COLORADO EAGLES (34-25-4-1) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (42-21-5-3)
ok, let’s clinch at home
The Chicago Wolves had a chance Friday night to clinch their third consecutive Central Division title. While the San Jose Barracuda did their part by knocking off the Grand Rapids Griffins by a 3-1 count, the Wolves suffered a 4-3 loss at Milwaukee.
That means the Wolves’ magic number rests at two entering Saturday’s action. Any combination of two points — whether earned by the Wolves or missed out on by Grand Rapids — ensures Chicago gets the Central Division’s top seed in the upcoming Calder Cup Playoffs. The Griffins play Saturday afternoon at San Jose, so there’s a chance the race could be over before the Wolves hit the Allstate Arena ice tonight against the Colorado Eagles.
Colorado, which became the AHL’s 31st team this season, finds itself trying to scrap into the Pacific Division’s fourth and final playoff spot. The Eagles enter tonight’s game with 73 points, one behind the Tucson Roadrunners for fourth. San Diego holds third with 77 points, but has played one more game.
The Central Division chase is even crazier. Iowa and Milwaukee share third with 81 points while Manitoba and Texas share fifth with 79 points, though the Moose have one more game remaining than the others. Rockford (76 points with four games to play) seems to be on the outside looking in.
GLASS BLOWS UP
In the Wolves’ season opener on Oct. 5 at Colorado, defenseman Erik Brännström scored two goals in his North American professional debut to give the Wolves a 3-2 win. On Friday night, center Cody Glass became the second Wolves player to produce two goals in his professional debut.
Glass, who was drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights sixth overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft (nine spots before Brännström), scored twice in the third period. His first tally came 29 seconds into the third period as center T.J. Tynan whistled a pass to Glass just outside the crease and he lifted a one-timer into the top right corner.
As pretty as Glass’ goal happened to be, it was even more beautiful how his teammates reacted to it. Curtis McKenzie rushed to pull the puck out of the net, then he joined Tynan, Tomas Hyka and Dylan Coghlan along the boards behind the net to give Glass a friendly mauling for what figures to be the first of many professional points for the 20-year-old Winnipeg native.
Tynan, by the way, handed out three assists Friday night to take the AHL lead with 56 helpers. He owns 14 assists in the last seven games.
BY THE NUMBERS
2.59: The Wolves are allowing the third-fewest goals per game in the AHL, giving up an average of 2.59 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. If the Wolves allow nine goals or fewer over their final five regular-season games, then they’ll set the team record.
3: The Wolves’ prowess during even-strength play shows up in the league’s plus/minus ratings as Chicago owns three of the top four spots. Center Gage Quinney holds the lead at +37 while veteran forward Daniel Carr and rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud share second at +35 with Syracuse defenseman Dominik Masin. Arturs Kulda (+47) holds the franchise record while Brian Sipotz (2006-07) and Chris Chelios (2009-10) are next on the Wolves’ all-time single-season list.
27: 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 25 games, McKenzie has stacked up 13 goals — including three two-goal efforts — and 14 assists as the Wolves have fashioned a 17-6-0-2 record. McKenzie’s first goal March 29 against Grand Rapids was his 100th career AHL goal and extended his point streak to six games. He also produced a career-high eight-game point streak during his spree.
46: The Wolves lead the American Hockey League in first goals as they’ve scored the opening marker in 46 of their 71 games this season. When the Wolves have scored first, they’ve gone on to produce a 31-11-3-1 record, which breaks out to a .717 points percentage. When Chicago doesn’t score first, its record stands at 11-10-2-2 (.520).
54: The Wolves are outscoring their opponents by 54 goals this season (238-184), which trails only Syracuse, Bakersfield and Charlotte 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 80-47. Nobody in the AHL comes close to that +33 margin.
56: Wolves center T.J. Tynan has vaulted to the top of the AHL’s assist charts thanks to a ridiculous stretch of pinpoint passing. Tynan earned the primary assist on all three of Chicago’s goals on Friday night, which gave him 14 assists in the last seven games and 22 in the last 12. Tynan owns 56 assists in 67 games this season as he moved past Toronto’s Jeremy Bracco (55 assists in 71 games) on Friday night.
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 March 29 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.
The April 7 and 13 games will be broadcast on CW50.