MANITOBA MOOSE (4-8-0-0) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (7-5-1-0)
SPARKS JOINS THE PANTHEON
When Sparks and the Wolves shut out the Iowa Wild 3-0 Thursday morning, the 26-year-old from west suburban Elmhurst became the sixth goaltender in Wolves history to author back-to-back shutouts. Sparks, who also posted a shutout Oct. 30 at Tucson, joined a group founded in 2000 by general manager Wendell Young during his next-to-last season with the Wolves.
Young posted shutouts on Feb. 26 (at Kansas City) and March 1 (at Orlando). Pasi Nurminen, on the way to backstopping the Wolves to the 2002 Calder Cup title, posted consecutive shutouts against Utah on Dec. 1-2, 2001. Kari Lehtonen made the grade when he whitewashed Cincinnati (Nov. 20, 2004) and Houston (Nov. 24) at Allstate Arena.
More than a decade passed before Then Pheonix Copley earned shutouts against Charlotte (Oct. 25, 2015) and Manitoba (Nov. 1). The following season, Binnington secured his spot when he blanked Milwaukee (March 11, 2017) and Texas (March 15 in a shootout).
Not only has Sparks made it a sextet in the Back-to-Back Shutouts Club, he has a chance to break the franchise record for longest stretch without allowing a goal. Matt Climie set the standard at 173 minutes, 57 seconds during a three-game run Jan. 11-16, 2013.
Sparks enters his next outing — either tonight against Manitoba or Sunday versus Rockford — riding a 157:46 scoreless streak. He hasn’t allowed a goal since the 3:08 mark in the second period of the Wolves’ 3-2 home win over Texas on Oct. 23. Based on these recent performances, it’s little surprise Sparks leads the American Hockey League in goals-against average (1.55) and save percentage (.954).
SPEAKING OF LEAGUE LEADERS…
Wolves rookie forward Lucas Elvenes continues to pace the AHL in assists with 15. You might be thinking, “Hey, doesn’t he only have 14?” Well, that is no longer the case after a scoring change from Thursday’s win over Iowa.
The first goal originally credited to center Patrick Brown — then switched to defenseman Jimmy Schuldt and switched back to Brown during the course of Thursday’s game — officially has been placed in Schuldt’s column. While that takes away Brown’s goal, it adds an Elvenes assist. That moves him to 20 points for the season, which ranks just one behind Grand Rapids veteran Chris Terry.
The 20-year-old Angelholm, Sweden, native also leads the AHL with his 11-game point streak (4G, 12A).
WE ARE THE WOLVES
The Wolves have several connections to the Manitoba Moose/Winnipeg Jets organization. Kevin Cheveldayoff served as Wolves general manager from 1997 to 2009 and was the architect for all four of the Wolves league championship teams. Cheveldayoff spent two years as an assistant GM for the Chicago Blackhawks before being named Jets GM on June 8, 2011.
One valuable player Cheveldayoff didn’t need to acquire was center Bryan Little, who helped the Wolves capture the 2008 Calder Cup before moving to the Atlanta Thrashers the following year. The Thrashers were sold to the True North group in 2011, so he transferred to Winnipeg with the rest of the franchise.
last two games
- The Wolves wrapped up their five-game road trip by taking down the first-place Wild and producing the team’s third shutout of the season.
- Defenseman Jimmy Schuldt and forwards Tye McGinn and Curtis McKenzie scored goals while Lucas Elvenes extended his league-best point streak to 11 games with two assists.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks stopped 35 shots for his second consecutive shutout.
- The Wolves held a 4-2 lead after 50 minutes, but surrendered four goals in a six-minute stretch to suffer the Illinois Lottery Cup loss.
- Defenseman Jimmy Schuldt delivered his first goal as a pro while defenseman Zach Whitecloud and forwards Lucas Elvenes and Reid Duke also scored for the Wolves.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 16 saves in 22 shots.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: Two is the magic number when it comes to predicting a Chicago Wolves win. When the Wolves have allowed two goals or less this season, then they’re 7-0-0-0. In fact, the Wolves have enjoyed a long regular-season stretch where they haven’t lost in regulation while allowing two goals or less. Chicago is 48-0-2-3 in its last 53 games when giving up two goals or less. The last time the Wolves suffered a regular-season loss in this situation? It happened way back on March 10, 2018, when Manitoba picked up a 2-1 win at Allstate Arena.
3: The Wolves have posted three shutouts in their last six games — a run that started during the team’s last home game when Oscar Dansk and Co. whitewashed Manitoba 4-0 at Allstate Arena. Chicago shares the AHL lead with three shutouts. In a remarkable coincidence, the Wolves share the lead with former goaltender Max Lagace. After spending the last two years with the Wolves and Vegas Golden Knights, Lagace signed a free-agent deal with the Boston Bruins organization during the offseason. He has racked up three shutouts in eight appearances this year.
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: The Wolves won Thursday’s game 3-0 despite being limited to a season-low 15 shots. It marked just the ninth time in Wolves’ regular-season history — a total of 1,994 games — that they’ve amassed 15 shots or fewer. The franchise record is 13, which was set on Oct. 20, 2010, versus Abbotsford and equalled on Feb. 17, 2019, in a 2-1 overtime win over Iowa.
29: Thanks to multiple injuries for the Wolves as well as the Vegas Golden Knights, their NHL partner, the Wolves already have used 29 players this season. The team will reach the 30 mark tonight if forward Matt Boudens, signed Friday to a player tryout contract, needs to make his AHL debut. This is a dramatically different turn of events compared to last year, when the Wolves and Golden Knights both enjoyed good health. Last season, the Wolves didn’t have their 30th player hit the ice until Tobias Lindberg played on March 1.
250: Everyone thought forward Curtis McKenzie earned his 250th career AHL point Sunday when he helped on Reid Duke’s goal at Rockford. Instead, that wound up becoming his 251st point. Why? Because the AHL made a scoring correction official on Monday that added an assist for McKenzie on Duke’s empty-net goal Oct. 30 at Tucson, so that becomes his 250th point. The 28-year-old Golden, British Columbia, native has a ways to go to catch up to the league’s active leaders. Former Iowa Wild captain Cal O’Reilly leads all active AHL scorers with 586 points since joining the league in 2006.
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 (492-387-15-48-56) as the Wolves have earned an average of 7.24 more points per year in Rosemont than on the road.