CHICAGO WOLVES (2-1) AT IOWA WILD (1-2)
REAL ZEROES LEAD TO HEROES
The Chicago Wolves were shut out in Game 3 of the Central Division Finals, an anomoly for this team considering the Wolves were shut out just twice during the regular season. In fact, the Wolves scored at least two goals in 66 of their 76 regular-season contests and finished the year tied for eighth in the American Hockey League in goals per game.
The good news is that the Wolves responded immediately both times after being shut out. When former Wolves goaltender Jordan Binnington posted a 3-0 shutout on behalf of San Antonio on Jan. 4, the Wolves came back the next night to top the Rampage 3-1. After Milwaukee’s Troy Grosenick blanked Chicago 4-0 on Jan. 20, the Wolves took it out on Cleveland in the next game with a 5-1 victory.
The other good news is that neither Iowa nor Grand Rapids has been able to string together two wins against the Wolves during the postseason. After each of the Wolves’ two losses in the playoffs, Chicago took the following game.
WINNING AT WELLS FARGO
The Chicago Wolves have enjoyed such a solid, consistent season that it’s easy to forget the team needed a turning point that occurred on Iowa’s home ice.
The Wolves visited the Wild on Dec. 5 dealing with a five-game losing streak. The team’s record was 10-9-2-1, which wasn’t good enough to rank among the Central Division’s top four teams. Meanwhile, the Wild’s 13-4-3-2 record had them sharing first place in the division with Milwaukee.
If the Wolves carried any confidence into that game, it was erased quickly as Justin Kloos scored 47 seconds into the game, Luke Kunin scored at the 4:06 mark and Gerry Fitzgerald gave Iowa a 3-0 lead 6:42 into the second period. Rather than fold, the Wolves fought back. Daniel Carr scored. Nic Hague scored. Dylan Coghlan knotted things at 12:43 of the third period, then Hague delivered the game-winner 4:03 into overtime to earn the win.
That victory triggered a 10-0-1-0 Wolves spree over the next three weeks that enabled head coach Rocky Thompson’s squad to surge to the top of the division standings.
THE SERIES SO FAR
- Wild goaltender Andrew Hammond stopped all 26 shots he saw to lead Iowa to a 2-0 victory in Game 3 of the Central Division Final.
- The Wolves had four power-play opportunities but could not convert despite a multitude of near-misses.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk stopped 18 of the 19 shots he faced
- The Wolves scored twice in the opening 4:42, allowed two goals, scored two more and then held on for the Game 2 victory at Allstate Arena.
- Forwards Brooks Macek, Matthew Weis and Tobias Lindberg (GWG) and defenseman Zach Whitecloud scored goals while Stefan Matteau and Daniel Carr posted two assists apiece
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 22 saves, which included 11 stops in the third period.
- Rookie center Cody Glass scored 18:39 into the first overtime to lift the Wolves to victory in Game 1 of the Central Division Finals at Allstate Arena.
- Forward Brooks Macek and defenseman Nic Hague scored during regulation while forward Daniel Carr handed out two assists and forward Tye McGinn set up Glass’ game-winner.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 26 saves, including 10 during overtime.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: The Wild have allowed just one power-play goal in the postseason, which ranks first among the 16 playoff teams with a 96.9 percent clip as they’ve killed 31 of 32 opponents’ power plays. The only PPG allowed by the Wild occurred late in the second period of Game 5 at Milwaukee while killing off a 5-on-3 Admirals advantage. The Wolves have gone 0-for-9 on the power play in the Central Division Finals.
2: When Iowa’s Matt Read scored an empty-net goal with 55 seconds left in Game 3 Sunday afternoon, it marked the first time the Wild owned a two-goal lead in the Central Division Finals. Neither team has led by more than two goals in this series and, frankly, being up two goals has felt like leading by four or five. Chicago and Iowa have been separated by two goals for just 19 minutes, 23 seconds of the 198 minutes, 38 seconds they played during this series. The teams have been tied for 83:29 and there has been a one-goal difference for 95:46.
4: Left wing Daniel Carr became the fourth Wolves player in the last 13 seasons to earn the AHL’s Most Valuable Player award. He received the Les Cunningham Award prior to Game 1 of the Central Division Semifinals on April 19 and joined Kenny Agostino (2016-17), Jason Krog (2007-08) and Darren Haydar (2006-07) in this exclusive club.
7: The AHL’s other best-of-7 division finals are starting to come to a close. Toronto, led by 2017-18 Wolves goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, wrapped up a four-game sweep of Cleveland on Tuesday night to claim the North Division Finals. Charlotte seized a 3-0 lead in the Atlantic Division Finals with a 3-1 win at Hershey on Tuesday night. In the Pacific Division Finals, the winner of which will meet the winner of the Central Division Finals, San Diego upset Bakersfield in Game 1 Friday night during a four-overtime epic that lasted 5 hours, 10 minutes and owns a 2-0 lead heading into tonight’s Game 3 on home ice.
15: The Wolves own a 15-0 record during postseason series in which they’ve taken a 2-0 lead. In those 15 series, the Wolves dropped Game 3 five times (making Sunday’s game the sixth such Game 3 loss). After those five Game 3 losses, the Wolves rallied to take Game 4 four times (1998 vs. Milwaukee, 2000 vs. Grand Rapids, 2001 vs. Milwaukee and 2010 vs. Milwaukee).
317: The Wolves’ 30-man roster boasts 317 games of Calder Cup Playoffs experience. Alternate captain Curtis McKenzie leads the way with 60 AHL postseason appearances while forward Tye McGinn owns 36 games and center T.J. Tynan has 28. The roster features 3 games’ worth of Stanley Cup Playoff experience (Griffin Reinhart 2, McKenzie 1), 44 games in the DEL (Brooks Macek) and 24 games in the Czech League (Tomas Hyka).
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. Of the 623 players who have suited up for the Wolves over 25 seasons, 358 also have competed 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).
central division finals schedule
|Game 1||Wolves 3, Wild 2 (OT)||Allstate Arena|
|Game 2||Wolves 4, Wild 3||Allstate Arena|
|Game 3||Wild 2, Wolves 0||Wells Fargo Arena|
|Game 4||Wednesday, May 8||Wells Fargo Arena||7 p.m.||Watch|
|Game 5*||Friday, May 10||Wells Fargo Arena||7 p.m.||Watch|
|Game 6*||Monday, May 13||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Game 7*||Wednesday, May 15||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|