MANITOBA MOOSE (11-11-0-0) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (9-13-1-0)
MOOSE ON THE LOOSE
On Oct. 26, the Chicago Wolves hosted the Manitoba Moose and cruised to a 4-0 victory at Allstate Arena behind 25 saves by Oscar Dansk. While the Wolves enjoyed their biggest victory margin of the season, the Moose saw their record drop to 1-7-0-0.
Five Saturdays later, things have changed dramatically for both teams. Manitoba, capped by Friday night’s 4-2 win at Grand Rapids, has won 10 of its last 14 games to zoom from eighth to fourth place in the Central Division. Chicago, capped by Friday night’s 4-2 loss at Rockford, has lost 10 of its last 15 games to drop from fifth to seventh in the Central.
Manitoba has transformed its season by firming up on the defensive end of the ice. The Moose surrendered 3.75 goals per game through Oct. 26, but has allowed just 2.5 goals per game since. The Wolves allowed 2.75 goals per game through Oct. 26, but have allowed 3.4 goals per game since.
The Wolves and the Moose are going to have plenty of opportunities to use each other as a measuring stick as the teams meet 12 times this season. Five of the Moose’s six trips to Rosemont fall on Saturday nights, but the Wolves are making three swift trips to Manitoba to play on back-to-back days.
The Wolves are trying to work their way back into a groove while mixing together a roster that features several veterans with NHL experience and several 20-year-olds in their first pro season — but not many players in between.
During Chicago’s 4-2 loss Friday night at Rockford, one rookie line and one veteran group took turns contributing. Midway through the second period, 20-year-old center Ben Jones scored his second professional goal with assists from 21-year-old forward Jermaine Loewen (first professional assist) and 20-year-old forward Paul Cotter (third career point). All three made their pro debuts this year with the Wolves.
Five minutes later, Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov and Nicolas Roy teamed up for Pirri’s goal on the power play. All three have spent a good chunk of this season with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights — with Zykov recording his first Wolves point in his first game since being loaned to the team Thursday.
With Zykov’s arrival and goaltender Garret Sparks’ return to the Wolves roster during second intermission of Friday’s game, head coach Rocky Thompson’s squad currently features 15 players with NHL experience as well as nine pro rookies. Two players — defenseman Jimmy Schuldt and goaltender Dylan Ferguson — fall into both buckets.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Orland Park, Illinois, native T.J. Tynan led the American Hockey League last season with 59 assists and served as one of the leaders on the Wolves squad that went all the way to the 2019 Calder Cup Finals.
After playing the last two years for the Wolves, Tynan became a free agent and signed with the Colorado Avalance.
He started the year as the top assist man for the AHL’s Colorado Eagles, but now he has played 10 consecutive games for the Avalanche — including Friday’s 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.
last two games
- The Rockford IceHogs scored three goals during an eight-minute stretch of the second period to take control of the Illinois Lottery Cup contest in Rockford.
- Forwards Ben Jones and Brandon Pirri scored goals while forwards Jermaine Loewen and Valentin Zykov scored their first points in a Chicago uniform.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk stopped 22 shots.
- Veteran forward Curtis McKenzie produced two goals, two assists and a +4 plus-minus rating as the Wolves led from start to finish at Allstate Arena.
- Forward Tye McGinn and defensemen Jimmy Schuldt and Jaycob Megna scored goals while center Nicolas Roy contributed two assists.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 27 saves to earn the win.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: Wolves rookie Lucas Elvenes leads all AHL rookies in points (25) and assists (19) as he holds a healthy lead over Providence’s Jack Studnicka in points (18) and Milwaukee’s Tommy Novak, Utica’s Brogan Rafferty and Grand Rapids’ Moritz Seider (10 apiece). Elvenes shares third among all AHL scorers — 2 points behind Grand Rapids veteran Chris Terry — and owns second in assists behind Manitoba’s Jansen Harkins (20 helpers).
2: Wolves center Reid Duke learned Friday that he received a two-game suspension from the American Hockey League for a boarding incident during Wednesday’s win over Grand Rapids. Duke was not penalized for the hit during the game, but further review inspired the AHL to hand down a ruling that caused Duke to sit out Friday’s game as well as tonight’s.
5.04: The Wolves are averaging 5.04 fewer shots per game than their opponents this season. Chicago ranks last among the 31 AHL teams in shots for (26.35 per game) and 24th in shots allowed (31.39 per game). That’s not the widest differential in the AHL as the Ontario Reign sit at minus-9.76 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 0-5-0-0 when outshooting their opponent — as was the case in Friday’s loss at Rockford when the Wolves owned a 33-26 advantage — and 8-8-1-0 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.
17: The Wolves have played 17 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 a little more 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. Oh, and Todd Harkins, who scored the Wolves’ first goal at Allstate Arena on Oct. 14, 1994, was selected in the second round by Calgary. Now he might be better known as the father of rising Manitoba forward Jansen Harkins (6 goals, 20 assists).