CHICAGO WOLVES (9-13-2-0) AT GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (9-12-1-1)
CHEERS TO DECEMBER
The Chicago Wolves couldn’t have been happier to say good riddance to November. The squad fashioned a 3-10-1-0 mark during the month to drop to seventh place in the AHL’s Central Division.
Was that the only reason the Wolves were eager to flip the calendar to December? Heck, no. There’s also the franchise’s recent history of following mediocre Novembers with fantastic Decembers. Take a look:
2018-19: November 4-5-2-0 (.455); December 10-3-1-0 (.750)
2017-18: November 2-6-2-1 (.318); December 9-2-2-1 (.750)
2016-17: November 5-5-1-1 (.500); December 9-2-2-0 (.769)
Clearly, the Wolves are destined to play at least .750 hockey during their 11-game December slate that starts and ends with trips to Grand Rapids. To be fair, it’s a big ask for any team to play at a .750 clip for a full month — though the Wolves have been playing better lately.
After knocking off the Griffins 5-2 last Wednesday at Allstate Arena, the Wolves followed it up by outshooting Rockford and Manitoba on Nov. 29 and 30, respectively. That marked the fifth and sixth times this season that the Wolves outshot their opponent.
The Wolves installed a revolving door on their locker-room entrance in order to accommodate all of their recent moves. Since Nov. 20, the Wolves have made 15 transactions as the organization reacts to all of the personnel/injury issues here as well as with their NHL partner, the Vegas Golden Knights.
Center Nicolas Roy has made two round-trips between Vegas and Chicago over the last two weeks while goaltender Garret Sparks completed his second round trip between the Golden Knights and Wolves when Vegas reassigned him late Tuesday night. Rookie forward Jermaine Loewen played for the Wolves on Friday and Saturday nights, then was loaned to the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets in time for him to play in Kalamazoo on Sunday afternoon. After earning his first AHL assist Friday and his first ECHL assist Sunday, Loewen returned to the Wolves Tuesday.
Not everybody drove and/or flew in circles. Vegas loaned forward Valentin Zykov to the Wolves on Thursday and he has posted two assists in his first two games. The Wolves also signed former Manitoba Moose forward Cam Maclise to a PTO on Monday.
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 Grand Rapids. He has contributed three goals and four assists in 19 games this season. Last year, he scored a goal against the Wolves– his first pro tally — in his Van Andel Arena debut on March 29, 2019.
last two games
- The Wolves rallied from a two-goal deficit to force overtime, but Moose defenseman Jonathan Kovacevic scored 18 seconds into extra time to give the visitors the victory.
- Forward Curtis McKenzie and defenseman Jimmy Schuldt produced power-play goals while forward Brandon Pirri assisted on both scores.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks notched 17 saves.
- 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.
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 and Springfield’s Owen Tippett in points (20) and Utica’s Brogan Rafferty in assists (14). Elvenes ranks fifth among all AHL scorers — 3 points behind Manitoba’s Jansen Harkins — and owns second in assists behind Harkins’ 22 helpers.
2: Wolves center Reid Duke returns to the active roster after serving a two-game suspension. The AHL handed down the discipline for a boarding incident during the Wolves’ 5-2 win over Grand Rapids last Wednesday. Though Duke was not penalized for the hit during the game, the AHL’s ruling required him to miss Friday’s loss at Rockford and Saturday’s overtime loss versus Manitoba. Duke has contributed four goals and three assists in 22 games this year.
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 played 17 consecutive games without needing overtime before dropping a 3-2 overtime decision to Manitoba on Saturday night. That means the team fell three games shy of equaling the franchise record. 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.
299: Forward Brandon Pirri assisted on both of the Wolves’ goals Saturday against Manitoba, which gave him five points (2G, 3A) in six games this year and pushed his AHL career point total to 299. The 28-year-old from Toronto has piled up 117 goals and 182 assists in 330 regular-season games. Pirri also owns 72 goals and 48 assists in 270 NHL appearances.
300: Defenseman Brett Lernout appeared in his 300th AHL game Saturday. The affable 24-year-old Winnipeg native, who made his AHL debut before his 20th birthday, has compiled 10 goals and 36 assists while playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs, St. John’s IceCaps, Laval Rocket and the Wolves. During his four-plus seasons in the Montreal Canadiens organization, Lernout played in 21 NHL games and posted one assist.
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.
|Friday, Dec. 6||at Manitoba||Bell MTS Place||7 p.m.||Watch|
|Saturday, Dec. 7||at Manitoba||Bell MTS Place||6 p.m.||Watch|
|Friday, Dec. 13||at Milwaukee||Panther Arena||7 p.m.||Watch|