CHICAGO WOLVES (17-17-3-1) AT SAN ANTONIO RAMPAGE (13-14-5-4)
EVEN-STEVEN AT THE SEASON’S MIDPOINT
The Chicago Wolves start the second half of their regular season with tonight’s game at San Antonio. What do we know about Rocky Thompson’s squad 38 games into the 2019-20 schedule?
Well, on the surface, the Wolves appear to be the ultimate middling team. They have a .500 record overall. They’re .500 at home (7-7-3-1) and they’re .500 on the road (10-10-0-0). They’re .500 when facing Central Division foes and .500 when facing non-Central Division foes.
But a deeper dive shows the Wolves also live on the extremes. They average the fewest goals per game among Western Conference teams (2.39). They also average the fewest penalty minutes per game among Western Conference teams (10.24).
They’ve enjoyed 30 more power-play opportunities than their opponents (156-126), which ranks as the second-best margin in the Western Conference. Tucson, which boasts the AHL’s best points percentage, leads the Western Conference with a +43 differential.
They’re almost unbeatable when leading after two periods (12-1-0-1), but find it almost impossible to rally when trailing after two periods (0-12-1-0).
They have one goaltender who hasn’t lost in regulation since November (Oscar Dansk) and one goaltender who hasn’t won since November (Garret Sparks) — yet Sparks boasts the superior goals-against average and save percentage.
The Wolves rank 18th among the AHL’s 31 teams in converting on the power play (17.3 percent) and stand 24th on the penalty kill (80.3 percent).
Perhaps the most relevant numbers at this moment: the Wolves are 6-2-1-1 in their last 10 games. The Iowa Wild (8-2-0-0) are the only team in the division with a better record over the last 10. During this stretch, which began Dec. 14, the Wolves have climbed from eighth place to third in the Central Division.
To commemorate the start of the season’s second half, the American Hockey League is offering everyone the opportunity to watch all of tonight’s games for free on AHLTV. Simply click here and set up an account to enjoy the Wolves. After you click on Chicago at San Antonio, make sure to pick “play w/away audio” so you can hear Jason Shaver and Bill Gardner on the call.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
When San Antonio defenseman Jake Walman made his NHL debut with the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 4, he became the 371st current or former Wolves player to reach the NHL.
Walman joined the Wolves straight out of Providence College in March 2017 and helped Chicago clinch the Central Division. He posted four goals and two assists in 15 games split between the regular season and Calder Cup Playoffs.
There have been 645 players to don the Wolves uniform since the franchise was founded in 1994, so 57.5 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL. Walman joined forward Cody Glass and defensemen Jake Bischoff and Nic Hague as Wolves alums who’ve made their NHL debut this season.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves capped a six-games-in-nine days stretch by scoring three consecutive goals and earning the Illinois Lottery Cup win on the road.
- Defenseman Dylan Coghlan’s goal pulled the Wolves even in the second period, then forwards Valentin Zykov and Tye McGinn scored to provide the cushion.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 31 saves to earn the win.
- 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.
BY THE NUMBERS
3: Rookie forward Lucas Elvenes will represent the Wolves in the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic on Jan. 26-27 in Ontario, California. Elvenes earned his spot as the team’s leader in points (31) and assists (24). He has paced the squad since Day 1 in both categories after posting four points (1G, 3A) in the season opener versus Grand Rapids on Oct. 5. Elvenes ranks third among all AHL rookies in points and second in assists.
5: Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson has been able to write five players into the lineup for all 38 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 36 goals and 48 assists. On the blue line, Dylan Coghlan, Jaycob Megna and Jimmy Schuldt have played 37 games apiece.
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.
10.24: The Wolves are averaging just 10.24 penalty minutes per game — 389 PIMs in 38 games. That ranks first in the Western Conference and fourth overall for fewest per game. If the Wolves maintain this pace for the rest of the year, they’ll set the franchise record for fewest penalty minutes in a season. The 2017-18 Wolves — Rocky Thompson’s first year with the team — set the mark by averaging 11.16 penalty minutes per game.
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.
73: Rookie forward Jermaine Loewen was loaned to Fort Wayne (ECHL) on Wednesday, which means the Wolves have been a part of 73 player transactions since the regular season opened on Oct. 5. While a few have been paper transactions engineered by the Golden Knights, the 73 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 25 regular-season transactions as of Jan. 10, 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 103-62-16-9 record (.608) 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.
|Saturday, Jan. 11||at San Antonio||AT&T Center||7 p.m.||Watch|
|Wednesday, Jan. 15||at Milwaukee||Panther Arena||7 p.m.||Watch|
|Saturday, Jan. 18||vs. Milwaukee||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|