GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (9-9-1-1) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (8-12-1-0)
SINCE WE MET SEVEN WEEKS AGO…
There’s never a dull moment when the Chicago Wolves and the Grand Rapids Griffins meet — as proven yet again when the teams battled on Oct. 5 at Allstate Arena in both teams’ season opener. The teams combined for 13 goals, including five on the power play, as the Griffins earned an 8-5 win during 60 minutes of high-intensity action.
Since that time, the Wolves have neither scored five goals nor allowed eight goals in any of their games. The Griffins have not matched their eight-goal outburst, but they have surrendered five or more goals on six other occasions.
This Central Division features the top two scorers in the American Hockey League in 20-year-old Wolves rookie Lucas Elvenes (6 goals, 19 assists) and 30-year-old Griffins veteran Chris Terry (9 goals, 15 assists). They both got their seasons off to a flying star Oct. 5 as Elvenes produced one goal and three assists while Terry notched one goals and two assists.
After the Wolves practiced Tuesday, goaltender Garret Sparks was recalled from loan by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights on an emergency basis. Sparks joins Vegas tonight in Nashville because, according to published reports, someone in starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s family is dealing with an illness.
Sparks has posted a 4-7-1 record with 2 shutouts, a 2.45 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage in 12 games for the Wolves this season. He also served as a backup in one game for Vegas and allowed 2 goals on 14 shots in 27 minutes.
In conjunction with Sparks’ move, the Golden Knights have reassigned rookie goaltender Dylan Ferguson from Fort Wayne (ECHL) to the Wolves. Ferguson has appeared in two games for the Wolves and delivered a 1-0-0 record with a 1.60 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. For Fort Wayne, Ferguson boasts a 2-0-1 mark with a 3.73 GAA and .882 save percentage.
During tonight’s first intermission, Hammond, Indiana, residents Jason Needham and Kara Michalec will be getting married on the ice. Wolves executive senior vice president Wayne Messmer will perform the ceremony.
Michalec has been coming to Wolves games since 1994, when she and her high school friends would drive up from the south suburbs. Michalec and Needham have been season-ticket holders together since 2016. After celebrating the occasion with family and friends tonight, they will board a plane for Jamaica on Thursday morning.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Since the Chicago Wolves were founded in 1994, 50 NHL first-round picks have donned the Wolves’ burgundy and gold.
One of the first first-rounders to make a big difference for the Wolves was Scott Pearson, the No. 6 overall pick (to the Toronto Maple Leafs) in the 1988 Entry Draft.
In Pearson’s first season with the Wolves, the power forward piled up 34 goals and 225 penalty minutes during the regular season and then added 12 more goals during the postseason to help the Wolves capture the 1998 Turner Cup.
Pearson’s son, Chase, is a rookie center for the Grand Rapids Griffins. He has contributed three goals and four assists in 16 games this season.
last two games
- The Wolves held the Monsters without a shot for the first 10 minutes and without a goal for the first 29 minutes, but the Monsters took home the win at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
- Cleveland goaltender Veini Vehvilainen earned first-star honors with his 16-save shutout while former Wolves forward Stefan Matteau assisted on the first two goals for second-star status.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks rejected 22 shots.
- 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.
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 21 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 20 games). Elvenes regained the top spot with two assists on Nov. 19 against San Antonio — 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 12 assists.
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 (26.24 per game) and 25th in shots allowed (31.76 per game). That’s not the widest differential in the AHL as the Ontario Reign sit at -10.28 per game. Moreover, outshooting opponents is not a prerequisite for success. Last year’s Wolves squad won the Central Division title and went all the way to the Calder Cup Finals while getting outshot by a total of 40 shots over the course of the regular season. This season, the Wolves are 0-4-0-0 when outshooting their opponent and 7-8-1-0 when getting outshot — as was the case Thursday and Friday night in Cleveland.
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.
15: The Wolves have played 15 consecutive games without needing overtime, which feels like an extraordinarily long 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.
1988: The Wolves boast three players whose fathers were selected in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft. Jake Leschyshyn’s father, Curtis, went No. 3 overall to the Quebec Nordiques. Lucas Elvenes’ father, Stefan, went in the fourth round (No. 71 overall) to the Chicago Blackhawks. Jake Bischoff’s father, Grant, went at the start of the 11th round (No. 211 overall) to the Minnesota North Stars. Other intriguing Wolves-related picks in that draft: Longtime general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was picked No. 16 overall by the New York Islanders. Ted Crowley, who scored the first goal in Wolves history on Oct. 1, 1994, went in the fourth round — one pick after Tony Amonte and two before Elvenes. Mike Rosati, who serves as the Vegas Golden Knights’ goaltending development coach and works with the Wolves goalies, was picked in the seventh round by the New York Rangers.