ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (26-22-3-6) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (31-17-5-1)
history in the making
In the Chicago Wolves’ 25-year history, the team has hosted 22 homestands of five games or more. If the Wolves can pull off the victory in today’s homestand finale against the Rockford IceHogs, then this would mark the second sweep in franchise annals of such a long homestand.
John Anderson’s Wolves set the standard in 2002-03 when they posted a five-game sweep March 15-26 by a combined 17-10 score over Philadelphia, Grand Rapids, Rochester, Manitoba and Houston. Heading into today’s game, Rocky Thompson’s crew has won four in a row by a 12-6 margin over Iowa, Texas, Grand Rapids and Texas.
That’s not all the Wolves can achieve with a victory tonight. Grand Rapids holds a 70-68 edge in points over the Wolves in the Central Division standings, but the Griffins have played two more games. If the Wolves win, they’ll pull even in points but take over first place as they own the tiebreaker (regulation and overtime wins) over Grand Rapids by a 31-27 count.
BUT, WAIT, THERE’s more!
Today’s game also has a huge impact on the Illinois Lottery Cup’s destination for the next year. The Wolves have owned the Cup for the last two years, but they need to win at least two of the final three meetings this season to keep the Cup.
The IceHogs head into tonight’s game with a 5-4 edge in wins over the Wolves. The Cup goes to the team with more wins in the 12-game season series. If the teams split the 12 games, then the tiebreaker becomes total points. The IceHogs own 11 points while the Wolves have 10. Then, if that doesn’t decide matters, then the Cup gets retained by the defending champion.
FAREWELL TO BRännström
Minutes before the NHL’s trading deadline expired Monday afternoon, the Vegas Golden Knights acquired Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone (28 goals and 34 assists in 59 games) in exchange for Wolves defenseman Erik Brännström, Vegas forward Oscar Lindberg and an NHL second-round pick.
The 19-year-old Brännström played a valuable role during his first professional season in North America. He was the youngest player at the 2019 AHL All-Star Classic as he and forward Daniel Carr represented the Wolves at last month’s event in Springfield, Massachusetts. Brännstrom triggered the Wolves’ first power-play unit and posted seven goals and 21 assists in 41 games.
Vegas also acquired Belleville Senators center Tobias Lindberg, who produced 10 goals and 13 assists in 64 games for the Wolves last season. He posted 5 goals and 7 assists in 44 games this season split between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Belleville. He’ll wear his familiar No. 25 when he arrives.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: As in the number of digits in 10 Wolves’ goal totals. When Dylan Coghlan, Keegan Kolesar and Curtis McKenzie scored over the weekend, they became the eighth, ninth and 10th Wolves to reach the 10-goal mark this season. No other AHL team has as many players in double figures. These Wolves have some work to do to set the franchise record, though. In 2006-07, 14 Wolves produced double-digit goals for the highest-scoring team in Wolves annals.
3: The Wolves’ prowess during even-strength play shows up in the league’s plus/minus ratings as Chicago owns the top three spots and four of the top five. Daniel Carr continues to lead the AHL with his +34 rating while linemate Gage Quinney and rookie defensemen Zach Whitecloud share second at +32. Nic Hague ranks fifth at +26.
10: Daniel Carr’s career-high 10-game point streak shares the longest active stretch in the AHL with former teammate Brandon Pirri, who rang up his streak before joining the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights for good. Teammate Curtis McKenzie owns the next-longest active streak with Bakersfield’s Cooper Marody as McKenzie boasts a season-high eight-game point streak that features four goals and seven assists.
29: The Wolves and their NHL partner, the Vegas Golden Knights, have been blessed with relatively good health this season, which is signified by the fact the Wolves have needed to use just 29 players to this point in the season. By comparison, last year’s team used 45 players. There’s a minute chance this year’s squad could break the franchise record of 30 players, which was set in 1995-96 when general manager Wendell Young ruled the nets and senior advisor Gene Ubriaco coached the team.
34: The Wolves are outscoring their opponents by 34 goals this season (186-152), which is the third-highest differential in the AHL. Most of that advantage has been piled up during the first period, when Chicago has outscored its foes 65-39. Nobody in the AHL is close to that +26 margin. The Wolves have outshot their foes by 93 in the first period, but they’ve been outshot by 68 after the first period.
101: AHL All-Star left wing Daniel Carr enters tonight’s action with 16 points (8G, 8A) in 10 games since the All-Star break. For the season, he’s averaging 1.44 points per game. If he maintains this pace over the team’s final 22 games, he’ll finish with 101 points this season. He would become the AHL’s first 100-point producer 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).
THE NEXT THREE GAMES
All games are streamed on AHLTV.