CHICAGO WOLVES (0-2-0-0) AT SAN ANTONIO RAMPAGE (3-0-0-0)
SLOW STARTS AREN’T FATAL
In 2004-05, the Chicago Wolves lost their first two games…and they wound up rolling all the way to the Calder Cup Finals. In 2009-10, the Wolves got off to an 0-3 start…and won the West Division. In 2011-12, the Wolves lost their first four games…and won the Midwest Division. In 2016-17, the Wolves lost their first three games while scoring just four goals…and went on to win the Central Division. In 2017-18, Rocky Thompson’s first year at the helm, the Wolves lost their first two games and went on to win the Central again.
Get the picture?
While it’s not exactly an official strategy to lose a few early in order to win a lot late, everyone in the American Hockey League (and in the Wolves locker room) understands it can be a process. This year’s edition of the Wolves doesn’t have as many proven players up and down its lineup, which means it might take a little longer to build.
As an example, seven of the 22 skaters on Chicago’s roster have never scored a point at the American Hockey League level and an eighth (defenseman Olivier Galipeau) owns one assist. The Wolves’ lineup for Friday night’s 3-0 loss at San Antonio featured six rookies while the Rampage’s lineup featured just one. Four of the rookies who played Friday — Paul Cotter, Lucas Elvenes, Jake Leschyshyn and Brayden Pachal — aren’t old enough to drink in the United States.
THAT SAID, HELP IS ON THE WAY
The Vegas Golden Knights, the Wolves’ NHL partner, had tough decisions to make when it came to setting their 23-man roster for the NHL season that started Oct. 2. In the end, a few ill-timed injuries for the Golden Knights enabled them to keep a few players who might otherwise have been with the Wolves from the start.
With at least one Vegas forward getting healthier, the Golden Knights reassigned center Nicolas Roy on loan to the Wolves midway through Friday’s game. Roy will join the Wolves for tonight’s game and he’ll be a valuable addition — especially if he plays at the level he displayed during the 2019 Calder Cup Finals.
Roy contributed three goals and one assist in five games as the Charlotte Checkers defeated the Wolves for the Calder Cup. Roy’s ability to score, win faceoffs and otherwise control play made a big impression on the Wolves and the Golden Knights brass, which helps to explain why Vegas acquired him in June (alongside with a conditional fifth-round draft pick) for Erik Haula.
Roy joins forces again with new Wolves center Patrick Brown, who captained the Checkers for the last three seasons. Brown signed with Vegas as a free agent after leading Charlotte to the Cup.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Darren Haydar is one of the Chicago Wolves’ all-time greats — and now he officially will be known as one of the American Hockey League’s all-time greats. The AHL announced Thursday that Haydar will be one of four inductees in the American Hockey League’s Hall of Fame Class of 2020.
The sublime Haydar spent more time with the Wolves than any other AHL team and racked up 128 goals and 240 assists in 342 regular-season games along with 26 goals and 33 assists in 44 Calder Cup games for Chicago.
Haydar captained the 2008 Calder Cup championship squad, set the AHL point streak record when he scored in each of the first 39 games of the 2006-07 season and set the league marks for postseason goals (63) and points (143).
FIRST TWO GAMES
- Former Wolves goaltender Ville Husso stopped all 26 shots he faced to lead the Rampage to the victory at AT&T Center.
- San Antonio scored a pair of power-play goals (by Nathan Walker and Derrick Pouliot) while Walker added an empty-net goal with 1:31 left. The Wolves went 0 for 6 on the power play.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks stopped 24 of 26 shots.
- In the second highest-scoring opener in Wolves history, the Griffins and Wolves combined for 13 goals — five on the power play — to light the lamps early and often at Allstate Arena.
- Forwards Gage Quinney, Lucas Elvenes, Patrick Brown, Tye McGinn and Curtis McKenzie scored goals while Elvenes added three assists in his North American professional debut.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 18 saves.
BY THE NUMBERS
3: Three players wore the “A” for the Wolves in last Saturday’s opener — and their identities were no surprise to anyone. Curtis McKenzie, who had been the Texas Stars’ captain prior to joining the Wolves last season, wore the “A” throughout the 2018-19 campaign. Newcomers Patrick Brown and Jaycob Megna served as the captain for the Charlotte Checkers and San Diego Gulls, respectively, last season. The Wolves encountered Brown’s and Megna’s leadership skills during the final two rounds of the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs. “I think we have the league’s three best captains from last year,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “That’s a very positive thing.”
7: When the Wolves captured the Central Division title last April, they became the seventh organization in the American Hockey League’s 83-year history to win back-to-back-to-back division crowns. They joined the company of Toronto (2012-14), Rochester (1999-2001), Philadelphia (1997-99), Hershey (1967-69), Quebec (1964-66) and Springfield (1960-62). If the Wolves win the Central Division this year, they’ll become the first AHL franchise to win four straight titles.
15: Fifteen players have made their Wolves debuts in the first two games this season. In Friday’s 3-0 loss at San Antonio, forwards Jermaine Loewen and Brett McKenzie and defensemen Olivier Galipeau and Jimmy Schuldt and goaltender Garret Sparks played their first game for Chicago. For Loewen, it marked his first professional game while Schuldt made his second pro appearance. Five more rookies (forwards Paul Cotter, Lucas Elvenes, Ben Jones and Jonas Røndbjerg and defenseman Brayden Pachal) played their first professional game in North America on Oct. 5 against Grand Rapids.
36: Last season, the Wolves scored at least two goals in each of their first 33 games — and didn’t suffer their first shutout until Game No. 36. Oddly enough, that shutout also came against San Antonio as former Wolves goaltender Jordan Binnington took advantage of an injury to Ville Husso to seize control of the San Antonio net. Binnington blanked the Wolves 3-0 on Jan. 4 at Allstate Arena, then got recalled from loan by the St. Louis Blues later that night — never to return to the AHL as he went on to backstop the Blues to their first Stanley Cup triumph.
56: When Garret Sparks made his Wolves debut on Friday night — stopping 24 of 26 shots — he became the 56th player in franchise history to pull on the pads and play goaltender. Sparks also became the 39th Wolves goaltender who also boasts NHL experience, which works out to a 69.6 percent success rate.
1,000: The Wolves are slated to play their 1,000th regular-season home game on Nov. 19, 2019, against the San Antonio Rampage. The franchise boasts a 585-301-9-35-62 record at Allstate Arena, which breaks down as a .642 winning percentage. The organization owns a .553 winning percentage on the road as the Wolves have earned an average of 7.24 more points per year in Rosemont than on the road.
1,449: When the Wolves and Griffins combined for 13 goals in Saturday’s opener, it represented the most goals in a Wolves game in 1,449 days. On Oct. 17, 2015, the Wolves pounded the Charlotte Checkers by a 9-5 count at Allstate Arena. Five Wolves produced one goal and two assists in that game: Ivan Barbashev, Pat Cannone, Danny Kristo, Magnus Paajarvi and Ty Rattie. In addition, the Wolves hadn’t allowed more than seven goals in a game since a 10-8 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Nov. 27, 2010, at Allstate Arena.