CHICAGO WOLVES (7-9-1-0) at IOWA WILD (9-3-2-1)
LOOKING FOR MORE OFFENSE
The Chicago Wolves suffered their third shutout of the season Saturday night when the Iowa Wild earned a 3-0 decision at Allstate Arena. That’s an important marker because the Wolves haven’t been shut out more than twice in one season since 2015-16 — and they’ve never suffered three shutouts this early in a season during the franchise’s 26-year history.
As the Wolves head into today’s rematch at Iowa — which happens to be the 1,000th regular-season home game in franchise history — the question is how to make more happen in the offensive zone. A look at the American Hockey League numbers indicate the Wolves rank 30th in the 31-team league in scoring (2.29 goals per game) and 29th in shots (27.41 per game).
There’s not always a correlation between goals and shots — the quality of the shots is what matters — but Wolves veteran Curtis McKenzie had some thoughts after Saturday’s game.
“I think we had our chances,” McKenzie said. “We got a little harder to the net tonight, but I think there’s a lot more opportunity — and a lot more opportunity to shoot pucks that we passed up on. Whether we’re trying to get too fancy or trying to get that extra move, I think the way we were going to the net today, if we filter more pucks there it will help big-time.”
The Wolves had just 12 shots through two periods Saturday and finished with 22 shots. The team has been outshot in 12 games this season — though strangely the Wolves haven’t won any of the games when they’ve outshot their opponent.
“(Twelve shots) is not going to cut it when you’re having trouble scoring goals,” McKenzie said. “The only cure for that is to shoot the puck as much as you can.”
WORKING WITH THE ROOKIES
For any given game recently, the Chicago Wolves have utilized a starting lineup that features six to eight American Hockey League rookies. For example, Saturday’s 3-0 loss vs. Iowa included seven rookies: forwards Paul Cotter, Lucas Elvenes, Ben Jones, Jake Leschyshyn, Jermaine Loewen and Anthony Petruzzelli 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.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo made his NHL debut Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. When Kaskisuo took the ice for the Penguins’ 6-1 win — he stopped 32 of 38 shots — he became 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
- For the first time since the Iowa Wild moved to Des Moines in 2013-14, the Wild earned a regular-season shutout of the Wolves as Kaapo Kahkonen stopped all 22 shots he saw.
- Forward Dmitry Sokolov scored the game’s first two goals — both set up by Kyle Bauman — to stake the Wild to a 2-0 lead after two periods.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks posted 29 saves.
- 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.
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 61 empty-net goals — or 2.1 per team. Another way to look at it: The Wolves have given up seven ENGs in 17 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 three 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.
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.
8: Each of the Wolves’ last eight games have been decided by three goals — a stretch where the Wolves have gone 2-6-0-0 since Oct. 30. In addition, eight of the Wolves’ nine regulation losses this season have been by a three-goal margin. To put the latter statistical feat into perspective, the Wolves lost just six games by three goals or more during the 2018-19 regular season.
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 Nov. 9 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 588-304-9-36-62 record at Allstate Arena, which breaks down to be a .642 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.