MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS (28-7-4-2) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (19-17-3-2)
THE DEFENSE DOESN’T REST
When the Chicago Wolves and Milwaukee Admirals showed up at Allstate Arena to play on Dec. 14 — five weeks ago today — the Admirals stood first in the AHL’s Central Division while the Wolves squatted in the Central’s basement. Milwaukee had 20 more points than Chicago (44-24).
Fast-forward to tonight. The Admirals still own a commanding lead in the division as well as 19 more points than the Wolves (62-43), but Chicago has climbed from eighth to third in the standings while forging an 8-2-1-2 record (.731).
What has made the difference for the Wolves? It’s their defense that never rests. Over the last 13 games, Chicago has allowed 29 goals. But one of those was an empty-netter and two others were placeholders to signify a pair of shootout losses to Milwaukee, so essentially the Wolves have allowed two goals per game during live action for the last five weeks.
Officially, goaltenders Oscar Dansk — the reigning AHL Goaltender of the Month — and Garret Sparks have combined for a 1.97 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage over the last 13 games. But that’s only part of the story.
During the first 28 games when the Wolves fashioned an 11-15-2-0 record, opponents generated 30.18 shots per game against the Wolves goaltenders. Over the last 13 games, the Wolves defense has allowed their goalies to face only 26.77 shots per game. If the squad had been on this pace all season, then it would rank second in the AHL in shots allowed per game. Only Hershey (26.54) would rank better at suppressing shots.
MAKING MOVE AFTER MOVE
As soon as the Admirals completed their 3-2 shootout victory over the Wolves on Wednesday night in Milwaukee, the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights recalled center Nicolas Roy from loan. Roy zipped to Ottawa and played a career-high 11 minutes, 19 seconds in Vegas’ 4-2 win over the Senators Thursday night.
To fill Roy’s spot, the Wolves recalled forward Jermaine Loewen from Fort Wayne (ECHL) on Thursday and signed forward Cam Maclise to a PTO on Friday. Loewen scored two goals in three games during his most recent stint with the Komets. Maclise, who spent three days with the Wolves on a PTO in December but did not play, owns seven goals and 11 assists in 36 games this season for the Florida Everblades (ECHL).
With these moves, the Wolves have conducted 79 transactions this year. They’re on pace to more than double last year’s number — when they made 57 transactions for the entire regular season.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
The Wolves have been committed to helping the community since the franchise was born in 1994. Chicago Wolves Charities has raised more than $6 million for local organizations — and this weekend’s commemorative jersey auction and raffle annually serves as one of the team’s biggest fundraisers.
This year, the Wolves are wearing exclusive Military Appreciation jerseys presented by Turtle Wax. Every player, coaches Rocky Thompson and Bob Nardella, general manager Wendell Young, senior executive vice president Wayne Messmer and TV analyst Bill Gardner all have jerseys available via silent auction in the main concourse behind Section 105.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves never trailed in regulation, but Milwaukee forward Rem Pitlick scored in the first round of the shootout to give the Admirals the extra point.
- Forwards Reid Duke and Lucas Elvenes scored — with Duke delivering the Wolves’ fastest opening goal of the season 46 seconds into the night.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk stopped 22 shots in regulation and overtime.
- 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.
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 (33) and assists (26). The 20-year-old from Angelholm, Sweden, has done nearly half of his damage on the power play this season with three goals and 13 assists — the latter number tied for fourth among all AHL skaters. Elvenes shares third among all AHL rookies in points and owns second in assists.
2-2: The Wolves and the Admirals have met seven times this year — and four of their games have stood at 2-2 after 60 minutes. What are the odds of that? Actually, it’s not that crazy based on their history. Last year, one of their 12 meetings wound up 2-2 through regulation. It happened three times during 2017-18, once in 2016-17 and 2015-16, four times during 2014-15 and three times in 2013-14. Milwaukee has gone on to win 10 of those 17 games.
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.
10.39: The Chicago Wolves average just 10.39 penalty minutes per game. That’s the fewest among Western Conference teams and fourth-fewest overall among the AHL’s 31 squads. If the Wolves maintain this pace the rest of the year, then they’ll break the franchise record for fewest PIMS in a season. The 2017-18 Wolves set the mark by averaging 11.16 penalty minutes per game.
13: Forward Curtis McKenzie leads the Wolves with 13 goals in 41 games, which means he’s on pace to score 24.1 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. Today marks 21 days since Cotter’s goal, but there are no rookie forwards on the roster without a tally.
372: When forward Keegan Kolesar made his NHL debut with the Vegas Golden Knights one week ago today, he became the 372nd player in Wolves history to have NHL experience on his resume. A total of 645 players have donned the Wolves uniform since the franchise was founded in 1994, which means 57.7 percent of all Wolves have appeared in the NHL. That percentage is even higher among goaltenders as 40 of the team’s 57 goaltenders over the years (70.2 percent) can say they’ve played in the NHL.
|Sunday, Jan. 19||vs. Rockford||Allstate Arena||3 p.m.||Tickets|
|Friday, Jan. 24||at Texas||H-E-B Center||7 p.m.||Watch|
|Saturday, Jan. 25||at Texas||H-E-B Center||7 p.m.||Watch|