CHICAGO WOLVES (8-10-1-0) AT CLEVELAND MONSTERS (8-7-1-1)
STARTING THE SECOND QUARTER
The Chicago Wolves wrapped up the first quarter of their 2019-20 regular season with a 5-3 home loss to the San Antonio Rampage on Tuesday night. It’s a natural evaluation point for any team, though recent Wolves history suggests not to draw too many conclusions after just 25 percent of the season.
Why? Because in three of the last four years, the Wolves’ record through 19 games in no way reflected how the team ended up. To wit:
In 2015-16, the Wolves stood at 10-7-1-1 through 19 games (.579). The rest of the way, the Wolves produced points at a .456 clip.
In 2016-17, the Wolves started the season 8-9-1-1 (.474), which nearly matches this year’s 8-10-1-0 showing. The rest of the way, the Wolves produced points at a .728 clip and won the Central Division.
In 2017-18, Rocky Thompson’s first year at the helm, the Wolves started the season at 5-10-3-1 (.368). The rest of the way, the Wolves produced points at a .711 clip and repeated as Central Division champs.
Basically, there’s plenty of time for the Wolves to hit their stride. Here’s where they stand in various metrics heading into tonight’s game at Cleveland:
Scoring: The Wolves average 2.42 goals per game, which ranks 29th in the AHL. The team allows 3.11 goals per game, which stands 21st in the league. The Wolves have allowed the most third-period goals in the league (26), but that number is inflated by seven empty-net goals.
Power play: Sparked by two power-play goals in the first period Tuesday — both of them scored by brief returnee Nicolas Roy — the Wolves rank 10th in the AHL with a 19.5 percent conversion rate.
Penalty kill: The PK units have enjoyed two long stretches of dominance — posting 21 consecutive kills Oct. 11-29 and 12 straight kills Nov. 7-10 — but overall the Wolves stand 25th in the league at 77.8 percent.
Forward Brandon Pirri waited just 1 minute, 58 seconds into his Wolves season debut to deliver his first point. His perfectly placed pass triggered a tic-tac-toe goal for Nicolas Roy on the power play Tuesday night against San Antonio. It was Pirri’s first appearance for the Wolves since Jan. 5, 2019, when he scored a goal against San Antonio to extend his point streak to 10 games (10G, 10A).
WE ARE THE WOLVES
The Wolves find themselves at a remarkable place in their history. Heading into tonight’s game, the franchise has played exactly 1,000 regular-season home games and 1,000 regular-season road games.
As one can imagine, the Wolves have been more successful at Allstate Arena than on the road.
In 1,000 home games, the Wolves own a 588-305-9-36-62 record. That breaks out to a .642 winning percentage. The Wolves have scored 3,351 goals at Allstate Arena while allowing 2,827 — a surplus of 524 goals.
In 1,000 road games, the Wolves own a 493-388-15-48-56 record. That breaks out to a .553 winning percentage. The Wolves have scored 3,124 goals away from home while allowing 3,085 — a surplus of 39 goals.
In the playoffs, befitting an organization with four league championships, the Wolves have outscored their competition 756-688 in 249 postseason games.
last two games
- The Wolves owned a 2-0 lead after the first period, but forwards Nathan Walker (2G, 3A) and Mike Vecchione (2G, 2A) rallied the Rampage in the Wolves’ 1,000th regular-season home game.
- Center Nicolas Roy scored two power-play goals — both of them assisted by Lucas Elvenes — and forward Curtis McKenzie produced the Wolves’ other goal.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks posted 35 saves.
- Rookie center Ben Jones scored his first professional goal at 9:45 of the third to snap the game’s last tie and lead the Wolves to the win at Wells Fargo Arena.
- Forwards Curtis McKenzie, Reid Duke and Lucas Elvenes also scored goals while McKenzie and Elvenes also chipped in assists.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk stopped 31 shots to earn his 50th AHL win.
by the numbers
1: Who ranks No. 1 in the American Hockey League in points and assists? Why, it’s 20-year-old Wolves rookie Lucas Elvenes, who owns 6 goals and 19 assists in 19 games. Elvenes has held the assists lead virtually all season, but he has been trading the points lead with Grand Rapids veteran forward Chris Terry (9 goals, 15 assists in 18 games). Elvenes regained the top spot with two assists Tuesday night — his fifth game with at least two helpers. He has earned 10 of his assists on the power play, which ranks second to San Antonio defenseman Derrick Pouliot’s 11 assists.
2: Wolves center Nicolas Roy recorded two goals for the Wolves Tuesday night against San Antonio — both of them on first-period power plays. It marked Roy’s first two-goal effort since Game 4 of the 2019 Calder Cup Finals, when he scored a pair in the third period to help the Charlotte Checkers erase a 3-2 deficit against the Wolves. Roy has five two-goal games to his credit, but Tuesday’s was his first while on home ice. It could be a while before he gets another chance to score two goals in an AHL game: He was recalled to the NHL on an emergency basis Wednesday night by the Vegas Golden Knights.
5: The Wolves are averaging five fewer shots per game than their opponents this season. Chicago ranks 30th among the 31 AHL teams in shots for (26.74 per game) and 25th in shots allowed (31.74 per game). That’s not the widest differential in the AHL as the Ontario Reign sit at -9.75 per game. Outshooting opponents isn’t a prerequisite for success. Last year’s Wolves squad won the Central Division title while getting outshot by 40 during the regular season. Moreover, the Wolves are 0-4-0-0 this season when outshooting their opponent and 7-6-1-0 when getting outshot.
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.
25: Rookie forward Lucas Elvenes handed out two assists in the Wolves’ 5-3 loss Tuesday against San Antonio. That gave him 25 points for the year, which matches the jersey number he wears to honor his father, Stefan. The elder Elvenes was selected in the fourth round of the 1988 NHL draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, but he never played in North America. Instead, Stefan continued to play professionally until 2006-07, when he was 37 years old.
50: Goaltender Oscar Dansk earned his 50th American Hockey League victory in the Wolves’ 4-3 win Sunday at Iowa. Dansk stopped 31 of 34 shots to improve his record to 50-23-13 since making his AHL debut with the Springfield Falcons on Oct. 19, 2014. Springfield was affiliated in those days with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who now are partners with the Cleveland Monsters. The 25-year-old Stockholm, Sweden, native joined the Wolves after signing with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights prior to the 2017-18 season. He has produced a 43-16-8 record with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage in 68 regular-season appearances for the Wolves. He also served as the workhorse for the Wolves’ run to the 2019 Calder Cup Finals — starting 19 of the 22 postseason games.