CHICAGO WOLVES (32-17-5-1) AT TEXAS STARS (27-23-3-3)
homestand leads to first place
When the final horn sounded on the 1-0 win over Rockford on Tuesday, the Wolves swept a five-game homestand for just the second time in the team’s 25-year history. The string of wins also propelled the squad to first place in the Central Division with 70 points. The Grand Rapids Griffins also own 70 points, but the Wolves have the upper hand with one fewer game played. Chicago also owns the No. 1 tiebreaker as Rocky Thompson’s crew boasts 32 regulation and overtime wins — a total that ranks second in the AHL — while Grand Rapids has 27.
During the five-game homestand the Wolves were outshot 164-105 by their opponents, but swept the series by outscoring Iowa, Texas, Grand Rapids and Rockford by a 13-6 margin. However counterintuitive it may be, the Wolves have a 17-5-2-1 record this year when the opposing team produces more shots on net. The goaltending duo of Max Lagace and Oscar Dansk has played a huge part in the current five-game winning success, combining for 158 saves, a 1.91 goals-against average and a .963 save percentage that included Lagace’s first shutout of the season on Tuesday against Rockford. Lagace’s goals-against average of 2.47 shares for seventh among AHL netminders.
The Wolves’ special teams also got a boost during the home stretch — the penalty kill surrendering just two power-play goals (both to Texas) on 12 chances in addition to scoring a short-handed goal against the Stars. After hovering near the bottom of the AHL on the penalty kill during the first half of the season, Chicago ranks ninth with a 82.3 percent success rate. Since the calendar flipped to 2019, the Wolves are 59 of 67 (88.1 percent) on the kill.
SEEING STARS SO OFTEN
Tonight’s game marks the third of four games between the Chicago Wolves and the Texas Stars in a 10-day stretch as the Wolves picked up wins against the Stars on Feb. 21 and 24. If that sounds like a lot of battles between the same teams in an abnormally short period of time, you’re not wrong.
In the Wolves’ 25-year history, this marks just the fourth time they’ve faced the same team four times in 10 days or less during regular-season play. In 2002, the Wolves and Utah Grizzlies met four times from March 22-30. All four games were played in Salt Lake City and the teams split the games. A bonus wrinkle: Between the first two games and the last two games, the Wolves flew home to host Hartford on March 27 and won.
Chicago repeated the four-games-in-nine-days trick in 2016 against the Milwaukee Admirals. From Feb. 26 to March 6, the Wolves went 1-2-1-0 against their Central Division foe. In 2002, the Wolves and Admirals met four times in 10 days from March 7-16 and Chicago earned two wins, one loss and one tie.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: As in the number of digits in 10 Wolves’ goal totals. When Dylan Coghlan, Keegan Kolesar and Curtis McKenzie scored last 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 +35 rating while linemate Gage Quinney is second at +33. Rookie defensemen Zach Whitecloud is third at +32 while Nic Hague ranks fifth at +26.
11: Daniel Carr’s career-high 11-game point streak stands as the longest active stretch in the AHL thanks to his assist on Brooks Macek’s goal on Tuesday, which snapped a tie with former teammate Brandon Pirri. He rang up his 10-game point streak before joining the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights for good in mid-January. Carr’s streak includes six straight games with a goal from Feb. 1-15, tied for the second-longest goal streak in the league this season.
29: The Wolves and their NHL partner, the Vegas Golden Knights, have been blessed with relatively good health this season, which is symbolized 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.
35: The Wolves are outscoring their opponents by 35 goals this season (187-152), 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. Opponents are outscoring the Wolves in the second period (-7) but Chicago made up ground this past week with a goal in the second period against Rockford and a pair of second-period tallies in both contests against Texas.
100: AHL All-Star left wing Daniel Carr enters tonight’s action with 17 points (8G, 9A) in 11 games since the All-Star break. For the season, he’s averaging 1.42 points per game. If he maintains this pace over the team’s final 21 games, he’ll finish with 100 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.
The March 8 game will be broadcast on The U Too.