TEXAS STARS (14-9-2-1) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (15-9-2-1)
BIG MIDTERM EXAM
It’s a terrific coincidence that today’s School-Day Game, which welcomes thousands of Chicago-area students to enjoy an educational field trip to Allstate Arena, happens to be an important test for the Chicago Wolves.
Just 16 days ago, the Texas Stars came to town and knocked off the Wolves by a 7-4 count as veteran forward Erik Condra racked up 5 points. The Stars outshot the Wolves 34-22 and generally controlled the game from start to finish, which handed the Wolves their fifth loss in a row and encouraged the entire team to do some soul-searching.
“We were close in some of those games,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “We weren’t playing poorly. Obviously the last game of that losing streak, we did have a bad game. I think that was a big wakeup call for our guys. Texas really dropped one on us pretty hard there.
“It was an eye-opener. It exposed some areas of our game that were weaknesses, which was a good thing for us. We could make some adjustments as a (coaching) staff, give the players a plan and something they could buy into — and it was reflected, I thought, in Iowa.”
The Wolves have won all five of their games since facing Texas — starting with a pair of one-goal victories on the Iowa Wild’s home ice. Since falling behind 3-0 during the opening 27 minutes of their first game on Dec. 5 in Des Moines, the Wolves have outscored their opponents 22-7. That’s the team’s second-best offensive stretch and the finest defensive stretch of this season to date.
goals all around
The top three point-scorers in the league will all be on the Allstate ice Tuesday, so it’s safe to say fans can expect a high-scoring affair. Wolves forward Brandon Pirri leads the AHL with 38 points and has points in the Wolves last eight games. Texas forward Erik Condra and Chicago’s Daniel Carr are tied for second place with 31 points each. Condra has the edge in goals with 14 while Carr has 13 goals and 18 assists.
The Wolves lead the AHL with 3.89 goals per game, notching a league-high 105 goals in 27 games, and just below Chicago sits Texas with a 3.88 average (101 goals in 26 games). In the two games between the teams so far this season, the Wolves and the Stars have combined for 18 goals. Chicago and Texas are also 20th and 17th, respectively, in goals against per game: the Wolves allow an average of 3.26 goals while Texas is averaging 3.19 goals allowed per game.
BY THE NUMBERS
1.48: Among AHL players who’ve competed in more than two games this season, Wolves forward Daniel Carr ranks second in points per game as he owns 31 points (13G, 18A) in 21 games. Carr’s 1.48-points-per-game average is beaten only by Syracuse’s Cory Conacher, who owns 11 goals and 19 assists in 20 games.
4: The Wolves have scored at least four goals in six consecutive games, which ranks as the franchise’s longest streak since Craig Berube’s 2016-17 squad won six games in a row from Feb. 18 to March 5. As you can imagine, the Wolves are nearly unbeatable when they score at least four goals. This year’s team owns a 14-2-0-1 record when scoring 4+ and last year’s team won its final 26 games when scoring four or more.
14: Defenseman Nic Hague has amassed a +14 plus/minus rating, which leads all AHL rookies this season and shares eighth place overall. Hague scored a goal and was +2 on Saturday and, while he wasn’t on the scoresheet on Sunday, he was on the ice for three of the five Wolves goals. Fellow rearguard Zach Whitecloud’s +13 rating has him second among all rookies after notching a goal and recording a +4 rating in Sunday’s win.
18: The Wolves are outscoring opponents 41-23 in the first period this season, an 18-point differential that is the largest among AHL teams in the opening frame. The Wolves have collected a 12-4-2-0 record in the 18 games in which they have scored first and a 12-1-2-1 record when leading after the first period. Texas has only come back three times (3-6-0-0) after their opponent has scored first and has a 1-6-1-0 record when trailing after one.
37.5: The Chicago power play has been rolling in December, converting at a 37.5 percent clip. The Wolves have scored nine power play goals this month, capitalizing on at least one man-advantage in five straight games from Dec. 1 to Dec. 15. Forward Daniel Carr has tallied a league-high eight power-play goals this season, helping to move the Wolves power play up to fourth in the AHL with a 22.2 percent conversion rate for the year. If this group of Wolves maintain this percentage, then they’ll crush the franchise record of 20.8 percent set by the 2008 Calder Cup champions.
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).