MANITOBA MOOSE (38-30-5-2) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (44-21-6-4)
FINAL DAY…WHOM WILL WE PLAY?
One hundred ninety-two days ago, the Chicago Wolves opened the 2018-19 season in Colorado with a riveting overtime win over the Eagles.
Despite a rash of injuries to top players, a key departure at the trading deadline and a loss of the league’s top scorer to NHL partner Vegas, head coach Rocky Thompson’s crew stayed consistent throughout the season and delivered the franchise’s third consecutive Central Division championship and 20th playoff berth in 25 seasons.
Now it’s time to figure out who’ll be Chicago’s opponent when the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs open next week. While everyone learned Saturday night which teams will join the top-seeded Wolves in the Central Division’s portion of the postseason — the Iowa Wild (87 points), Grand Rapids (87 points) and the Milwaukee Admirals (86 points) — the matchups for the best-of-five Central Division Semifinals won’t be set until Rockford and Milwaukee finish around 8:40 p.m. today at the MetroCentre.
If Milwaukee wins that game, then the Wolves face fourth-seeded Grand Rapids while the second-seeded Admirals have home-ice advantage over the third-seeded Wild.
If Rockford wins that game, then the Wolves face fourth-seeded Milwaukee while second-seeded Iowa gets third-seeded Grand Rapids. Either way, the Wolves host Games 1 and 2 at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 19, and Saturday, April 20, with Game 5 (if necessary) slated for 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 28.
There is one thing riding on today’s Wolves-Moose game: Chicago (.653) has a slight edge over Pacific Division champ Bakersfield (.649) for the Western Conference’s best record. To ensure home-ice advantage for the first three playoff rounds, the Wolves need to match or better the number of points Bakersfield earns at Stockton in their 7 p.m. contest.
DAN SNYDER MAN OF THE YEAR
Prior to today’s game, second-year forward Tyler Wong will receive the Dan Snyder Man of the Year Award. The annual honor goes to the Wolves player who demonstrates the most outstanding dedication to Chicago-area community service.
Snyder, who died on Oct. 5, 2003, after suffering head injuries in a car accident, volunteered extensively during his two seasons with the Wolves. Wong, a 23-year-old Alberta native, spent significant time volunteering during the 2018-19 season. He focused on visiting libraries as part of the Wolves’ Read to Succeed program and helping Feed My Starving Children and Bernie’s Book Bank.
TYNAN VYING FOR THE TITLE
Wolves center T.J. Tynan leads the American Hockey League with 59 assists — two ahead of Toronto right wing Jeremy Bracco. If Tynan wins the assist crown, then he becomes the fifth Wolves player to pace the AHL in assists. He’d join 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).
BY THE NUMBERS
2.57: The Wolves are allowing the third-fewest goals per game in the AHL, giving up an average of 2.57 goals each contest. This ranks as the third-stingiest average in franchise history — trailing only John Anderson’s 2013-14 Midwest Division champs (2.51 GAA) and Craig MacTavish’s 2011-12 Midwest Division champs (2.54 GAA). If the Wolves hold on to third place, it’ll be the first time in team history that they’ve finished top three in goals-against average.
4: The Wolves’ prowess during even-strength play shows up in the league’s plus/minus ratings as Chicago owns four of the top six spots. Rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud leads the way at +38 while center Gage Quinney holds second at +37. Forward Daniel Carr ranks fourth at +35 while rookie defenseman Nic Hague shares fifth place with Bakersfield center Cooper Marody.
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 joined 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 the fifth-highest total for an AHL defenseman this season — trailing only Rochester’s Zach Redmond (21), Hartford’s John Gilmour (20), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Ethan Prow (18) and San Antonio’s Joey LaLeggia (16). Coghlan and roommate Nic Hague, who scored his 13th goal Saturday night, are the first pair of double-digit goal-scoring Wolves defensemen since Joel Kwiatkowski (21), Nathan Oystrick (15) and Brian Fahey (14) delivered for the 2007-08 Calder Cup champions.
48: The Wolves lead the American Hockey League in first goals as they’ve scored the opening marker in 48 of their 75 games this season. When the Wolves have scored first, such as Saturday’s 4-2 win over Manitoba, they’ve gone on to produce a 32-11-4-1 record that breaks out to a .719 points percentage. When Chicago doesn’t score first — such as last Sunday’s shootout loss to Colorado — its record stands at 12-10-2-3 (.537).
55: The Wolves are outscoring their opponents by 55 goals this season (246-193). Only Syracuse (+78), Charlotte (+66) and Bakersfield (+59) are better. The Wolves are particularly potent during the first period as they lead the league with a +32 goal differential (82-50). lead the league in goal differential during the first period 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.
59: The Wolves boast one of the AHL’s top defenses since the All-Star Break, allowing just 59 goals in the 30 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).
FIRST-ROUND HOME GAMES
All games are streamed on AHLTV.