CHICAGO WOLVES (7-7-1-0) AT MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS (8-3-1-2)
SPARKS BREAKING MARKS
Since the Chicago Wolves were founded in 1994, a total of 57 goaltenders have suited up for the franchise. Thirty-nine of those goaltenders also have played in the National Hockey League and combined to make 4,771 regular-season appearances, so it’s a pretty illustrious group. That means Garret Sparks’ achievement over the last four games is something to relish.
Starting with the Wolves’ Oct. 23 game against the Texas Stars and concluding with Sunday’s game against the Rockford IceHogs, Sparks went a franchise-record 191 minutes and 14 seconds without allowing any goals. That broke the record of 173:57 set by Matt Climie in January 2013. Climie, in turn, broke the record of 170:54 set by Kari Lehtonen in 2004.
Along the way, Sparks stopped 115 consecutive shots and became the sixth goaltender in Wolves history (joining now-general manager Wendell Young, Pasi Nurminen, Lehtonen, Pheonix Copley and reigning Stanley Cup champion Jordan Binnington) to register shutouts in back-to-back appearances when he blanked Tucson on Oct. 30 and Iowa on Nov. 7.
Sparks enters today’s game leading the AHL in goals-against average (1.60) and save percentage (.953). When he earned the 2018 Aldege “Baz” Bastien Award as the AHL’s most outstanding goaltender while helping the Toronto Marlies capture the Calder Cup, he posted a league-best 1.79 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.
IT haPPENS (ALMOST) EVERY YEAR
There’s something about playing in November that doesn’t agree with the Chicago Wolves. Whether it’s a road-heavy schedule, an overcrowded training room or the luck of the draw, the 11th month on the calendar always seems to be the worst month for the Wolves.
Last year, the Wolves posted a .455 winning percentage in November — the worst showing of the year for a team that went on to claim the Central Division crown. In 2017-18, the Wolves posted a season-worst .318 winning percentage in November and even spent a few moments with the worst winning percentage in the AHL — yet rallied to claim the Central Division crown.
In 2016-17, the Wolves went .500 in November to tie the team’s worst mark of the year. And, yes, that team went on to win the Central Division title. Not since 2014-15, when the Wolves posted a 9-5-1-0 record, has the organization been better than .500 in November. This year’s squad has gotten off to a 1-4-0-0 start with nine November games to go.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
The reigning American Hockey League player of the week is none other than Milwaukee forward Daniel Carr, who produced three goals and three assists in three Admirals wins last year. Carr posted the GWG in two games and the difference-maker in the shootout in the third game.
Carr, of course, won the AHL’s Most Valuable Player award last year while suiting up for the Wolves. He piled up 70 points in 52 regular-season games while helping the Wolves reach the Calder Cup Finals. He also became the fourth Chicago player in the last 13 seasons to take home the Les Cunningham Award that goes to the league’s best player.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves and the IceHogs took a 1-1 score into the third period, but Rockford scored the go-ahead goal and then added two empty-net tallies to take the Illinois Lottery Cup contest.
- Defenseman Dylan Coghlan scored on the power play to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks set the franchise record for longest shutout streak at 191 minutes, 14 seconds before allowing two goals on 36 shots.
- 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.
by the numbers
1: The Chicago Wolves and Grand Rapids share No. 1 in the American Hockey League in one not-so-great category: Empty-net goals allowed. The Wolves and Griffins already have been victimized by seven ENGs apiece. To put into perspective how out of whack this total happens to be compared to the norm, the AHL’s other 29 teams have combined to allow 51 empty-net goals — or 1.8 per team. Another way to look at it: The Wolves have given up seven ENGs in 15 games this year, but allowed just nine in 76 games last season.
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.
9: Of the 24 players on the Wolves roster, nine have made their AHL debut this season: Forwards Matt Boudens, Paul Cotter, Lucas Elvenes, Ben Jones, Jermaine Loewen, Anthony Petruzzelli and Jonas Rondbjerg and defensemen Brayden Pachal and Jimmy Schuldt. The 24-year-old Schuldt deserves to have an asterisk next to his name because while he hadn’t appeared in an AHL game prior to this season, he played one game with the Vegas Golden Knights late last season.
12: The Wolves’ penalty-kill units are enjoying another strong run. The Wolves have killed off 12 consecutive short-handed situations, including all 11 they faced during last week’s games against Iowa (Nov. 7), Manitoba (Nov. 9) and Rockford (Nov. 10). Earlier in the season, the Wolves were successful on 21 consecutive kills over a 435-minute, 15-second stretch that started Oct. 11 at San Antonio and concluded Oct. 29 at Tucson. The Wolves are killing penalties at an 82.5 percent clip this season, which shares 16th place in the AHL.
16: Rookie forward Lucas Elvenes racked up his 16th assist of the season Sunday afternoon when he helped on Dylan Coghlan’s power-play goal. Elvenes leads the AHL with those 16 assists and his 21 points rank 1 behind the league leader, Grand Rapids veteran forward Chris Terry. If Elvenes maintains his pace, he’ll finish with 81 assists this season — the most for the Wolves since Darren Haydar doled out a league-leading 81 assists in 2006-07 on his way to earning the AHL Most Valuable Player award.
30: Thanks to multiple injuries for the Wolves as well as their NHL partner — the Vegas Golden Knights — the Wolves used their 30th player of the 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 season debut on March 1.
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 588-303-9-36-62 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.