ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (6-6-0-0) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (7-6-1-0)
zero one day, heroes the next
The Chicago Wolves suffered their second shutout of the season when Mikhail Berdin and the Manitoba Moose posted a 3-0 victory Saturday night at Allstate Arena. While that wasn’t an enjoyable experience, the Wolves have shown a startling ability during their three-year streak atop the Central Division to recover immediately from getting blanked.
Last month, the Wolves suffered a 3-0 loss at San Antonio Oct. 11 but rallied the next night to defeat the Rampage 2-1 in a shootout. Last year, the Wolves were shut out twice during the regular season. Both times, they recovered to win their next game by at least two goals.
During 2017-18, Rocky Thompson’s first year at the helm, the Wolves were shut out twice and split the games after getting blanked. In 2016-17, when Craig Berube directed the Wolves to the Central Division crown in his lone year as the boss, the team lost to Milwaukee 1-0 on Jan. 21…then thrashed the Admirals 5-1 the next day.
Long story short: The last six times the Wolves have been shut out during the regular season dating back to Jan. 21, 2017, they’ve averaged 3.5 goals in the ensuing games and posted a 5-1 record in those games.
BECAUSE It’S THE CUP
It’s time for Episode 4 of this year’s Illinois Lottery Cup — and so far none of the episodes have been ratings winners from the Wolves’ perspective. One week ago today, Rockford took a 3-0 lead in the 12-game Illinois Lottery Cup series as the Wolves held a 4-2 lead with 10 minutes to go only to fall by a 7-4 count.
“I liked our game the last game until the very end — the last 10 minutes,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “Guys were just tired from killing (penalties). Our same players are playing on both special teams, so when it came to the third period, we were in the right position but our brains were dead, so we were leaving guys wide open yet we’re standing beside them. It was a learning experience for our group.”
As a reminder, the Illinois Lottery Cup goes to the squad that wins the majority of the 12 games between the Wolves and IceHogs. The Wolves have owned the Cup the last three seasons, but they’re going to need to win at least six of the last nine games this season. One thing to keep in mind: Rockford hasn’t beaten Chicago four times in a row since Nov. 20 to Dec. 27, 2009.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
T.J. Tynan was a crucial part of the Wolves lineup the last two seasons. Among other achievements, the south suburban Orland Park native won the American Hockey League’s assists crown (59) last season. Moreover, Tynan served as a leader in the locker room and on the ice as he wore the “A” on his sweater along with Curtis McKenzie, Brandon Pirri and others.
Tynan didn’t get a chance to play in the NHL while with the Wolves, so that helped encourage him to sign with the Colorado Avalanche during the offseason. Tynan was called up this week and scored his first NHL point, an assist, on Thursday night…or at least everyone thought he did. The next day, officials reviewed it and changed the scoring. So he’s still looking for Point No. 1.
last two games
- Manitoba goaltender Mikhail Berdin posted his second shutout in as many nights as he stopped all 26 Wolves shots Saturday night at Allstate Arena.
- The Wolves played without injured forwards Gage Quinney and Keegan Kolesar and rookie forward Lucas Elvenes saw his AHL-best 11-game point streak come to a close.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 18 saves in 20 shots.
- 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.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: Two is the magic number when it comes to predicting a Chicago Wolves win, though the streak would’ve ended Saturday night if Manitoba hadn’t scored an insurance empty-net goal with 1:01 remaining in the Moose’s 3-0 win. When the Wolves have allowed two goals or less this season, they’re 7-0-0-0. Chicago is 48-0-2-3 in its last 53 regular-season games when giving up two goals or less. The last time the Wolves suffered a regular-season loss in this situation was a 2-1 defeat against Manitoba on March 10, 2018.
6: When he blanked Tucson on Oct. 30 and Iowa on Thursday morning, Garret Sparks became the sixth goaltender in Wolves history to post shutouts in back-to-back appearances. Sparks joined the club founded by Wendell Young in 2000. Pasi Nurminen (2001-02), Kari Lehtonen (2004-05), Pheonix Copley (2015-16) and Jordan Binnington (2016-17) are the club’s other members. Sparks also boasts a scoreless streak that has reached 157 minutes, 46 seconds. He needs to blank his next foe for 16 minutes, 12 seconds to order to overtake Matt Climie’s franchise record of 173 minutes, 57 seconds set in Jan. 2013.
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.
11: Rookie forward Lucas Elvenes’ American Hockey League-best 11-game point streak came to an end during the Wolves’ 3-0 loss to Manitoba Saturday night. The 20-year-old from Angelholm, Sweden, posted four goals and 12 assists during his run. Elvenes continues to lead the league in assists (15) and ranks second in points (20).
30: Thanks to multiple injuries for the Wolves as well as the Vegas Golden Knights, their NHL partner, the Wolves used their 30th player of the early season on Saturday night when center Matt Boudens made his Wolves (and AHL) debut. It came just one day after the Fort Wayne Komets forward signed a player tryout contract with the Wolves. Last year, the Wolves didn’t have to use their 30th player until Tobias Lindberg made his seasonal debut on March 1.
250: Everyone thought forward Curtis McKenzie earned his 250th career AHL point last 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 served as 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 587 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 588-302-9-36-62 record at Allstate Arena, which breaks down to be a .643 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.