ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (1-3-0-0) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (1-3-0-0)
ELVENES BUSY EXCELLING
Lucas Elvenes’ teammates call him by his nickname: “Lucky.” But there’s precious little luck involved with the 20-year-old right wing’s ridiculously hot start. The Wolves have scored eight goals through their first four games — and Elvenes has had a hand in seven of them.
Elvenes carries two goals and five assists into tonight’s Illinois Lottery Cup clash against the Rockford IceHogs. That includes the two assists he picked up in Friday night’s 3-2 loss at Rockford. Elvenes directly set up defenseman Jaycob Megna’s blast in the second period, then he earned the secondary assist on Gage Quinney’s power-play goal in the third.
The Angelholm, Sweden, native ranks near the top of the American Hockey League’s various scoring lists. His seven points are tied for second place, one spot behind Hershey center Mike Sgarbossa. His five assists are tied for fourth in the league, which is led by Utica left wing Nikolay Goldobin’s seven helpers.
One other thing: 50 AHL players have scored at least five points this season. Elvenes is the only rookie who’s a member of this club. And of the six players who have produced seven points or more? Elvenes is just 20 years, while the next-youngest player in that group is 24.
PROFESSIONAL SPORTS’ CLOSEST RIVALRY
The Wolves and the IceHogs met for the first time exactly 12 years ago tonight. Four minutes and 35 seconds into overtime at Allstate Arena, Steve Martins and Alexandre Giroux set up Jason Krog for the game-winning goal against goaltender Corey Crawford.
That scintillating start set the tone for this remarkable rivalry between these teams located just 71 miles apart. Prior to Friday night’s game at Rockford, the Wolves and the IceHogs each owned 68 regular-season victories. In the wake of the IceHogs’ 3-2 win Friday night, it’s the Wolves’ turn to get even.
This Illinois Lottery Cup series has been particularly evenly matched over the last two-plus seasons. In 2017-18, the teams split their 12-game series as four games needed extra time and four regulation finals were one-goal verdicts, too. Last year, the teams split their 12-game series again as three games needed extra time and four regulation finals were one-goal verdicts.
The Wolves have won the last three Illinois Lottery Cups, which goes to the team that wins more games between the two squads.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
During the 2018 Central Division Semifinals against the Rockford IceHogs, the Wolves decided to give 18-year-old forward Nick Suzuki a shot in Game 3. Suzuki’s professional debut didn’t last long as he suffered a minor injury.
Despite his iffy showing for the Wolves, the 13th overall pick in the 2017 NHL debut remained a hot commodity. The Vegas Golden Knights traded Suzuki to the Montreal Canadiens in Sept. 2018 in order to land veteran scorer Max Pacioretty.
Suzuki spent all of last year in the Ontario Hockey League, but made Montreal’s roster out of camp this year and scored his first NHL goal Thursday night.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The IceHogs scored three goals in the first period and made them stand up to take the first game of this season’s lllinois Lottery Cup competition.
- Defenseman Jaycob Megna and center Gage Quinney produced goals for the Wolves while rookie forward Lucas Elvenes assisted on both tallies.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks stopped 30 of 33 shots.
- Center Gage Quinney scored in the first round of the shootout and goaltender Garret Sparks made it stand up at AT&T Center as the Wolves earned their first win of the year.
- Forward Lucas Elvenes snapped a scoreless tie 6:45 into the third period with his second goal of the season.
- Sparks stopped 32 of 33 shots in regulation and overtime and all three shootout attempts.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: This marks the third time in the last four seasons that the Wolves have started the season with one win in their first four games. In 2016-17, Craig Berube’s lone year at the helm, the Wolves started 1-3-0-0 and scored just eight goals in those games — just like this year’s team has done. In 2017-18, Rocky Thompson’s first year as the boss, the Wolves started 1-2-1-0 as they scored a ton (18 goals) and allowed a ton (18). As Wolves fans well know, both of those teams recovered from their quiet starts to capture the Central Division title. Bonus knowledge: The 2011-12 team piloted by Craig MacTavish, scuffled out to an 0-2-0-2 start while managing just seven goals. That group also recovered to win a division crown.
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.
13: The Wolves’ penalty kill got off to a slow start by allowing five power-play goals in eight attempts during the first five periods of this season. Since that time, though, the Wolves have improved considerably when down a man. After shutting down all five of Rockford’s power-play opportunities Friday night, the Wolves take a streak of 13 consecutive kills into tonight’s game.
16: Just four games into this season, 25 players have suited up for the Wolves. Sixteen of those players never competed for the Wolves prior to this season — and seven never played at the AHL level prior to this season: forwards Paul Cotter, Lucas Elvenes, Ben Jones, Jermaine Loewen and Jonas Røndbjerg and defensemen Brayden Pachal and Jimmy Schuldt. These eight rookies have combined to play just 21 professional games in North America (Elvenes and Røndbjerg have limited pro experience in Sweden). Goaltender Dylan Ferguson, who turned 21 last month, hasn’t seen time in the AHL but played nine minutes for the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights during the 2017-18 season. With the Wolves playing three games in a 48-hour span this weekend, Ferguson could make his AHL debut tonight.
99: When veteran forward Tye McGinn scored a goal in the Wolves’ opener against Grand Rapids on Oct. 5, it marked his 99th goal at the AHL level. Since making his professional debut on Oct. 8, 2011, for the Adirondack Phantoms, McGinn has delivered 99 goals and 85 assists in 377 regular-season games. He also owns 11 goals in 50 Calder Cup Playoff games, which includes six goals during the Wolves’ run to the 2019 Calder Cup Finals. The 29-year-old Fergus, Ontario, native has played 89 NHL games and contributed nine goals with eight assists.
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 .552 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.