TEXAS STARS (11-15-1-2) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (13-15-2-0)
The Chicago Wolves learned all about Nicolas Roy’s skill set at an unfortunate time: During last year’s Calder Cup Finals. Playing for the Charlotte Checkers, Roy racked up three goals, one assist, a team-leading +5 plus/minus rating and won more than his fair share of faceoffs while helping the Checkers capture the Calder Cup in five games.
Nineteen days after Roy and the Checkers took the Cup, the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights took the hint and acquired Roy from the Carolina Hurricanes along with a conditional fifth-round draft pick in exchange for Erik Haula.
While the 28-year-old Haula has been helpful for the Hurricanes — he owns eight goals in 16 games — the 22-year-old Roy has been splitting time between the Golden Knights and the Wolves and building his resume. He scored his first NHL goal on Oct. 27 and owns one goal and two assists in seven NHL appearances this season.
As for Roy’s Wolves exploits, he’s developing into a well-rounded force. Since being loaned to the Wolves on Nov. 17, the Quebec native owns six goals and seven assists in 10 games. That includes his massive effort Tuesday against San Antonio when he recorded his first professional hat trick and earned the primary assist on the team’s other goal in a 4-1 win at Allstate Arena.
Roy scored his first goal while on the penalty kill and his second goal while playing 5-on-5. Then he set up a goal for Brandon Pirri on the power play and wrapped up his hat trick with an empty-net goal in the final minute while helping the Wolves kill a 6-on-5 San Antonio advantage.
“He wants to be a National Hockey League player,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson after Tuesday’s win. “He knows that if you come down here and dominate at this level, which we think he can, he’ll be able to translate that when he gets his next call-up.”
TWO HOT SQUADS
After the games on Nov. 22, the Chicago Wolves were stuck with a record of 8-12-1-0. Not good, but it looked amazing compared to the Texas Stars’ 3-13-0-2 start — by far the worst in the AHL. Since that time, the Stars have produced an 8-2-1-2 run while the Wolves have gone 5-3-1-0 to jump into the middle of the pack.
Why are the Wolves better? In their last nine games, they have produced 253 shots to their opponents’ 234, earned 37 power-play chances to their opponents’ 23 and outgunned foes 8-3 on the power play while adding a short-handed goal. Wolves’ scores in their 3-2 overtime win over the Milwaukee Admirals.
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 the centers and currently focuses on the right wings: Shane Harper, Darren Haydar, Curtis McKenzie and Ty Rattie.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves extended their winning streak to seven during School-Day Games as they erased a 1-0 deficit thanks to center Nicolas Roy’s first hat trick in the AHL.
- In addition to doubling his season goals total, Roy set up forward Brandon Pirri for the Wolves’ other tally to become the third Chicago player this season to notch four points in a game.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk notched 23 saves to extend his winning streak to four 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.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: After setting up Nicolas Roy’s second goal Tuesday morning against San Antonio, Wolves forward Lucas Elvenes continues to rank No. 1 among all American Hockey League rookies in points (28) and assists (22). The 20-year-old from Angelholm, Sweden stands fourth among all AHL players in assists — two behind league leaders Jansen Harkins (Manitoba) and Drake Batherson (Belleville) — while he ranks fifth in points. He’s seven shy of Utica’s Reid Boucher. 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: When center Nicolas Roy produced three goals against San Antonio Tuesday morning, he became the first Wolves player since Curtis McKenzie in last year’s Calder Cup Playoffs (May 10 vs. Iowa in Game 5 of the Central Division Finals) to post a hat trick. The Wolves’ first hat trick of this season came a little later than last season. By this time last year, Chicago already had four hatties: Brooks Macek on Oct. 13 vs. Grand Rapids, Gage Quinney on Oct. 24 vs. Cleveland, Daniel Carr with 4 goals on Nov. 7 at Milwaukee and Brandon Pirri on Dec. 8 at Rockford.
4: Goaltender Oscar Dansk carries a season-high fourth-game winning streak into this weekend after shutting down San Antonio on Tuesday. During Dansk’s streak, which began Dec. 4 at Grand Rapids, he has posted a 1.74 goals-against average (7 goals in 240:59) and a .933 save percentage (97 of 104 shots). The 25-year-old Stockholm, Sweden, native has a ways 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 on Dec. 13 at Milwaukee. The west suburban Elmhurst native hasn’t earned a win since Nov. 7, but his winless stretch hasn’t been all his doing. The Wolves have scored just 11 goals in his last eight starts — and two of those markers came after he was removed from the Nov. 13 game at Milwaukee.
67: Though all has been quiet since Dec. 9, the Wolves have been part of 67 player transactions since the regular season opened on Oct. 5. 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. To help put that number into perspective, the Wolves made just 57 player transactions during the entire 2018-19 regular season that ended up in the Calder Cup Finals. On Dec. 21 last season, the Wolves consummated their 17th transaction of the year by signing Marco Roy to a PTO.
|Sunday, Dec. 22||vs. Texas||Allstate Arena||3 p.m.||Tickets|
|Saturday, Dec. 28||at Iowa||Van Andel Arena||6 p.m.||Watch|
|Sunday, Dec. 29||vs. Milwaukee||Allstate Arena||3 p.m.||Tickets|