CHICAGO WOLVES (19-17-3-1) AT MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS (27-7-4-2)
ROLLING ON THE ROAD
After earning a pair of wins over the weekend in San Antonio, the Chicago Wolves are riding a season-high five-game road winning streak into tonight’s contest in Milwaukee. It’s the longest active road winning streak in the American Hockey League.
It’s two wins shy of the Wolves’ longest road streak during head coach Rocky Thompson’s tenure. During his first season at the helm, Chicago posted seven road wins in a row from Feb. 25, 2018, to March 22 as the squad outscored its opponents 29-11.
The current run hasn’t been quite as statistically dominant — the Wolves outscored Iowa, Grand Rapids, Rockford, San Antonio and San Antonio by an 18-9 margin — but both revolved around terrific defense. One of the constants has been goaltender Oscar Dansk, whose performance has been strikingly similar during both runs.
During the 2017-18 streak, Dansk reeled off four of the wins as he allowed seven goals in those four games for an 1.75 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage. During the current streak, Dansk has reeled off four of the wins as he has allowed seven goals in those four games for a 1.75 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage.
Another constant? Forward Brandon Pirri. During the 2017-18 streak, Pirri produced three goals and three assists. During the current streak, he owns one goal, five assists and a +5 plus/minus rating.
SIZING UP THE CENTRAL DIVISION
Led by former Wolves assistant coach Karl Taylor, the Milwaukee Admirals have been the class of the Central Division this season. Following Tuesday’s win at Rockford, the Admirals own an AHL-best 60 points and a league-high .750 points percentage. They boast the league’s best defense (2.20 goals per game), second-best power play (25.8 percent) and fourth-best penalty kill (85.5 percent).
To put it another way, they’re not making it easy for the third-place Wolves (who own 42 points and a .525 points percentage) to become the first franchise in AHL history to collect four consecutive conference crowns.
On the other hand, the Wolves’ 3-2 overtime win over Milwaukee on Dec. 14 at Allstate Arena kickstarted a run where Chicago has gone 8-2-1-1 in its last 12 games. That’s a .750 points percentage over the last month. Only second-place Iowa, which stands 10-3-1-0 after Tuesday’s win at Bakersfield, can match that within the Central.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Third-year forward Keegan Kolesar became the 372nd Wolves player to earn time in the NHL when he made his debut with the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday night. It was a coincidence that Kolesar made his debut against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team that selected him in the third round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
The 22-year-old Manitoba native started the game and played 12:06 while delivering two hits and firing one shot. He became the eighth member of last year’s Calder Cup Finals team to play in the NHL this season — joining Jake Bischoff, Daniel Carr, Oscar Dansk, Cody Glass, Nic Hague, Brandon Pirri and T.J. Tynan.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves scored the game’s final three goals to rally for the victory and extend their season-high road winning streak to five games.
- Forwards Curtis McKenzie, Gage Quinney and Valentin Zykov and defenseman Jaycob Megna scored with Zykov picking up the game-winning goal.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks posted 33 saves to earn his first win since Nov. 7.
- 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.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: 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). The 20-year-old from Angelholm, Sweden, has done half of his damage on the power play this season with three goals and 13 assists — the latter number ranking fourth among all AHL skaters. Elvenes shares third among all AHL rookies in points and owns second in assists.
5: Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson has been able to write five players into the lineup for all 40 games this season: Forwards Patrick Brown, Lucas Elvenes, Jake Leschyshyn, Tye McGinn and Curtis McKenzie. That’s one better than last year, when Keegan Kolesar, Brooks Macek, McKenzie and T.J. Tynan played the first 40. This year’s quintet has combined for 38 goals and 51 assists on the Wolves’ 98 non-shootout tallies.
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.
10.5: The Chicago Wolves average just 10.5 penalty minutes per game. That’s the fewest among Western Conference teams and fourth overall among the AHL’s 31 squads. If the Wolves maintain this pace for the rest of the year, then they’ll set the franchise record for fewest penalty minutes in a season. The 2017-18 Wolves — head coach Rocky Thompson’s first year with the team — set the mark by averaging 11.16 penalty minutes per game.
13: Forward Curtis McKenzie leads the Wolves with 13 goals in 40 games, which means he’s on pace to score 24.7 goals this season. That’s right on his usual average. This marks McKenzie’s fifth full season in the AHL. In his first four, he averaged 24 goals per season and reached the Calder Cup Finals three times. At this point last year he owned just seven goals, but the 28-year-old Golden, British Columbia, native went on a tear down the stretch and finished with 20 — then added a team-high eight postseason goals on the way to the Calder Cup Finals.
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. Alas, there are no rookie forwards on the roster without a tally to keep the streak going on Jan. 18.
76: When forward Keegan Kolesar was returned on loan by the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday — one day after making his NHL debut — and Nicolas Roy swapped places late Friday night — Kolesar being recalled from loan by Vegas — it meant the Wolves have been a part of 76 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 27 transactions as of Jan. 13, 2019 and finished the regular season with 57 transactions.
|Saturday, Jan. 18||vs. Milwaukee||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Sunday, Jan. 19||vs. Rockford||Allstate Arena||3 p.m.||Tickets|
|Friday, Jan. 24||at Texas||H-E-B Center||7 p.m.||Watch|