MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS (29-24-13-2) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (41-19-5-3)
ONE GOAL DOWN, SEVERAL MORE TO GO
With their 4-3 win Friday night at Grand Rapids, the Chicago Wolves captured their 20th playoff berth in the franchise’s 25-year history. In addition to ensuring one of the Central Division’s four Calder Cup playoff spots, the Wolves improved their chances of claiming a third consecutive Central Division crown. The Wolves increased their lead over the Griffins to four points with seven regular-season games to go.
Head coach Rocky Thompson’s team earned its spot despite playing without several injured forwards for most if not all of their five-game, 11-day road trip — during which the Wolves claimed nine of a possible 10 points. Chicago joined the AHL’s other three division leaders — Charlotte (Atlantic), Syracuse (North) and Bakersfield (Pacific) as the teams that have clinched playoff berths to date.
Meanwhile, tonight’s opponent finds itself in the middle of a wild four-way battle for fourth place in the Central. Milwaukee has gone 4-0-1-1 in its last six games to make it a virtual dead heat for the last spot. Texas holds fourth place with 75 points, but has played one more game than Manitoba (74 points), Milwaukee (73 points) and Rockford (72 points).
McKENZIE HITS CENTURY MARK twice
Standout forward Curtis McKenzie scored his 100th AHL goal just 1:44 into Friday’s 4-3 win over Grand Rapids, but that’s not the only reason he has been considered such a valuable player during his professional career.
You see, just one period after scoring his 100th goal, McKenzie took offense when Grand Rapids right wing Dominik Shine checked Wolves center T.J. Tynan in the head. McKenzie rushed over and engaged Shine in a fight that cost McKenzie 17 minutes in the penalty box. That gave him an even 100 penalty minutes for the season — 20 off his career-high. (By the way, Wolves forward Alex Gallant also owns exactly 100 penalty minutes after taking two minor penalties Friday night).
TYNAN HITS THE 200 MARK
Wolves center T.J. Tynan always has been known for his vision and his ability to share the puck with his teammates, but he has taken things to an absurd level recently. In Chicago’s last six games, Tynan has racked up 13 assists. That includes a four-assist night in the Wolves’ last home game (March 16 vs. San Antonio) and three-assist efforts in the team’s last two games (March 26 at San Antonio and Friday night at Grand Rapids).
Tynan’s final assist Friday marked the 200th of his AHL career. It also marked his 51st of this season, which has jumped him into second place in the AHL. He trails Toronto’s Jeremy Bracco by just two helpers — even though he has played four fewer games.
BY THE NUMBERS
2.56: The Wolves are allowing the third-fewest goals per game in the AHL, giving up an average of 2.56 goals each contest. That means this year’s squad is within striking distance of the franchise record of 2.51 GAA set by the 2013-14 Midwest Division champs. Goaltender Oscar Dansk, the reigning CCM/AHL Player of the Week, has started the last six games for Chicago and gone 5-0-1 with just eight goals allowed.
3: The Wolves’ prowess during even-strength play shows up in the league’s plus/minus ratings as Chicago owns the top three spots. Center Gage Quinney holds the lead at +37 while rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud ranks second at +36 and forward Daniel Carr stands third at +35. Arturs Kulda (+47) holds the franchise record, but this year’s trio ranks of the next two on the Wolves’ single-season franchise list. Brian Sipotz posted a +34 in 2006-07 and Chris Chelios did the same in 2009-10 while paired primarily with Kulda.
12: Left wing Curtis McKenzie has been one of the most productive and most consistent Wolves since the All-Star Break. In the team’s last 22 games, McKenzie has stacked up 12 goals — including three two-goal efforts — and 14 assists as the Wolves have fashioned a 16-4-0-2 record. McKenzie’s first goal Friday night against Grand Rapids was his 100th career AHL goal and extended his point streak to six games.
26: The Wolves killed off 26 consecutive short-handed situations over the equivalent of nearly eight full games. After Milwaukee’s Adam Helewka scored a power-play goal 2:16 into the last Wolves-Admirals battle on March 10 at Allstate Arena, Chicago kept teams from scoring on the man-advantage for 474 minutes and 19 seconds. Grand Rapids’ Wade Megan finally broke the spell at 9:52 in the third period of Friday night’s game.
54: The Wolves are outscoring their opponents by 54 goals this season (228-174), 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 79-45 — including 3-0 Friday night at Grand Rapids. Nobody in the AHL is close to that +34 margin.
68: With high-scoring right wing Brooks Macek forced to sit out the road trip due to an injury — his first absences from the lineup this season — top line left wing Curtis McKenzie becomes the only Wolves player who has suited up for all 68 games this season. McKenzie never has appeared in all 76 AHL games during his career, but he played 75 games in 2013-14 during his rookie season with the Texas Stars.
358: 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 defenseman Jake Chelios made his NHL debut Friday night for the Detroit Red Wings, he became the 358th player (out of 621 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.