SAN ANTONIO RAMPAGE (10-10-5-3) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (12-15-2-0)
MAYHEM IN THE A.M.
Today marks the second of three 11 a.m. School-Day home games for the Chicago Wolves this year — and there’s no other way to put it: The Wolves get a big boost from playing these early games in front of thousands of local students.
They’ve won their last six School-Day affairs dating back to Dec. 21, 2017. During this stretch, which includes this season’s 3-2 win over the Texas Stars on Oct. 23, the Wolves have outscored their opponents 27-13.
If the Wolves extend their School-Day winning streak to seven today, it won’t just be because they’re morning people. It’ll be an extension of their recent surge, which has seen the Wolves go 4-3-1-0 over the last three weeks while owning an advantage in shots on goal (227-210), power-play opportunities (33-20) and power-play goals (7-2).
“What I think is the most important thing is our team game and is it improving or is it getting worse,” Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson said in the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s improving. It’s going in the right direction. We’ve played good hockey the last 2½ weeks or three weeks, I’d say. Winning starts to take care of itself when you play the game the right way.”
PIRRI HAS FEW PEERS
Veteran forward Brandon Pirri racked up two goals and one assist Saturday night to have a hand in all of the Wolves’ scores in their 3-2 overtime win over the Milwaukee Admirals. It certainly wasn’t the first time Pirri racked up multiple points in a Wolves game.
In fact, Pirri has played 97 regular-season games for the Wolves — and owns 14 2-point efforts, five 3-point nights and one 4-point performance. In total, Pirri has racked up 52 points and 53 assists in a Wolves uniform. For his professional career, Pirri has produced 305 points (120 goals, 185 assists) in 335 AHL games and 120 points (72 goals, 48 assists) in 270 NHL appearances.
Speaking of the NHL, today is virtually the one-year anniversary of a momentous occasion in Pirri’s career.
On Dec. 18, 2018, the Wolves defeated the Texas Stars 6-1 in an 11 a.m. home game. Pirri racked up one goal and two assists in the morning — then was recalled from loan by the Vegas Golden Knights in the afternoon. Pirri hopped on an airplane to Las Vegas, then scored a goal two nights later in his Golden Knights season debut to start writing one of the season’s better stories. He scored seven goals in his first eight games for Vegas.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
As the 2010s come to a close, the Chicago Wolves are hosting a series of fan votes to determine the franchise’s All-Decade Team. Considering the Wolves have won six division titles in the last 10 years — capped by a run to the 2019 Calder Cup Finals — there are a lot of great players from which to choose.
The voting began last week with the goaltenders and continues through Wednesday night with the centers. The four finalists for the Center of the Decade honor are Pat Cannone, Jason Krog, Wade Megan and T.J. Tynan.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Center Nicolas Roy carried the puck from the defensive blue line and deposited it in the net with a backhand at 1:15 of overtime to give the Wolves the win over the Central Division leader.
- Forward Brandon Pirri scored twice in the second period to stake the Wolves to a 2-0 lead while rookie defenseman Jimmy Schuldt earned two assists.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk stopped 21 shots to pick up his third win in a row.
- The Wolves grabbed the early lead, but the Admirals answered 90 seconds later and kept going to earn the win at Panther Arena.
- Forward Reid Duke scored 11:06 into the game to give the Wolves the lead — his third goal in as many games.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks stopped 28 of 31 shots.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: After assisting on Brandon Pirri’s first goal Saturday night, Wolves forward Lucas Elvenes continues to rank No. 1 among all American Hockey League rookies in points (28) and assists (21). The 20-year-old from Angelholm, Sweden ranks third among all AHL players in assists — three behind league leader Jansen Harkins of Manitoba — while he shares fifth in points. That stands six behind Belleville’s Drake Batherson. A rookie has been the Wolves scoring champ just once in the first 25 years — when Ty Rattie paced the 2013-14 squad with 48 points (31G, 17A) in 72 games. Brett Sterling owns the franchise record for most points by a rookie. He racked up 97 points (55G, 42A) in 77 games during 2006-07.
3: Goaltender Oscar Dansk rides a season-high three-game winning streak after emerging victorious in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win over Milwaukee. During Dansk’s streak, which began Dec. 4 at Grand Rapids, he has posted a 1.99 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. The 25-year-old Stockholm, Sweden, native has a long way to go to match his longest winning streak in a Wolves uniform. He won seven straight during the latter half of the 2017-18 season, then matched it by winning his final seven starts of the 2018-19 regular season.
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.
8: Goaltender Garret Sparks dropped his eighth straight decision Friday night at Milwaukee. The west suburban Elmhurst native hasn’t earned a win since Nov. 7, but his winless stretch isn’t all his doing. The Wolves have scored just 11 goals in his last eight starts — and two of those came after he was pulled from the Nov. 13 game at Milwaukee.
67: Since the regular season opened on Oct. 5, the Wolves have been part of 67 player transactions. While a few of those have been paper transactions engineered by the Vegas Golden Knights, the 67 transactions helps to explain all of the transitions the Wolves have had to make this season. As a comparison, the Wolves made just 57 player transactions during the entire 2018-19 regular season that ended up in the Calder Cup Finals. As of Dec. 17 last season, the Wolves had just 14 transactions on their regular-season ledger.
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.
|Saturday, Dec. 21||vs. Texas||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Sunday, Dec. 22||vs. Texas||Allstate Arena||3 p.m.||Tickets|
|Saturday, Dec. 28||at Iowa||Van Andel Arena||6 p.m.||Watch|