MANITOBA MOOSE (38-29-5-2) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (43-21-6-4)
THE CENTRAL DIVISION PLOT THICKENS
The Chicago Wolves own the Central Division title and the division’s No. 1 seed when the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs start next week. The San Antonio Rampage have wrapped up last place in the eight-team division.
As for spots 2 through 7, nobody solved anything during a wild Friday night in the Central Division when Iowa rallied for a 2-1 overtime win over the Wolves, Manitoba won 4-1 at Grand Rapids and Texas gave away a three-goal lead before winning 4-3 at San Antonio.
Here’s what we know: There are two scenarios tonight where the other three Central Division playoff spots can be decided. Neither one, however, clarifies which team the top-seeded Wolves will face in the first round of the playoffs.
Scenario 1: Grand Rapids, Milwaukee and Iowa clinch if A) Milwaukee beats Grand Rapids; B) Chicago beats Manitoba in regulation and C) Iowa gets at least one point vs. Rockford.
Scenario 2: Grand Rapids, Milwaukee and Manitoba clinch if A) Milwaukee beats Grand Rapids; B) Manitoba beats Chicago and C) Iowa loses in regulation at Rockford.
TYNAN VYING FOR THE CROWN
With two days left in the regular season, Wolves center T.J. Tynan leads the American Hockey League with 58 assists. He owns a 1-assist edge on Toronto right wing Jeremy Bracco.
If Tynan holds on to win the assist crown, then he becomes the fifth Wolves player to pace the AHL in assists since the organization joined the league prior to the 2001-02 season. Tynan seeks to join the company of Steve Maltais (58 assists in 2002-03), Darren Haydar (81 in 2006-07), Jason Krog (73 in 2007-08) and Kenny Agostino (59 in 2016-17).
JOINING THE FRAY
The Wolves are playing three games in three days for the third weekend in a row. With that in mind — along with the fact Chicago already has clinched the Central Division crown — Wolves general manager Wendell Young has brought in a pair of players today: Defenseman Josh Atkinson and goaltender Jiri Patera.
Atkinson, a 26-year-old Alberta native, played two games for the Wolves during 2016-17. This season, Atkinson has posted 5 goals and 21 assists in 54 games for the ECHL’s Allen Americans. Patera, a 20-year-old from Prague, Czech Republic, was drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights in the sixth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He posted a 22-20-2 record with a 3.31 goals-against average and .906 save percentage this season for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings.
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 has a remote chance to tie the franchise record of 2.51 GAA set by the 2013-14 Midwest Division champs. If the Wolves shut out Manitoba all weekend, then they’ll tie 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 +38 while rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud owns second at +36 and forward Daniel Carr shares third at +35 with Syracuse’s Dominik Masin. Arturs Kulda (+46) set the franchise record in 2009-10.
8: On Thursday, left wing Daniel Carr became the eighth Wolves player to be named to the AHL First All-Star Team since the franchise joined the AHL in 2001. He joins left wing Kenny Agostino (2016-17), center Wade Megan (2016-17), goaltender Jake Allen (2013-14), center Jason Krog (2007-08), left wing Brett Sterling (2006-07), right wing Darren Haydar (2006-07) and defenseman Travis Roche (2004-05). Carr has the potential to become the fourth Wolves skater to earn the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s Most Valuable Player. The league will reveal the winner on Friday, April 19.
15: Rookie defenseman Dylan Coghlan produced his 15th goal of the season on April 6 in the first period against Colorado. That’s tied for 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 (18) and tied with San Antonio’s Joey LaLeggia. 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.
47: The Wolves lead the American Hockey League in first goals as they’ve scored the opening marker in 47 of their 74 games this season. When the Wolves have scored first, such as Friday’s 2-1 overtime loss at Iowa, they’ve gone on to produce a 31-11-4-1 record that breaks out to a .713 points percentage. When Chicago doesn’t score first — such as Sunday’s shootout loss to Colorado — its record stands at 12-10-2-3 (.537).
53: The Wolves are outscoring their opponents by 53 goals this season (244-191). Only Syracuse (+77), Charlotte (+66) and Bakersfield (+56) are better. Colorado led Chicago after the first period last Saturday and Sunday, which was a rare occurrence for the Wolves as they lead the AHL with a +31 margin (81-50). Syracuse and Charlotte are next at +27.
57: The Wolves have had one of the top defenses down the home stretch, allowing just 57 goals in the 29 games since Feb. 2. Chicago’s 1.97 goals against per game average ranks second among all AHL teams in that span — only Charlotte’s 1.90 average, allowing 55 goals in 29 games, is superior.
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 623 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).
NEXT THREE GAMES
All games are streamed on AHLTV.
The April 14 game will be broadcast on CW50.