CHICAGO WOLVES (27-15-5-1) AT MANITOBA MOOSE (22-21-3-2)
FEELING AT HOME ON THE ROAD
The Chicago Wolves have proven to be an impressive squad on the road this year, improving to 16-7-1-0 in opposing rinks after topping Milwaukee and Grand Rapids last weekend. Tonight may very well end up being an epic clash considering the Moose are hard to beat at home, riding a 9-0-0-1 streak at Bell MTS Place and outscoring teams 37-16 during that stretch.
The same was said, however, about Grand Rapids. The Griffins had lost just four games in regulation this season and had surrendered just 65 goals in Van Andel Arena prior to the Wolves hitting town on Sunday, but Rocky Thompson’s boys still handled the Griffins with ease and left Michigan with a 4-1 victory.
Why are the Wolves faring so well on the road? Rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud, who hails from Brandon, Manitoba (130 miles west of Winnipeg), offered some thoughts: “I think it is just knowing the importance of going in on a road game, that first period and your first 5-10 minutes. Holding yourselves accountable right off the hop because if you don’t get off to a good start it could be a long night.”
The win helped the Wolves close in on the Central Division lead, but the Griffins continue to sit in first with 63 points. The Wolves are three points behind Grand Rapids while Iowa sits just one point ahead of Chicago with 61 points. Rockford and Milwaukee are six points back, each with 54 points. When it comes to winning percentage, the Wolves stand alone at the top with their .625 (27-15-5-1) clip.
Manitoba is at the bottom of the division in points with 49 as well as in winning percentage at .510 (22-21-3-2). The Wolves and Moose are on opposite ends of the Central when it comes to scoring as well, as the Wolves have put up the most goals with 170 while Manitoba’s 121 goals are the least among the division.
goalies in a groove
Goaltender Max Lagace rejoined the Wolves on Feb. 8 after spending most of the previous month with Vegas (NHL) and promptly stopped 34 of 35 shots in his first start back with Chicago to secure the 4-1 win over the Griffins on Sunday.
The Wolves goaltending corps has been stingy lately, playing a part in Chicago’s 31-goal (170-139) margin over opposing teams. This time last year the Wolves netminders were performing in a similar fashion, helping the Wolves to a 7-3-0-0 record in February while outscoring teams 36-26 through 10 games. Oscar Dansk earned wins in all four of his starts.
BY THE NUMBERS
.688: The Wolves boast a 16-7-1-0 record in road games, a .688 winning percentage that ranks second in the league. That percentage also ranks third in Wolves history. The record is held by the 2006-07 squad, which finished the season with a road mark of 27-8-2-3, good for a .738 percentage in away games.
3: The Wolves’ prowess during even-strength play shows up in the league’s plus/minus ratings as Chicago owns the top three spots. Veteran forward Daniel Carr continues to lead the AHL with his +30 rating while linemate Gage Quinney owns second place at +28. Rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud ranks third with a +27.
11: The Wolves’ power play and penalty kills are both ranked among the top 11 in the league — standing eighth and 11th, respectively. The Wolves are converting at a 21 percent rate on the power play while killing off penalties at an 82.1 percent clip. Manitoba, on the other hand, ranks 22nd in the AHL with a 79.9 percent penalty kill average and 26th with a 16.1 percent mark on the man-advantage.
31: The Wolves have scored 170 goals this season, tied for the third-best mark in the league. Chicago is outscoring its opponents by a 31-goal margin (170-139), tied with San Jose for the third-best margin in the AHL. The Wolves are particularly impressive during the first period (+26) and on the road (+26). The Charlotte Checkers are the only team with a superior goal differential on the road (+27).
48: The Wolves boast three players who have appeared in all 48 games this season: Forwards Keegan Kolesar, Brooks Macek and Curtis McKenzie. That’s well above average among Central Division teams. Milwaukee shares the lead with three players who have played in all 52 of the Admirals’ contests. Texas also has three. Grand Rapids and Rockford have two, Iowa and San Antonio one and Manitoba hasn’t had anybody play in all 48 of its games.
100: AHL All-Star left wing Daniel Carr enters tonight’s action with a four-game goal streak and with 20 points (8G, 12A) in the Wolves’ last 12 games. If he maintains his 1.42 points-per-game pace the rest of the year, he’ll finish with 100 points this season. He would become the first 100-point scorer in the AHL since 2009-10, when Hershey’s Keith Aucoin scored 106 points and teammate Alexandre Giroux added 103.
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 619 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 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).