COLORADO EAGLES (34-26-4-1) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (43-21-5-3)
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE CLINCH?
The Chicago Wolves wrapped up their third consecutive Central Division title with a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Eagles on Saturday night at Allstate Arena. Center Gage Quinney’s goal with 1:13 left enabled the Wolves to clinch the 10th division crown in the franchise’s 25 years.
On the morning of Feb. 17, the Wolves stood in third place in the Central — 7 points behind the Grand Rapids Griffins — with 60 points in 50 games. Since that time, Chicago has gone on a 16-4-0-2 tear (a .773 pace) despite playing without leading scorers Daniel Carr, Brooks Macek and Quinney for lengthy stretches due to injury and losing top-scoring defenseman Erik Brännström in a late-February trade.
“I think it’s a great compliment to our guys — their work and their effort,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “To secure home ice and the top of the division is great. I give our guys a lot of credit. There’s been a lot of adversity and this is good, but there’s a lot of work left to be done.”
What’s the next goal? Well, the Wolves own the best winning percentage in the Western Conference at .653 with four regular-season games to go. Pacific Division leader Bakersfield sits at .638 with three to play. That means Chicago’s magic number is six to claim home-ice advantage in the Western Conference. Atlantic Division champ Charlotte (104 points) has earned home ice throughout the Calder Cup Playoffs.
TYNAN KEEPS SHaring
It sounds weird to say Wolves top line center T.J. Tynan “only” handed out one assist in Saturday’s win, but that’s because Tynan has been averaging two assists per night for the last two weeks. With his perfectly feathered pass to Keegan Kolesar in the second period, Tynan extended his point streak to eight games — which consists of 15 assists.
It also marked Tynan’s 57th assist of the season, which kept him one ahead of Toronto’s Jeremy Bracco for the AHL lead. He also continued his climb of the Wolves’ single-season assist charts. His 57th helper tied Steve Larouche (1999-2000) and Steve Maltais (1997-98) for the ninth-most assists in one season. His next target is 2017 AHL Most Valuable Player Kenny Agostino, who stacked up 59 assists for the Wolves.
DANSK KEEPS WINNING
Goaltender Oscar Dansk earned his sixth win in a row Saturday night, which pushed his season total to 26 wins — good for a share of third in the AHL. He also moved into ninth place with his 2.47 goals-against average. Over his last 10 games, Dansk has been one of the primary reasons the Wolves rocketed to the top of the Central as he has posted a 9-0-1 record while allowing just 14 goals. That breaks down to a 1.39 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage since March 9.
BY THE NUMBERS
2.58: The Wolves are allowing the third-fewest goals per game in the AHL, giving up an average of 2.58 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 seven goals or fewer over their final four 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 the top three spots. Center Gage Quinney holds the lead at +39 while rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud owns second at +36 and veteran forward Daniel Carr stands third at +35. Arturs Kulda (+46) set the franchise record in 2009-10.
15: Rookie defenseman Dylan Coghlan produced his 15th goal of the season on Saturday night in the first period. That’s the fourth-highest total for an AHL defenseman this season — trailing only Rochester’s Zach Redmond (21), Hartford’s John Gilmour (20) and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Ethan Prow (17). Coghlan leads all AHL rookie blueliners in goals and has become the first Wolves defenseman since Paul Postma in 2009-10 to score 15 goals.
37: Prior to Sunday’s puck drop, Wolves defenseman Zac Leslie (No. 37) will receive the Tim Breslin Unsung Hero Award. Leslie earned the honor, in part, for his unselfishness in shifting to the wing and to center when injuries left the team short up front. Prospect High School senior Anelisa Marie Spagnola will receive the Breslin Memorial Scholarship.
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 — such as Saturday night’s win over Colorado — its record stands at 12-10-2-2 (.538).
55: The Wolves are outscoring their opponents by 55 goals this season (241-186), which ties Bakersfield for the third-best goal differential in the AHL. Only Syracuse (+73) and Charlotte (+59) are better. Colorado led Chicago 2-1 after the first period Saturday, which was a rare occurrence for the Wolves as they lead the AHL with a +32 margin (81-49).
71: Wolves top line left wing Curtis McKenzie sat out his first game of the season Saturday night, which means he became the final Chicago player to miss a game after battling in the first 71. McKenzie has stacked up 11 goals and 11 assists in 21 games since Feb. 17 — when the Wolves started to make their move to the top of the Central.
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 622 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).
REST OF THE REGULAR SEASON
All games are streamed on AHLTV.
The games on April 13 and 14 will be broadcast on CW50.