CHICAGO WOLVES (8-11-1-0) AT CLEVELAND MONSTERS (9-7-1-1)
OFFENSE ON THE RISE
Since forwards Brandon Pirri and Nicolas Roy were assigned to the Chicago Wolves on Sunday afternoon, the Wolves have amassed 10 goals in three games. That’s tied for the team’s best three-game stretch this season (Oct. 20-26).
While Pirri has played in just two of those games and Roy one, their arrival has supplied a tangible and intangible benefit to the Wolves’ offense. Alas, it has yet to convert to a stream of victories.
The Wolves dropped a 5-3 decision Thursday night at Cleveland as Pirri, Tye McGinn and Jake Leschyshyn scored goals to make it 2-2 after one period and 3-3 after two, but the offense couldn’t build on that in the third period.
The third period has been a consistent issue for the Wolves. They have allowed more goals in the final period (28) than any other American Hockey League team. The San Jose Barracuda are next with 24. The Wolves also have the worst third-period differential in the AHL (-14), though it’s just minus-11 once empty-net goals (for and against) are removed from the equation.
With his game-tying goal in the second period Thursday night, forward Brandon Pirri continued his tradition of scoring every time he steps on AHL ice. He owns one goal and one assist in two games since rejoining the Wolves on Sunday.
Pirri spent nearly half of last season with the Wolves before joining the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights for good on Jan. 6. The 28-year-old Toronto native scored in his final 10 games for the Wolves — posting 10 goals and 10 assists in that span. In fact, Pirri failed to get on the scoresheet in just four of his 29 appearances for the Wolves last season as he piled up 18 goals and 24 assists.
Pirri is nearing the 300-point mark for his AHL career as he owns 116 goals and 180 assists in 326 regular-season AHL games. When you throw in the 72 goals and 48 assists on his NHL resume, he has eclipsed the 400-point mark as a professional.
Feelin’ JAKE for leschyshyn
Rookie center Jake Leschyshyn scored his first professional goal on Oct. 26 versus Manitoba, but he didn’t act excited because it was an empty-net tally. There was a proper amount of celebrating on Thursday when he set up in the left faceoff circle and deflected rookie defenseman Jimmy Schuldt’s shot past Cleveland goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks. The 20-year-old from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, moved within 45 pro goals of his father, Curtis, who racked up 47 goals in 16 years as an NHL defenseman.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Just in case anyone was curious, it doesn’t appear that former Wolves goaltender Jordan Binnington was a half-season flash in the pan for the St. Louis Blues.
After rejecting 40 shots Thursday night while earning a 5-0 shutout over the Calgary Flames, Binnington finds himself at or near the top of the charts in all of the major goaltending categories.
Thursday’s game marked his 11th win, which shares the NHL lead with Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury and Washington’s Braden Holtby.
Binnington’s 2.19 goals-against average ranks fourth in the league and his .926 save percentage stands fifth. Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper paces the NHL in both categories.
Binnington ranks fourth on the Wolves’ all-time list in wins (59) and seventh in goals-against average (2.62) after 119 regular-season games for the franchise.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves took a pair of one-goal leads in the first period and locked in a 3-3 tie after 40 minutes, but the Monsters took over in the third period at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
- Forwards Tye McGinn, Jake Leschyshyn and Brandon Pirri scored goals while Gage Quinney registered his 10th assist of the year.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk stopped 34 shots.
- 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.
by the numbers
1: Who ranks No. 1 in the American Hockey League in assists and points? Why, it’s 20-year-old Wolves rookie Lucas Elvenes, who owns 6 goals and 19 assists in 20 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. He missed Thursday night’s game after being recalled to the NHL on an emergency basis by the Vegas Golden Knights, but he could be in uniform for tonight’s game.
5.35: The Wolves are averaging 5.35 fewer shots per game than their opponents this season. Chicago ranks 30th among the 31 AHL teams in shots for (26.75 per game) and 25th in shots allowed (32.1 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 over the course of the regular season. Moreover, the Wolves are 0-4-0-0 this season when outshooting their opponent and 7-7-1-0 when getting outshot — as was the case Thursday night when Cleveland outshot Chicago 39-27.
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.
14: The Wolves have played 14 consecutive games without needing overtime, which feels like an extraordinary run because the Wolves never went more than eight games last season without needing overtime. But a look at Wolves history indicates this year’s team has plenty of non-overtime work to do in order to set the franchise mark. In 2007-08, John Anderson’s squad played 20 regulation-only games in a row (Dec. 28 to Feb. 13) on their way to the Calder Cup championship. Four seasons later, nearly to the day, Craig MacTavish’s team went 20 games without needing overtime from Dec. 28, 2011 to Feb. 11, 2012.
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.