ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (16-18-3-5) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (23-13-3-1)
Saturday, Jan. 19 | 7 p.m. | CW50 | AHLTV | Facebook Live
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Through seven games of this year’s 12-game series, the Chicago Wolves lead the Rockford IceHogs 4-3 in Illinois Lottery Cup action. The Wolves have won the Illinois Lottery Cup competition the last two seasons and can clinch victory again with three wins in the series’ final five games.
The Wolves also took over the all-time lead in the Chicago-Rockford rivalry (66-65) with their overtime victory on Dec. 29. Head coach Rocky Thompson’s squad snapped a streak with the win at Allstate Arena as it was the first time this season that the home team had won in the series.
While the Wolves are outscoring teams by 29 goals (146-117), Rockford is being outscored by 26 (120-94) and ranks 31st in the AHL with 2.24 goals per game. Starting with the Wolves’ wins over the IceHogs on Dec. 28-29, Rockford has posted a 1-7-1-1 record and scored 19 goals during that 10-game stretch.
The Chicago Wolves may have taken over first place in the Central Division with a 5-2 win over Grand Rapids on Wednesday, but the view from the top lasted just 48 hours. When the Griffins knocked off the IceHogs 3-1 on Friday night, Grand Rapids regained a 1-point edge over the Wolves for the Central Division lead.
The Iowa Wild (49 points) also had a chance to hop over the Wolves (50 points) on Friday night, but Ontario picked up a 6-5 win in Des Moines. Though the Wolves don’t own the most points in the division, they own the best points percentage at .625. Grand Rapids ranks No. 2 at .607 while the Texas Stars, who are four points behind the Griffins, stand third among Central Division teams with a .603 points percentage.
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Since last Friday, the Chicago Wolves have scored 12 goals in three games and sit tied with Charlotte (which has played two more games than the Wolves) for the most goals in the AHL this season with 146. Chicago has scored fewer than two goals just three times and averages 3.65 goals per game.
The Wolves also have proved they know how to score goals when the stats are stacked against them. Wednesday’s win over Grand Rapids was another example of the Wolves prevailing despite being outshot. The Griffins put up three more shots (30-27) than the Wolves, but Chicago muscled out three more goals in the 5-2 victory. The Wolves now have an 11-3-1-0 record when being outshot by their opponent.
BY THE NUMBERS
.222: The Wolves have capitalized on 20 of their 90 power-play opportunities at Allstate Arena this year, a 22.2 percent clip that rides slightly above Chicago’s overall power-play percentage of 20.8 (37 of 178). The man-advantage will be put to the test against the IceHogs, who have the fourth-best road penalty-kill unit in the league with an 84.8 percent average on the road.
3: The Wolves had three representatives — forwards Brandon Pirri and Daniel Carr and defenseman Erik Brännström — selected to participate in the 2019 AHL All-Star Classic. It marked Pirri’s fourth selection while Carr and Brännström are first-time picks. Pirri, who has produced eight goals and five assists in 11 games for the Vegas Golden Knights, was removed from the All-Star roster on Friday as he won’t be returning to the AHL any time soon.
5: Five Wolves players have scored at least three goals in one game this season — forward Tomas Hyka most recently joined the ranks with Brooks Macek, Gage Quinney, Daniel Carr (4 goals) and Brandon Pirri. The AHL’s other 30 teams have combined for 30 hat tricks this season. The last Wolves team to have at least five players rack up a hat trick in the same season was the 2008 Calder Cup champs — when Jesse Schultz, Brett Sterling, Kevin Doell, Joel Kwiatkowski, Darren Haydar and Jason Krog (two hat tricks in the playoffs) made it happen.
20: For three Wolves, every five shots they take tend to yield one goal. Forwards Brooks Macek, Gage Quinney and Tomas Hyka have shooting percentages over 20 percent, which is even more impressive when you consider that the three have taken an average of 54 shots this year. Macek has 18 goals on 73 shots, converting at a 24.7 percent rate while Quinney has 11 goals on 51 shots for a 21.6 percent average. Hyka, who has only played in 20 games for Chicago, has eight goals on 39 shots (20.5 percent).
29: Center T.J. Tynan’s 29 assists are tied with Toronto’s Jeremy Bracco for the most helpers among AHL players. In two seasons with the Wolves, Tynan has racked up 23 goals and 74 assists in 109 games, putting him just three away from 100 points in a Wolves sweater.
146: Thanks to five goals against the Griffins on Wednesday night, the Wolves are tied for first place in AHL scoring with 146 goals — tied with Charlotte. The Wolves also continue to boast three of the league’s top 10 scorers: League leader Daniel Carr (20G, 28A), No. 4 Brandon Pirri (18G, 24A) and No. 8 Brooks Macek (18G, 22A).
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 Jan. 10 for the St. Louis Blues, he became the 356th player (out of 618 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 55 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 (69.1 percent).