CHICAGO WOLVES (18-17-3-1) AT SAN ANTONIO RAMPAGE (13-15-5-4)
HOW TO START THE SECOND HALF
The Chicago Wolves opened the second half of the 2019-20 regular season with a rousing 5-2 victory over the San Antonio Rampage on Friday night at AT&T Center. Forward Keegan Kolesar scored just 2:04 into the game to spark the visitors to a season-high three power-play goals while also tying the team’s season-high for goals.
After battling through six games in nine days after Christmas, the Wolves enjoyed four days without a game heading into Friday’s contest and they looked like a group that took advantage of its chance to rest. Kolesar’s first of two first-period goals featured him flying by multiple San Antonio skaters to earn a chance to beat Rampage goaltender Ville Husso one-on-one.
The Wolves improved to 7-2-1-1 over their last 11 games and moved above the .500 mark for the first time since being 7-6-2-1 after a 3-0 home loss to the Manitoba Moose on Nov. 9.
SCORE TWICE, FLY TO VEGAS AND ROLL THE DICE
After scoring 20 goals during the regular season and six more during the Wolves’ run to the Calder Cup Finals last year, forward Keegan Kolesar didn’t manage any during the first half of this season. Of course, he missed 14 games with an upper-body injury and a 15th game when he was recalled from loan by Vegas on Dec. 28 (though he did not play).
Kolesar, who handed out eight assists during the season’s first half, smashed his goose egg with two power-play goals in the first 11 minutes Friday night. That might have inspired the Golden Knights to recall him again — as Vegas announced late Friday night that Kolesar heads to Nevada while center Nicolas Roy returns to the Wolves.
If the 22-year-old Winnipeg native plays for Vegas tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets, then it will mark his NHL debut. Meanwhile, San Antonio probably isn’t thrilled to see Roy back with the Wolves. On Dec. 17, Roy scored three goals against San Antonio for the Wolves’ first hat trick of the season. On Nov. 19, Roy delivered two goals against the Rampage.
After stacking up 33 saves in Friday’s 5-2 win over San Antonio, goaltender Oscar Dansk improved to 9-0-1 in his last 10 starts. The AHL’s reigning Goaltender of the Month has allowed more than two goals just one in this 10-start stretch that began on Dec. 4 at Grand Rapids.
During this run, Dansk has posted a 1.69 goals-against average (17 goals in 602 minutes, 15 seconds) and a .940 save percentage (267 saves on 284 shots). He shares fourth place in the AHL with his 13 wins — and former Wolves goaltending partner Max Lagace (Providence Bruins) also shares fourth.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
When San Antonio defenseman Jake Walman made his NHL debut with St. Louis 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.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Forward Keegan Kolesar scored two power-play goals in the first 11 minutes as the Wolves’ special teams piled up a season-high three PPGs along with one shorthanded goal.
- Forwards Valentin Zykov, Brandon Pirri and Patrick Brown also scored while Reid Duke set up both of Kolesar’s goals as the Wolves moved above .500 for the first time since Nov. 9.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk notched 33 saves to pick up the win.
- 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.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: Barring a substitution or two in the next two weeks, rookie forward Lucas Elvenes will serve as the Wolves representative 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 (32) and assists (25). He has paced the squad in both categories since Day 1 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 — and shares fifth in assists among all AHL skaters.
3: The Wolves produced three power-play goals in their 5-2 win over San Antonio on Friday night. It represented the franchise’s first three-goal effort on the power play since Game 5 of the Central Division Finals on May 10 at Iowa — exactly eight months earlier. By going 3 for 4 on the power play Friday, the Wolves jumped from 18th place to 15th in the AHL’s power-play rankings (18.8 percent).
5: Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson has been able to write five players into the lineup for all 39 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 39. This year’s quintet has combined for 37 goals and 51 assists.
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.
10.62: Forward Reid Duke and defenseman Brayden Pachal combined for 25 penalty minutes Friday night to push the Wolves’ average from 10.24 to 10.62 penalty minutes per game. That still 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.
75: When forwards Keegan Kolesar and Nicolas Roy swapped places late Friday night — Kolesar being recalled from loan by Vegas — it meant the Wolves have been a part of 73 player transactions since the regular season opened on Oct. 5. To help put that number into perspective, the Wolves had been a part of just 25 transactions as of Jan. 10, 2019 and finished the regular season with 57 transactions.
|Wednesday, Jan. 15||at Milwaukee||Panther Arena||7 p.m.||Watch|
|Saturday, Jan. 18||vs. Milwaukee||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Sunday, Jan. 19||vs. Rockford||Allstate Arena||3 p.m.||Tickets|