IOWA WILD (18-8-4-3) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (20-10-3-1)
new year, new streaks
One of the byproducts of success is the sheer number of streaks that are snapped when there’s an unfortunate result. When the Chicago Wolves dropped a 3-1 decision to the Iowa Wild on New Year’s Eve in Des Moines, here are the streaks to which they bid adieu:
- The 11-game point streak that began on Dec. 5. The Wolves’ 10-0-1-0 run allowed them to jump from fifth to first in the AHL’s Central Division. They fell just three games shy of the franchise mark.
- The 33-game streak where the Wolves scored at least two goals in every game. It became the second-longest streak in Wolves history and fell just three shy of the franchise mark.
- The six-game road winning streak that fell just one game shy of last year’s best run.
- The six-game winning streak owned by goaltender Oscar Dansk, who started the run when he shut out the Rockford IceHogs on Dec. 15.
Here’s one streak that hopefully remains intact: For the third consecutive season, the Wolves’ Happy New Year celebration features three home games during the first week of the new year. In 2017 and in 2018, the Wolves swept all three games while allowing an average of 2 goals per game each season.
The Wolves are in the midst of a stretch where they play seven games in 11 days — the busiest portion of their 2018-19 schedule. After playing four games in the final six days of 2018, the team had New Year’s Day off before embarking on three home games in four days. In stretches like this, head coach Rocky Thompson tries to avoid taxing his players any more physically.
“There’s more teaching on video than there would be because we don’t get any practices,” he said. “Rest is important, obviously, but you want to stay mentally engaged playing these games without burdening people with too much thought. That’s kind of the challenge: Getting what you need, correcting what needs to be corrected yet still having the flow. I think our guys are doing a good job.”
The American Hockey League expects to announce the rosters for the 2019 AHL All-Star Classic later this week. With just 10 skaters’ spots available on the Central Division roster and eight teams to be represented, it’s hard to imagine more than two Wolves getting picked. It won’t be easy to choose between the AHL’s top two scorers — Brandon Pirri (17G, 24A, +7) and Daniel Carr (17G, 23A, +24) — and Brooks Macek (17G, 17A, +12) and rookie defensemen Nic Hague (9G, 8A, +19) and Erik Brännström (4G, 16A), among others.
BY THE NUMBERS
.750: The Wolves posted a .750 points percentage during the month of December, which in retrospect everyone probably should have anticipated. This marks the third December in a row that the Wolves recorded a .750 points percentage. The one difference? This year the Wolves were 10-3-1-0, but in 2017 and 2016 the Wolves went 9-2-2-1. Chicago tied for the second-best points percentage in the AHL during December. Syracuse also went .750 while Bridgeport went .769 with a 9-2-2-0 record.
3: The Wolves’ prowess during even-strength hockey can be seen at the top of the AHL’s plus/minus ratings — where they own the top three spots. Left wing Daniel Carr leads the league with a +24 plus/minus while rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud ranks second with a +21 and center Gage Quinney stands third at +20.
5: There are five AHL teams that have yet to be shut out this season: Bridgeport, Chicago, Hartford, Iowa and Texas. The Wolves have not been on the short end of a shutout since Feb. 24, 2018, at Manitoba — which means only Texas (Jan. 13, 2018) has been shut out less recently than the Wolves.
26: This is the number Erik Brännström dons for the Wolves, but he hasn’t worn it for the last eight games because he has been busy captaining Team Sweden in the 2019 World Junior Championship. Sweden won all four of its preliminary games as Brännström shares the team lead with four goals. Sweden faces Switzerland on Wednesday afternoon in the quarterfinals. Canada and Finland also are on Sweden’s side of the bracket while Russia-Slovakia and USA-Czech Republic comprise the other side of the bracket.
44: The Wolves sit at the top of the Central Division and Western Conference with 44 points. Through 34 games, the Wolves (20-10-3-1) are off to the franchise’s best start since John Anderson’s 2007-08 squad that started 24-9-1-0 on its way to the Calder Cup championship.
129: Chicago leads the AHL with 129 goals — eight more than Syracuse — so it makes sense that the Wolves boast three of the league’s top 10 scorers: League leader Brandon Pirri (17A, 24A), No. 2 Daniel Carr (17G, 23A) and No. 6 Brooks Macek (17G, 17A). Center T.J. Tynan sits in 11th place with seven goals and 25 assists.
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 616 Wolves all-time) who have competed for the Wolves and in the NHL. That 57.5 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).