CHICAGO WOLVES (16-17-3-1) AT ROCKFORD iCEHOGS (17-15-0-1)
LET’S SEE…where were we?
After facing each other five times in a six-week stretch, the Chicago Wolves and Rockford IceHogs haven’t gotten together for an Illinois Lottery Cup contest since Nov. 29. Plenty has changed in the five weeks since the last meeting — particularly for the Wolves.
Chicago has produced a 7-4-2-1 record since the last game against Rockford and leapfrogged the IceHogs, Grand Rapids and San Antonio to move from seventh into a share of third place in the Central Division standings.
Much of the Wolves’ improvement has come at the defensive end of the ice, where they have allowed just 34 goals in those 14 games. Really, though, it’s just 30 goals because three came in empty-net situations and a third served as a statistical placeholder for a shootout loss Dec. 29 to Milwaukee. That means the Wolves have produced a 2.14 goals-against average (30 goals in 842:10) and a .915 save percentage (321 saves in 351 shots) since last seeing the IceHogs.
Goaltender Oscar Dansk has been particularly stellar since the last meeting. He earned the AHL’s Goaltender of the Month award for December as he delivered a 7-0-0 record with a 1.57 GAA and .943 save percentage. His career-high-tying seven-game winning streak came to a close Thursday night against Texas, but it was a 2-1 overtime loss.
On offense, the Wolves’ output has stayed roughly the same. After the Nov. 29 game at Rockford, they were averaging 2.43 goals per game. Since that time, they’ve posted 2.29 goals per game, but they’ve changed their shot differential stats. After outshooting their opponent in five of their 23 games through Nov. 29, the Wolves have outshot their foe in 10 of the last 14 games.
Meanwhile, Rockford has posted a 7-7-0-0 record since Nov. 29 with a -6 goal differential (36-42). Dylan Sikura, who leads all scorers in the Illinois Lottery Cup series with five goals and two assists, has been with the Chicago Blackhawks since Dec. 7 and contributed two assists in five games.
ELVENES EARNS ALL-STAR STATUS
Wolves rookie forward Lucas Elvenes has been selected to represent the Western Conference and Central Division in the 2020 All-Star Classic on Jan. 26-27 in Ontario, California.
The 20-year-old from Angelholm, Sweden, ranks second among all AHL rookies in scoring with 31 points (7G, 24A) in 37 games. Among all skaters, Elvenes shares 11th place in scoring and fifth in assists.
“Of course, I am proud to get selected to the All-Star Game, but I’ve got to thank all my teammates, too,” Elvenes said. “They’re making it easy for me out there. That’s the biggest reason why I’m on the All-Star team.”
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Former Wolves defenseman Jake Walman made his NHL debut Saturday night with the St. Louis Blues. Walman launched one shot and posted a +1 plus/mius rating in a 5-4 overtime loss against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Walman became the 371st current or former Wolves player to reach the NHL. There have been 645 players to don the Wolves uniform, so 57.5 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL. He joins forward Cody Glass and defensemen Jake Bischoff and Nic Hague as Wolves alums who’ve made their NHL debut this season.
Thirteen of the 24 players on the Wolves’ current roster boast NHL experience.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Late in the first period, the Wild scored the game’s first two goals 15 seconds apart to stall a strong Wolves start and set the tone for the Central Division win.
- Forward Tye McGinn scored with Patrick Brown and Reid Duke picking up the assists, but the Wolves went 0 of 6 on the power play while the Wild converted both of theirs.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks stopped 16 of 20 shots.
- Texas center Josh Melnick scored 1:52 into overtime to give the Stars the extra point in the AHL’s first game of the new year and decade.
- Forward Curtis McKenzie scored in the first period to stake the Wolves to a 1-0 lead. Center Gage Quinney and forward Lucas Elvenes earned assists on the play.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 20 saves as his seven-game winning streak came to a close.
BY THE NUMBERS
5: Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson has been able to write five players into the lineup for all 37 games this season: Forwards Patrick Brown, Lucas Elvenes, Jake Leschyshyn, Tye McGinn and Curtis McKenzie. That’s the same number as last year, when Nic Hague, Keegan Kolesar, Brooks Macek, McKenzie and T.J. Tynan played the first 37. This year’s quintet has combined for 35 goals and 47 assists. On the blue line, Dylan Coghlan, Jaycob Megna and Jimmy Schuldt have played 36 games apiece.
6: Today marks the Wolves’ sixth game in a nine-day stretch and they’re 2-1-1-1 so far. It’s the busiest part of the schedule of the season to date — and won’t be equaled until the end of the year when the Wolves will play three-in-threes on the final two weekends of the 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.
12: The Wolves have come up empty on their last 12 power-play opportunities dating back to the waning seconds of the Dec. 29 shootout loss to Milwaukee. The last power-play goal (by Brandon Pirri with 3:23 left in regulation in that game) occurred 190 minutes, 15 seconds ago. Since December dawned 13 games ago, the Wolves have gone 6 for 48 with the man-advantage.
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. This suggests another Wolves rookie forward should be on target for a first goal on Jan. 18.
72: With center Nicolas Roy being recalled from loan by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday, the Wolves have been part of 72 player transactions since the regular season opened on Oct. 5. While a few have been paper transactions engineered by the Golden Knights, the 72 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 21 regular-season transactions as of Jan. 5, 2019. 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 102-62-16-9 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.
|Friday, Jan. 10||at San Antonio||AT&T Center||7 p.m.||Watch|
|Saturday, Jan. 11||at San Antonio||AT&T Center||7 p.m.||Watch|
|Wednesday, Jan. 15||at Milwaukee||Panther Arena||7 p.m.||Watch|