on the penalty kill in those contests. The Wolves have been dominant on the man-advantage as well, scoring nine goals on the power play while fashioning a streak of five straight games with at least one tally. Rocky Thompson’s group has converted at a 45.0 percent rate (9-20) to bump the season power-play rate to 21.7 percent.
Six Wolves are riding point streaks into the weekend, led by forward Brandon Pirri’s six straight games notching a point. Defenseman Erik Brännström has a goal and six assists over the last five games while forward T.J. Tynan has dished out helpers in four consecutive games. Defenseman Nic Hague and forward Daniel Carr have points in each of the last three games and defenseman Zach Whitecloud has assists in the last two games.
pirri’s piling up the points
Forward Brandon Pirri played an integral role in the Wolves’ three wins last week, collecting three goals and five assists in Chicago’s victories. Pirri dished out assists on all four Wolves goals on Wednesday in Iowa and assisted Daniel Carr’s goal on Friday before exploding for his third career hat trick on Saturday in Rockford. The eight-point week has Pirri leading all AHL scorers with 34 points.
In addition to his lead in points, Pirri also shares the league lead in assists with 21 and tops the league’s shooters with 103 shots. His three power-play assists on Wednesday are in a five-way tie for the most in a single game this season. Pirri has points in 20 of the Wolves’ 25 games this year and Chicago is 12-7-1-0 in those games.
The Wolves will play Tucson again on Sunday, facing the same opponent back-to-back for the fourth time this season. Chicago has been pretty successful on the previous three occasions, dropping just one of six contests. The Wolves opened the season with a pair of wins in Colorado on Oct. 5-6 and fell to Manitoba on Nov. 2 but came back the next day to win decisively. Last week, Chicago played a pair of games in Iowa and rode away from Des Moines with two wins.
BY THE NUMBERS
0: Goaltender Oscar Dansk put on a 32-save shutout performance on Dec. 8 in the Wolves’ 4-0 victory against Rockford. It was the Wolves’ first shutout of the season as well as the third-straight road win for Chicago. Dansk’s last shutout with the Wolves was in a 3-0 victory in San Antonio on March 2, recording 28 saves.
6: With Gage Quinney unable to play on Dec. 7 at Iowa and Reid Duke recalled to Vegas last week, that reduced the number of Wolves who have played in all 24 games to six: Forwards 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 25 games. Tynan is the only repeater on the list.
12: Defenseman Erik Brännström continues to make his way up the scoring charts. He earned another assist last Saturday night, which pushed his point streak to five games (1G, 6A) and gave him 20 points (4G, 16A) in 23 games this season. He’s the only defenseman ranked among the Top 20 rookie scorers. Among all AHL defensemen, he ranks second in power-play points (12) — trailing only perennial All-Star T.J. Brennan of Lehigh Valley. The Eksjö native has been 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.
16: The Wolves are outscoring opponents 38-22 in the first period this season, a 16-point differential that is the largest among AHL teams in the opening frame. The Wolves have collected a 10-4-2-0 record in the 16 games in which they have scored first and a 10-1-2-1 record when leading after the first period. On the other side of the ice, Tucson has a 5-2-0-0 record when trailing after one, outscoring teams 36-21 in the second period.
34: Brandon Pirri keeps producing every night he’s on the ice. The 27-year-old scored three goals against Rockford on Saturday night, bumping his league-leading point total to 34 (13G, 21A). He also paces the AHL with 21 assists. Pirri’s hat trick on Saturday in Rockford was the Wolves’ fourth hat trick of the season (Daniel Carr, Brooks Macek and Gage Quinney have the others). Texas’ Erik Condra (13G, 17A) and Syracuse’s Cory Conacher (11G, 19A) sit in second with 30 points.
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 Dec. 4 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).