CHICAGO WOLVES (16-9-3-1) AT MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS (16-9-5-1)
FIVE-WAY FIRST-PLACE FRENZY
Who’s going to be leading the American Hockey League’s Central Division when Santa slides down the chimney? It’s not an easy question to answer — even though today’s the final day before the AHL’s official holiday break — because there are five teams separated by just two points.
Milwaukee owns the most points in the Central with 38, so the Admirals can assure themselves of first with a win today over Chicago. On the other hand, the Wolves (36 points) can own first place with a regulation win over the Admirals because they would have the most regulation and overtime wins in the division.
Of course, Iowa (37 points) also has a say. If the Wild earn two points against Stockton again tonight, then they’d have first place all to themselves if the Admirals get no points this afternoon. And let’s not forget Grand Rapids (36 points), which guns for back-to-back wins at Manitoba.
Then there’s Rockford (36 points), which has earned nine points in its last five games. The IceHogs cannot own a piece of first at the holiday break because they’re off today.
STILL THE HOTTEST AROUND
Despite a 5-4 overtime loss to Rockford on Friday night at Allstate Arena, nobody in the AHL is hotter than Chicago. The Wolves and the Utica Comets own matching 6-0-1-0 records — giving them the longest streaks with at least one point.
The Wolves have built their empire on the league’s most consistent offense. Not only have they scored at least two goals in every game, they’ve piled up at least four goals in each of the last eight games.
Several players are enjoying lengthy point streaks. Daniel Carr, who owns 7 goals in four games against the Admirals this year, returns to the site of his four-goal performance riding a career-high seven-game point streak. Carr has delivered six goals and seven assists in those seven games.
Center T.J. Tynan, who ranks second (to teammate Brandon Pirri) in the AHL with 23 assists, also is in the midst of a career-high point streak as the Orland Park, Illinois, native has racked up one goal and nine assists during his eight-game point streak. Curtis McKenzie owns a four-game point streak.
Then there are the rookie defensemen: Zach Whitecloud has contributed three goals and two assists during his three-game point streak. Dylan Coghlan is riding a three-game point streak. Nic Hague doesn’t have a streak going, but he has scored six goals in the last seven games.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: The Wolves rank No. 1 among the 31 AHL teams in both goals with 115 and goals per game with 3.97. The last time Chicago led the league in scoring, the Wolves captured the Calder Cup championship (2007-08).
2+: The Wolves have scored at least two goals in all 29 games this year, the only team in the AHL to do so. While this streak sets the franchise record for opening a season with 2+ goals, it only shares second place on the franchise’s overall list. In 2009-10, the Wolves scored 2+ in 29 straight games from Jan. 9 to March 7. John Anderson’s 2006-07 team set the franchise mark by scoring 2+ in 36 consecutive games from Oct. 15, 2006, Jan. 6, 2009.
13: Since falling behind 3-0 to Iowa on Dec. 5, the Wolves have outscored opponents by a 19-goal margin, 32-13. Putting it other way: while all of Chicago’s opponents have scored a collective 13 goals over the last 401 minutes and 42 seconds, forward Daniel Carr also has had a hand in 13 goals (6G, 7A). Carr has scored three power-play goals over this span and leads the league with nine goals on the man-advantage.
20: The Wolves are outscoring opponents 45-25 in the first period this season, a 20-goal differential that is the largest among AHL teams in the opening frame. Bridgeport is the only AHL team that’s halfway or more to the Wolves’ first-period surplus as the Sound Tigers are a +11. The Wolves have posted a 13-4-3-0 record in the league-leading 20 games in which they have scored first and a 13-1-2-1 record when leading after the first period.
40.6: Despite going 0 for 2 on the power play Friday night, the Chicago power play has been rolling in December as the PPG units have converted at a 40.6 percent clip. The Wolves have scored 13 power play goals this month, capitalizing on at least one man-advantage in seven of their eight games. The Wolves have scored multiple power-play goals on seven occasions, pushing the Wolves power play up to a 22.7 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).