CHICAGO WOLVES (15-16-2-1) AT GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (13-16-2-2)
QUITE A DECADE
The Chicago Wolves play their final game of the 2010s when they line up against the Grand Rapids Griffins today at Van Andel Arena. This marks the 12th time in the franchise’s 26-year history the schedulemakers penciled in the Wolves for a road game on New Year’s Eve (as opposed to just two home games).
Chicago owns a 6-4-1-0 record in these road affairs, which includes two visits for Grand Rapids’ traditional New Year’s Eve soiree: a 4-3 overtime win to close out 2005 and a 4-1 loss to wrap up 2000.
The Wolves, meanwhile, are hoping to close out the 2010s just like they closed out the 2000s. Chicago posted a 4-1 win on Dec. 31, 2009, at Peoria.
Since the 2010s began, the Wolves have been one of the American Hockey League’s most successful franchises. No organization can match Chicago’s six division titles (2010 West, 2012 Midwest, 2014 Midwest, 2017 Central, 2018 Central, 2019 Central) and the Toronto Marlies are the only other AHL team to capture more than three divisional crowns. The Wolves also reached the 2019 Calder Cup Finals.
The Wolves have earned a 413-261-54-40 regular-season games during this decade. With two points in today’s contest, the Wolves will finish with a .600 winning percentage to show for these 10 years.
LEADERS OF THE PACK
Two Wolves players earned AHL Most Valuable Player awards in the 2010s (Kenny Agostino winning the Les Cunningham Award in 2016-17 and Daniel Carr taking it in 2018-19) while goaltender Jake Allen breezed to the 2013-14 Aldege “Baz” Bastien Award that goes to the AHL’s best goaltender after leading the league in wins, goals-against average and save percentage. Scooter Vaughan earned the AHL’s Yanick Dupre Man of the Year award in 2017-18.
While most of the Wolves’ teams during the 2010s featured several top-flight veterans and/or fast-rising prospects, players didn’t spend as much time in the Burgundy and Gold as in years past. Therefore, the franchise’s decade leaders didn’t post huge numbers.
Who paced Wolves goaltenders in regular-season wins during the 2010s? Matt Climie posted 70, followed by Jordan Binnington (59), Oscar Dansk (50), Peter Mannino (35) and Allen (33).
Right wing Ty Rattie led the Wolves in goals this decade with 71. Darren Haydar (68), Brett Sterling (57), Brandon Pirri (55) and Pat Cannone (50) were the others to reach the 50-goal mark.
Haydar rang up 188 points in 218 games to top all scorers and was followed by Rattie (141), Cannone (133), T.J. Tynan (131) and Sterling (116). Here’s a look at the top 10 scorers of the decade:
WE ARE THE WOLVES
On the final day of the 2010s, the Chicago Wolves will release the franchise’s All-Decade Team as voted by the fans. Over the last two weeks, Wolves fans were presented with four options at each position. Here were the choices:
Goaltender: Jake Allen, Jordan Binnington, Matt Climie, Oscar Dansk.
Left-shot defenseman: Chris Butler, Vince Dunn, Nic Hague, Brad Hunt.
Left wing: Kenny Agostino, Daniel Carr, Brandon Pirri, Brett Sterling.
Center: Pat Cannone, Jason Krog, Wade Megan, T.J. Tynan.
Right wing: Shane Harper, Darren Haydar, Curtis McKenzie, Ty Rattie.
LAST TWO GAMES
- In the fourth round of the shootout, Milwaukee’s Frederick Gaudreau became the first skater to score to give the Admirals the extra point at Allstate Arena.
- Forward Brandon Pirri scored on the power play with 3:23 left in regulation to send the game to extra time. Forward Valentin Zykov also scored for the Wolves.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks stopped 21 shots in regulation and OT and 3 of 4 in the shootout.
- Rookie forward Paul Cotter scored his first goal as a pro at 9:44 of the third period to snap the game’s third tie and produce the game-winner at Wells Fargo Arena.
- Defensemen Zach Whitecloud and Jimmy Schuldt scored 26 seconds apart in the first period and forward Curtis McKenzie added a goal in the second period.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk stopped 25 shots to push his winning streak to six games.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: Forward Lucas Elvenes assisted on Brandon Pirri’s game-tying power-play goal late in Sunday’s game against Milwaukee. That meant he regained the top spot on the AHL’s list of top rookie scorers. Elvenes boasts seven and 23 assists in 34 games, which puts him one point ahead of Utica defenseman Brogan Rafferty. On the AHL’s overall scoring chart, Elvenes’ 30 points share seventh place with Grand Rapids veteran Chris Terry and Stockton’s Matthew Phillips.
6: Goaltender Oscar Dansk pushed his personal winning streak to six games Saturday night when he stopped 25 shots in the Wolves’ 4-3 win at Iowa. During his streak, which began Dec. 4 at Grand Rapids, he has posted a 1.83 goals-against average (11 goals in 360 minutes, 50 seconds) and a .937 save percentage (stopping 163 of 174 shots). The 25-year-old from Stockholm, Sweden needs one more win to tie his professional-high winning streak of seven games, which he set in the 2017-18 season and equalled during his final seven starts last 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.
21: Five rookie forwards have scored their first AHL goals this season for the Wolves. In a weird coincidence, these first goals have been spaced out almost exactly 21 days apart. On Oct. 5, Lucas Elvenes scored in the season opener against Grand Rapids. Twenty-one days later (Oct. 26), Jake Leschyshyn scored vs. Manitoba. Twenty-two days later (Nov. 17), Ben Jones scored at Iowa. Twenty days later (Dec. 7), Jermaine Loewen scored at Manitoba. Twenty-one days later (Dec. 28), Paul Cotter’s first goal served as the GWG at Iowa.
71: With forward Keegan Kolesar making a swift round trip between the Wolves and the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights Saturday and forward Jermaine Loewen rejoining the Wolves Sunday, the Wolves have been part of 71 player transactions since the regular season opened on Oct. 5. While a few have been paper transactions engineered by the Golden Knights, the 71 transactions helps to explain some of the inconsistency the Wolves have experienced this season. To help put that number into perspective, the Wolves had been a part of just 18 regular-season transactions as of Dec. 31, 2018. The Wolves finished the 2018-19 regular season with just 57 player transactions as they won the Central Division and wound up in the Calder Cup Finals.
100: When the Wolves defeated the Texas Stars by a 2-1 count on Dec. 21, head coach Rocky Thompson earned his 100th regular-season victory behind the Wolves bench. Thompson boasts a 100-61-15-8 record (.606) and a pair of Central Division titles since taking the reins prior to the 2017-18 season — and also led Chicago to the 2019 Calder Cup Finals. Only AHL Hall of Famer John Anderson (624 wins in 14 seasons) has delivered more wins for the Wolves.
|Thursday, Jan. 2||vs. Texas||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Saturday, Jan. 4||vs. Iowa||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Sunday, Jan. 5||at Rockford||MetroCentre||4 p.m.||Watch|