CHICAGO WOLVES (22-20-3-2) AT MANITOBA MOOSE (21-27-0-0)
THE CENTRAL’S SIX-WAY SCrAP
The 2019-20 American Hockey League season is nearly two-thirds done, but the Central Division remains too tough to predict. Perhaps not at the top — where the Milwaukee Admirals (.750 points percentage, 72 points) boast the best record in the league and the second-place Iowa Wild (.646, 62 points) hold an 13-point lead on third place — but the other six teams are scratching and clawing for the other two playoff berths.
The Chicago Wolves (49 points) enter tonight’s game with a 1-point edge over Grand Rapids for third place, but there’s only a seven-point difference between the Wolves and the last-place Manitoba Moose. That means this two-game set in Winnipeg could pull the Central Division teams that much closer…or the Wolves could gain some much-needed space.
When these teams met Saturday at Allstate Arena, the Wolves never trailed in the 5-2 win — but the Moose outshot the Wolves 32-25 and the visitors also forced Chicago to sweat until the end by pulling within 3-2 with 1:39 to go.
Wolves goaltender Oscar Dansk has been the epitome of consistency for two months. Since Dec. 4, the 25-year-old from Stockholm, Sweden, has made 14 starts and allowed more than two goals just one time: a 4-3 win on Dec. 28 at Iowa.
Over this 14-start stretch, Dansk has delivered a 12-0-2 record with a 1.63 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage. Along the way, he has defeated five Central Division teams twice (Grand Rapids, Manitoba, Milwaukee, San Antonio and Texas) and the other two the only time he faced them (Iowa and Rockford).
Dansk captured the AHL’s Goaltender of the Month award for December with his 7-0-0 record, 1.57 GAA and .943 save percentage — and the AHL wouldn’t have been wrong had it decided to reward him with the Goaltender of the Month award for January as well. Dansk posted a 4-0-2 record, 1.66 GAA and .936 save percentage last month, numbers that ranked right with Belleville Senators goalie Filip Gustavsson. The 21-year-old Skelleftea, Sweden, native earned the January award after posting a 4-0-1 record with a 1.78 GAA and .942 save percentage.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Tonight’s game marks the second of three consecutive tilts with the Moose — the only time this season the Wolves face the same team more than twice in a row.
How rare is it for the Wolves to face the same foe three times in a row? It hasn’t happened in 11 seasons — when the Wolves and San Antonio Rampage battled Dec. 14 at Allstate Arena before heading toward The Alamo to meet on Dec. 18-19.
For what it’s worth, the Wolves won the first two of those games before the Rampage salvaged Game 3. Winnipeg native Brent Krahn played all three games in goal for the Wolves — his first three for the team.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves produced the game’s three goals in a five-minute, 14-second stretch early in the second period to set the tone for the victory.
- Forwards Tye McGinn, Gage Quinney and Lucas Elvenes scored early while McGinn and Valentin Zykov added empty-net goals in the final minute.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk stopped 30 shots.
- Milwaukee forwards Daniel Carr, Frederick Gaudreau and Cole Schneider contributed four points apiece as the Admirals led throughout in the first game after the AHL All-Star Break.
- Forwards Tye McGinn, Brandon Pirri and Lucas Elvenes scored for the Wolves while Keegan Kolesar handed out two assists.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks posted 25 saves.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: The Wolves have had three Manitoba-born players on their roster virtually all season, but only one made the trip home this time. Defenseman Zach Whitecloud, a Brandon native, was recalled from loan by the Vegas Golden Knights Jan. 31. He has played two games for Vegas and contributed a +1 plus/minus rating along with positive ratings in all metrics. Forward Keegan Kolesar did not make the trip after suffering a lower-body injury Friday against Milwaukee. He hopes to return before the Wolves’ trip to Manitoba at the end of this month. Defenseman Brett Lernout, a Winnipeg native like Kolesar, is on the trip and owns 2 assists in 29 games this season. And we can’t forget rookie forward Jermaine Loewen, who was born in Jamaica but grew up in Arborg, Manitoba. He scored his first AHL goal on Dec. 7 at Bell MTS Place in front of plenty of family and friends.
3: When Tye McGinn scored in the first period of Friday’s game against Milwaukee, he became the third player on the Wolves roster to reach the 200-point mark for his AHL career. He added two more goals in Saturday’s win over Manitoba. The 29-year-old McGinn has racked up 111 goals and 92 assists in 420 games spread between the Wolves, Manitoba, Syracuse, Tucson and Adirondack. He joins Brandon Pirri (126 goals and 195 assists in 353 games) and Curtis McKenzie (115 goals and 161 assists in 341 games) in the 200 Club.
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.
10.68: The Wolves average just 10.68 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, then they’ll break the franchise season record for fewest PIMS. The 2017-18 Wolves set the mark by averaging 11.16 penalty minutes per game.
37: Rookie forward Lucas Elvenes leads the Wolves with 37 points (10G, 27A). Chicago’s 2020 All-Star Classic representative is one of just five rookies who leads his team in scoring — and he has done so all year after producing four points (G, 3A) in the Wolves’ opener on Oct. 5. He enters tonight riding a four-game point streak as he has scored one goal in each of the last two games. He also ranks fifth among all rookies in points.
96: Over the last week, the Wolves have been a part of 12 transactions as the coaching staff continues to adjust to injuries and the needs of NHL partner Vegas. The Wolves now sit at 96 transactions since the regular season, which is considerably more than normal. Last year, the Wolves needed just 57 transactions to get through the season.
372: When forward Keegan Kolesar made his NHL debut with the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 11, he became the 372nd player in Wolves history to put NHL experience on his resume. Forward Cam Maclise’s Wolves debut on Jan. 19 vs. Rockford made him the 646th player to don the Wolves uniform since the franchise was founded in 1994, which means 57.6 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.
|Friday, Feb. 7||at Manitoba||Bell MTS Place||7 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Thursday, Feb. 13||vs. Milwaukee||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Saturday, Feb. 15||vs. Grand Rapids||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|