CLEVELAND MONSTERS (29-26-6-1) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (36-18-5-2)
HOME IS WHERE THE DUBS ARE
The Chicago Wolves own one of the best records in the league over the last 10 games (8-1-0-1) and are doing even better at Allstate Arena, riding an eight-game home winning streak into tonight’s action. It’s the longest active home streak in the AHL. The streak, which dates back to the 5-2 win over Manitoba on Feb. 2, ranks among the best in team history. Last year’s squad set the regular-season franchise record, posting 13 straight home wins.
13: Dec. 6, 2017, to Feb. 15, 2018
9: March 1-26, 2003
9: Nov. 23 to Dec. 28, 2002
8: Feb. 2, 2019, to present
8: Feb. 4 to March 5, 2017
8: Dec. 30, 2009, to Jan. 27, 2010
8: March 8 to April 12, 1998
8: Nov. 2 to Dec. 5, 1997
The Wolves are leading the Central Division with 79 points, three ahead of Grand Rapids and Iowa. There’s a nine-point drop to fourth-place Texas (67 points) but Milwaukee (66 points), Manitoba (65 points) and Rockford (64 points) are all within easy reach of the division’s final playoff spot. San Antonio, Saturday’s scheduled foe, rounds out the division with 60 points.
Since playing Cleveland on Jan. 24 and 26, which also happened to be the last series before the All-Star Break, the Wolves have gone 12-4-0-1 and outscored teams 46-33. A huge piece of the puzzle has been the play between the pipes from goaltenders Max Lagace and Oscar Dansk. The Wolves have allowed two or fewer goals in 10 of the last 11 games and the goaltending duo has combined for a 1.92 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage since the All-Star Break.
MACEK PICKS UP THE TORCH
For most of this season, the name on top of the league’s scoring list has been one belonging to the Wolves. Forward Brandon Pirri put up points consistently, averaging nearly a point and a half per game, and led the AHL with 42 points when he joined Vegas for good on Jan. 6. Forward Daniel Carr surpassed Pirri shortly thereafter and leads the AHL with 71 points (30G, 41A), but has been out with injury after a hit on March 5 that garnered San Antonio forward Jordan Nolan a two-game suspension.
With Pirri and Carr unavailable, forward Brooks Macek has been doing his best to fill the void. Ranking second on the team with 57 points, Macek scored two game-winning goals last weekend — the first time he has had goals in back-to-back games since Nov. 2-3. He has not gone more than two games without a point since the start of 2019 and has 15 points (6G, 9A) in the Wolves’ 17 games since the All-Star Break.
BY THE NUMBERS
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. Gage Quinney earned a +2 Saturday night and leapfrogged over former linemate Daniel Carr (+35) to take over the league lead at +37. Rookie defensemen Zach Whitecloud is just below Carr at +34. Bakersfield forward Patrick Russell ranks fourth (+28) while rookie defenseman Nic Hague holds fifth at +27.
4: Goaltender Max Lagace owns fourth place on the AHL’s goals-against average list with a career-low 2.30 GAA. Over his last seven starts, the Quebec native has produced a 6-0-1 record with an 0.98 GAA and a .963 save percentage. Neither Lagace nor goaltending partner Oscar Dansk have allowed more than two goals in a game during the team’s eight-game home winning streak.
8: The Wolves’ 2-1 overtime victory on Sunday against the Milwaukee Admirals pushed the home winning streak to eight games, tied for the fourth-longest in team history. The team record was set last season when Rocky Thompson’s Wolves posted 13 straight home wins from Dec. 6 to Feb. 15. Starting with the 5-2 win over Manitoba on Feb. 2 that ignited this streak, the Wolves have outscored their opponents 24-10.
16: Heading into tonight’s matchup, the Wolves need just 16 points in 15 remaining games to clinch the franchise’s 20th playoff berth in 25 years. Only Bakersfield (10) has a lower number in the Western Conference. The magic number is reduced each time the Wolves earn standings points, as well as each time teams outside the playoff picture fail to earn points.
40: The Wolves are outscoring their opponents by 40 goals this season (202-162), which trails only Syracuse and Bakersfield for the best goal differential in the AHL. Most of that advantage has been piled up during the first period, when Chicago has outscored its foes 69-43. Nobody in the AHL is close to that +26 margin.
200: When T.J. Tynan scored in the third period Saturday night, the Wolves became the first Western Conference team to reach the 200-goal mark this season and the fourth AHL team overall. The Wolves are on pace to score 251 goals during the 76-game regular season, which would be the franchise’s highest total since the AHL moved from 80 to 76 games prior to the 2011-12 season.
357: 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 19-year-old defenseman Erik Brannstrom made his NHL debut Thursday night for the Ottawa Senators, he became the 357th player (out of 620 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).
THE NEXT THREE GAMES
All games are streamed on AHLTV.
The game on March 16 will be broadcast on CW50.