CHICAGO WOLVES (6-3-1-0) AT MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS (4-3-1-2)
THE PUCK STOPS HERE
Why are the Chicago Wolves riding a five-game winning streak? Well, it helps that the Wolves have allowed just one goal in the last 10 periods — a power-play tally by Tucson’s Tyler Steenbergen at 3:52 of the second period on Tuesday night. Goaltenders Oscar Dansk and Garret Sparks have tag-teamed their way through these sparkling 200 minutes.
Sparks started the run with a scoreless third period during the School-Day Game on Oct. 23 at Allstate Arena to preserve a 3-2 win over the Texas Stars. After that game, the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights recalled Sparks from loan and sent Dansk to the Wolves.
That placed Dansk in goal on Oct. 26 vs. Manitoba — and he stopped all 25 shots he saw to earn his fourth shutout with the Wolves since joining the team at the start of the 2017-18 season. Dansk returned to the net Tuesday night at Tucson and the Stockholm native rejected 29 of 30 shots to earn another win.
With the Wolves facing the Roadrunners on back-to-back nights, head coach Rocky Thompson turned to Sparks on Wednesday and he posted a 32-save shutout. Therefore, over the last 10 periods, Wolves goalies have combined for an 0.30 goals-against average and a .990 save percentage (98 of 99).
To take a long-range view of the Wolves’ defensive exploits for a moment, the team has been remarkable every night except for the opener against Grand Rapids on Oct. 5. Removing that 8-5 loss from all equations — because everyone deserves a mulligan — here’s how the Wolves stack up:
Over the last nine games (everything except Opening Night), the Wolves have allowed 15 goals. One of those was an empty-netter, which means Sparks, Dansk and Dylan Ferguson have teamed up to allow 14 goals over the last 551 minutes, 41 seconds. That breaks out to a 1.52 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage.
THE AHL ROOKIE OF THE MONTH IS…
…Wolves right wing Lucas Elvenes, who earned the honor after closing out October as the American Hockey League’s leader in points (15), assists (11) and active point streak (eight games). Elvenes produced the game-winning goal in the Wolves’ last outing — the 3-0 win Wednesday at Tucson — when he broke toward the net and converted a Curtis McKenzie pass for a power-play tally. The 20-year-old from Angelholm, Sweden, became the first Wolves player to be named Rookie of the Month since Brett Sterling made the grade in November and December 2006.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Since being founded in 1994, the Chicago Wolves have had 50 NHL first-round draft picks suit up for the team. That list includes a pair of No. 1 overall selections: center Patrik Stefan (1999; Atlanta Thrashers) and goaltender Rick DiPietro (2000; New York Islanders).
Shortly after turning 19, DiPietro made his professional debut with the Wolves on Oct. 7, 2000, and earned an 8-3 win over Cincinnati. He posted a 4-5-2 record in 14 games with the Wolves before joining the Islanders.
Stefan appeared in just five games for the Wolves — all during the 2001-02 season — and racked up 3 goals.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves earned their second shutout in three games as goaltender Garret Sparks rejected all 32 shots he faced to extend the team’s winning streak to five games.
- Right wing Lucas Elvenes opened the scoring with a power-play goal late in the second period, then forwards Reid Duke and Tye McGinn added empty-net goals in the final 1:16.
- Sparks posted his first shutout with the Wolves, 16th in the AHL and 24th as a pro.
- In a battle of two teams riding winning streaks, the Wolves never trailed as they snapped the Roadrunners’ five-game run while extending their own winning streak to four.
- Defenseman Dylan Coghlan opened the scoring with a power-play goal while center Reid Duke provided the game-winner with the team’s first short-handed goal of the season.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk rejected 29 shots to earn the win.
BY THE NUMBERS
4: Wolves players have captured four of the last 13 Most Valuable Player awards — the most of any AHL team over that stretch. The intriguing coincidence is that of those four Les Cunningham Award winners — Darren Haydar (2007), Jason Krog (2008), Kenny Agostino (2017) and Daniel Carr (2019) — two also have a history with the Milwaukee Admirals. Haydar led the Admirals to the 2004 Calder Cup championship (the Admirals are retiring his jersey on Feb. 21 when the Wolves are in town) while Carr has been with Milwaukee for the last two weeks.
6: If the Wolves earn a win tonight, that’ll be six victories in a row and it will tie for the longest streak the Wolves have put together since Rocky Thompson took over as head coach prior to the 2017-18 season. The Wolves enjoyed a pair of six-game winning streaks that season — Dec. 9 to Dec. 21 and Feb. 25 to March 9 — and put together two more six-game winning streaks last season: Dec. 5 to Dec. 18 and Feb. 17 to March 1. The franchise record for longest winning streak is 12 games. John Anderson’s team put that together Feb. 25 to March 17 on the way to the 2000 Turner Cup championship.
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.
28: The Wolves’ penalty-kill units have been nearly perfect over the last 500 minutes of action. Chicago has killed off 28 of its last 29 short-handed situations — the lone tally occurring when Tucson’s Tyler Steenbergen scored a power-play goal at 3:52 of the second period on Tuesday night to snap the Wolves’ streak of 21 penalty kills. The Wolves went 435 minutes and 15 seconds without allowing a PPG. And, considering Reid Duke produced a short-handed goal Tuesday at Tucson, the PK unit has been a net zero over the last eight-plus games.
49: Center Gage Quinney registered two assists Wednesday night at Tucson, which pushed his AHL career total to 49 helpers in 135 regular-season games. Quinney has gotten off to a blistering start this season as the Wolves’ top-line center. He owns five goals and six assists through 10 games and shares sixth place in the league with 11 points. Forwards Curtis McKenzie and Quinney teamed up to assist on Lucas Elvenes’ power-play goal Wednesday night that held up as the game-winner.
249: For Curtis McKenzie, it marked his 249th point in 304 AHL regular-season games. McKenzie has been one of the league’s best players over the last seven seasons — when he hasn’t been busy playing in the NHL. The 28-year-old British Columbia native is the only player to compete in the last two Calder Cup Finals and the only one to appear in three of the last six Calder Cup Finals.
1,000: The Wolves are slated to play their 1,000th regular-season home game on Nov. 19 against the San Antonio Rampage. The franchise boasts a 588-301-9-36-62 record at Allstate Arena, which breaks down to be a .644 winning percentage. The organization owns a .553 winning percentage on the road (491-385-15-48-56) as the Wolves have earned an average of 7.24 more points per year in Rosemont than on the road.