CHICAGO WOLVES (10-14-2-0) AT MANITOBA MOOSE (13-12-0-0)
Saturday, Dec. 7 | 6 p.m. | Bell MTS Place | AHLTV | Facebook Live
TOLD THERE WOULD BE NO MATH
While there might not be any absolutes in the hockey world, there are general theories and statements that most people can agree upon. For example, it’s probably better for a hockey team to have more shots than its opponent.
The Chicago Wolves fulfilled that goal during Friday night’s game at Manitoba — outshooting the Moose 27-23. Yet Manitoba came away with the 3-1 victory to put a four-point gap between the Moose and the Wolves in the Central Division.
Now, losing the game while winning the shots battle can happen to any team on any given night. But the Wolves have passed the one-third mark of the season and they’re still looking for their first victory when outshooting the opposition. That’s right: the Wolves are 0-6-1-0 this season when taking more shots than their foe — but 9-8-1-0 when taking fewer shots and 1-0-0-0 when they’ve been even.
Wait, we have another vexing math problem to share. Can most of us agree that it’s better for a hockey team to earn more power plays than its opponents? Well, the Wolves have been on the power play 110 times this season and only given 94 power plays to their opponents. That’s a solid +16 advantage. That ranks right alongside San Antonio (+17) and Iowa (+16) for the best differential in the Central Division.
The Milwaukee Admirals, meanwhile, boast the worst differential in the entire American Hockey League. They’ve enjoyed 86 man advantages, but given up 113. Yet, somehow, they own the AHL’s best winning percentage at .780 (18-4-1-2). How does that make any sense? (Perhaps the Admirals’ 30.2 percent conversion rate has something to do with it).
FUN TO FLIP THE CALENDAR
The Wolves boast a recent history of frustrating Novembers and 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)
Each of those years, the Wolves climbed from the middle or the bottom of the division to become Central Division champions.
Could this formula could be in effect again this season? The Wolves posted a 3-10-1-0 record during November, but have split their first two games in December. However, they’ve only trailed for 11 minutes, 51 seconds of those 120 minutes. The first deficit of December occurred when Manitoba’s Kristian Vesalainen banked a pass off a Wolves skate and into the net for a 2-1 edge at the 8:09 mark of the third period Friday.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
When the Chicago Wolves launched their International Hockey League franchise in 1994, one of their first big scorers was Winnipeg native Lee Davidson.
The 26-year-old center ranked as the No. 2 goal-scorer on the 1994-95 Wolves as his 28 tallies trailed only Steve Maltais. He started the following season with the Wolves, but was packaged in a deal to Atlanta two months into the season.
He finished his Wolves stint with 34 goals and 50 assists in 94 games, which makes him the leading scorer in franchise history who hails from Manitoba. Brooks Macek, who put up 60 points last year, ranks No. 2.
LAST TWO GAMES
FRIDAY, DEC. 6: (at) MANITOBA 3, CHICAGO 1
- Manitoba’s Kristian Vesalainen scored on a 5-on-3 power play midway through the third period to give the Moose a lead they would not relinquish at Bell MTS Place.
- Forward Reid Duke scored 2:16 into the game to give the Wolves the lead and Ben Jones earned the assist.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks posted 20 saves.
WEDNESDAY, DEC 4: CHICAGO 5, (at) GRAND RAPIDS 2
- The Wolves bolted to a 4-0 lead in the first 40 minutes and finished with five goals against the Griffins for the third consecutive matchup.
- Defensemen Jake Bischoff and Brayden Pachal and forwards Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov and Tye McGinn scored goals — Pachal’s serving as his first professional goal.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk stopped 28 shots in the win.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: The scorekeeper giveth and the scorekeeper taketh away. Wolves forward Lucas Elvenes walked out of Wednesday’s 5-2 win at Grand Rapids thinking he put two assists next to his name. But a few hours before the Wolves’ game Friday at Manitoba, the AHL announced Elvenes lost an assist when a first-period goal was changed from a Jake Bischoff slapshot to a Curtis McKenzie tip. That removed Elvenes’ secondary assist from the sheet. He still leads all AHL rookies in points (26) and assists (20), but he dropped from a share of second to a share of fourth in the overall AHL scoring race. He’s two points and two assists behind Manitoba’s Jansen Harkins.
4: The Wolves boast four Manitoba natives on their roster. Right wing Keegan Kolesar and defenseman Brett Lernout grew up in Winnipeg while defenseman Zach Whitecloud was raised in Brandon (130 miles west of Winnipeg) and rookie right wing Jermaine Loewen grew up in Arborg (75 miles north of Winnipeg). Loewen had approximately 50 family members and friends in Friday’s crowd while Lernout had some “friends” in the stands who held up several signs that displayed the message “Lernout sucks at fantasy football.”
5: The Wolves pulled together a five-game winning streak from Oct. 20 to Oct. 30 — a stretch that included Chicago’s 4-0 victory over Manitoba on Oct. 26 that featured goaltender Oscar Dansk’s 25-save shutout. However, that’s the Wolves’ only winning streak of longer than one game this season. Their most recent attempt to build a two-game string came up short Friday night.
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.
301: Forward Brandon Pirri raced past the 300-point mark for his AHL career Wednesday night. He earned No. 300 with a goal at 10:31 of the second period against Grand Rapids, then picked up No. 301 at 18:22 of the same period when he helped set up Valentin Zykov’s power-play goal. Pirri also raced past the 100-point mark for his time with the Wolves. In 94 regular-season appearances, he owns 50 goals and 51 assists.
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. 13||at Milwaukee||Panther Arena||7 p.m.||Watch|
|Saturday, Dec. 14||vs. Milwaukee||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Tuesday, Dec. 17||vs. San Antonio||Allstate Arena||11 a.m.||Tickets|
All times Central. All games stream on AHLTV. The Dec. 13-14 games are televised on My50 Chicago