IOWA WILD (8-3-2-1) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (7-8-1-0)
history tends to repeat
Let’s start with the facts: The Chicago Wolves have dropped five of their last six games. It has been a fortnight nobody has enjoyed. But it’s times like these when it’s important to note tough stretches don’t tend to last for the Wolves.
Take last year, for example. From Nov. 24 to Dec. 2, the Wolves went 0-4-1-0 and saw their record drop to 10-9-2-1. In their next game, a Dec. 5 visit to Iowa, the Wolves fell behind 3-0. But Rocky Thompson’s squad clawed back and claimed a 4-3 overtime victory on a Nic Hague goal. That triggered a six-game winning streak and a 10-0-1-0 stretch that pointed the Wolves on their way to the Central Division title and (eventually) the Calder Cup Finals.
Need more historical evidence? In 2017-18, Thompson’s first season at the helm, the Wolves went L-L-L-L-L-SOL-OTL-OTL-W-L-OTL-L from Nov. 8 to Dec. 2. When the Wolves took to the ice on Dec. 6 against San Diego, they owned the worst record in the league at 5-11-4-1 (.375). Yet the Wolves earned a 3-1 win that night over the Gulls and proceeded to go 37-12-3-3 the rest of the way (.727) to capture the Central Division crown.
There are just four players on this year’s roster who had any role on the 2017-18 team (defenseman Jake Bischoff, goaltender Oscar Dansk, center Reid Duke and forward Keegan Kolesar), but that’s beside the point. Half of working your way out of a losing streak is believing that you can — and the Wolves have the same coaches running the show and pointing the way up.
oh, but are you experienced?
For any given game recently, the Chicago Wolves have utilized a starting lineup that features six to eight American Hockey League rookies. For example, Wednesday’s 6-3 loss at Milwaukee included seven rookies: forwards Matt Boudens, Paul Cotter, Lucas Elvenes, Ben Jones, Jake Leschyshyn and Jermaine Loewen and defenseman Jimmy Schuldt.
While the 20-year-old Elvenes, who played last year against grown men in the Swedish Elite League, has shown an immediate ability to adapt — he leads the AHL with 16 assists and ranks second in points with 21 — the other rookies have been offering flashes that they’re equal to the AHL task.
Schuldt has posted two goals and two assists in the last five games and engaged in his first professional fight Wednesday at Milwaukee when an Admiral instigated a battle after Schuldt’s heavy, but clean, open-ice hit to another Admiral. Cotter set up Curtis McKenzie’s opening goal Wednesday while Jones got some power-play time and posted an assist.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock confirmed Friday that goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo will make his NHL debut tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
When Kaskisuo takes the ice, he’ll become the 40th goaltender to play in the NHL and for the Chicago Wolves. That’s particularly impressive considering the Wolves have played just 57 goaltenders in their 26 years as a franchise.
Kaskisuo joined the Wolves early in the 2017-18 season after two Vegas goalies got hurt, which meant the Wolves’ Oscar Dansk and Max Lagace went to Vegas.
Toronto loaned Kaskisuo to the Wolves and he delivered a 13-13-0 record, 2.38 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in 28 games, which helped the Wolves claim the Central Division crown.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Admirals scored four power-play goals in the first period and finished with five for the night to erase an early Wolves lead at Panther Arena.
- Defenseman Dylan Coghlan produced a pair of power-play goals while Curtis McKenzie scored the game’s first goal.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks posted 10 saves in 14 shots in the first period before giving way to Oscar Dansk, who stopped 17 of 19 shots.
- 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.
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 55 empty-net goals — or 1.9 per team. Another way to look at it: The Wolves have given up seven ENGs in 16 games this year, but allowed just nine in 76 games last season.
3: Second-year defenseman Dylan Coghlan is heating up with three power-play goals in the Wolves’ last two games. In Wednesday’s 6-3 loss at Milwaukee, Coghlan blistered a pair of one-timers from virtually the same spot at the top of the left circle. All four of Coghlan’s goals this season have come on the power play, which continues the trend he set last year when he and Rochester’s 31-year-old Zach Redmond (who made his professional debut with the Wolves in 2010-11) shared the lead among all AHL defensemen with 10 power-play goals.
5: In the Wolves’ 6-3 loss Wednesday’s at Milwaukee, the Admirals went 4 of 4 on the power play during the first period and ended up 5 of 6 for the night. The five power-play goals tied the Wolves record for most PPGs allowed in one game — the fifth time it had happened. The Texas Stars did it most recently on Nov. 26, 2010, when the Wolves surrendered five PPGs during a nine-minute, 47-second stretch of the second period that featured one major penalty by Andre Deveaux and minors by Noah Welch and Boris Valabik.
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.
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 second to the league leader, Grand Rapids veteran forward Chris Terry (9G, 15A). If Elvenes maintains his pace, he’ll finish with 76 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 last Saturday night when center Matt Boudens made his Wolves (and AHL) debut. 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 .552 winning percentage on the road (492-388-15-48-56) as the Wolves have earned an average of 7.24 more points per year in Rosemont than on the road.