CHICAGO WOLVES (21-12-3-1) at TUCSON ROADRUNNERS (19-9-3-1)
Tonight’s game marks the halfway point of the season for the Chicago Wolves, who are 21-12-3-1 through the first 37 contests of the year. The Wolves are off to the franchise’s best first half since the 2011-12 season when Craig MacTavish’s team went 21-12-1-3 through the first 37. Those Wolves went on to capture the Midwest Division title. The best first-half record is still owned by the 2007-08 Wolves, who closed out the first half on a 10-2-0-0 run to stand 28-9-1-0 at the halfway mark. That squad coached by John Anderson proceeded to capture the 2008 Calder Cup.
The Wolves are one point back of the Iowa Wild in the Central Division and tied with the Grand Rapids Griffins for second place with 46 points. The Milwaukee Admirals are just two points behind the Wolves and Griffins while the Texas Stars are within striking distance with 43 points.
Tucson owns a slightly higher winning percentage than the Wolves (.656 to .622), but the Wolves boast a better goal differential (+24 to +13). When the teams met on Dec. 15-16 at Allstate Arena, the Wolves never trailed in either game.
leaders of the pack (AND AHL)
Wolves forwards Brandon Pirri and Daniel Carr continue to lead the AHL in scoring with 42 and 41 points, respectively, and they have accounted for a large portion of Chicago’s 133 goals that are tied for the lead in the AHL. Pirri has scored at least one goal in each of his last five games with the Wolves and currently on a 10-game point streak that ties his career best (scoring 10 goals and 10 assists in the span), but he’ll need waivers to return to the Wolves if he plays one more game with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.
Carr is tied with Pirri for a team-leading 18 goals this season and second in the AHL with a +21 plus/minus rating. His hand in scoring goals extends beyond even-strength play, though, as Carr’s nine power-play goals are tied for second in the AHL.
Welcome BACK, zach
Goaltender Zach Fucale was reassigned to the Wolves by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday evening as the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights recalled the Wolves’ Max Lagace from loan. The reigning ECHL Goaltender of the Week, the 23-year-old has appeared in 17 games this year with the Fort Wayne Comets, recording a 2.81 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage. Fucale is 10-5-1 on the season for the Komets.
He is also coming off a strong performance for Team Canada at the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland, where he backstopped his squad to the Spengler Cup Finals, contributing a 3-0-1 record with a 1.47 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.
BY THE NUMBERS
3: The Wolves will have three representatives – forwards Brandon Pirri and Daniel Carr and defenseman Erik Brännström – at the 2019 AHL All-Star Classic, joining the San Jose Barracuda as the only other team to have three players selected. It will be Pirri’s third appearance at the AHL All-Star Classic while Carr and Brännström are first-time selections.
4: The Wolves’ prowess during even-strength hockey can be seen at the top of the AHL’s plus/minus ratings — where they own four of the top five spots. Rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud leads the league at +22 while left wing Daniel Carr is right behind with a +21 plus/minus. Center Gage Quinney and rookie defenseman Nic Hague share third with Rochester’s Lawrence Pilut at +19.
5: Rookie defenseman Erik Brännström has been the quarterback of the Wolves’ power play virtually from Day 1. While he was away from the team from Dec. 16 to Jan. 4 to serve as captain for Team Sweden in the WJC, the Wolves scored just 5 power-play goals in 39 chances (12.8 percent). In Brännström’s return Saturday, the Wolves went 1 of 6 and during his 25 games this season, the Wolves have converted 27 of 120 chances (22.5 percent).
20: The Wolves are headed back on the road, where they have the best record in the Western Conference and second-best in the AHL. The Wolves have compiled a 12-5-0-0 record in road games this season (.706) and are outscoring opponents by 20 goals (64-44) in their own barns. The penalty kill thrives on the road as well at an 84.6 percent clip, more than four percent better than the season penalty kill average…
80.4: … of 80.4. Both the Wolves and the Roadrunners are killing penalties at a rate of 80.4 percent, tied with Grand Rapids for 17th in the league. Special teams should work in the Wolves’ favor, though, as the Chicago power play ranks 11th in the AHL, converting at a rate of 20.4 percent, while Tucson stands 22nd with its 16.9 percent clip.
133: Despite the Wolves’ recent scoring issues, they continue to lead the AHL with 133 goals — tied with the Charlotte Checkers. The Wolves also continue to boast three of the league’s top scorers: League leader Brandon Pirri (18G, 24A), No. 2 Daniel Carr (18G, 23A) and No. 11 Brooks Macek (17G, 18A).
356: 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 recent Wolves forward Mackenzie MacEachern made his NHL debut on Thursday night for the St. Louis Blues, he became the 356th player (out of 617 Wolves all-time) who have competed for the Wolves and in the NHL. That 57.7 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).