GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (23-22-3-4) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (24-21-3-2)
LET THE THIRD PERIOD BEGIN
Every hockey season is a marathon, but now comes the time when it starts to resemble a sprint. With 50 games down and 26 to go, the Chicago Wolves shift into the final third of their season during tonight’s clash with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
The Wolves, who are tied with the Griffins for third place in the Central Division with 53 points (but hold two games in hand), are slated to play at least three games each week over the final eight weeks of the regular season as Rocky Thompson’s squad hunts for the 21st playoff berth in the franchise’s 26-year history.
Chicago has a history of putting down the hammer during the final third of the season in order to claim the Central Division crown:
2016-17: First 50 games (28-16-3-3, .620); final 26 games (16-3-5-2, .750)
2017-18: First 50 games (25-17-6-2, .580); final 26 games (17-6-1-2, .712)
2018-19: First 50 games (27-17-5-1, .600); final 26 games (17-5-1-3, .731)
RELIVING THE COMEBACK
As the Wolves enter the third period of the season, they carry a heck of a momentum boost thanks to their remarkable third period during Thursday’s 5-2 victory over the AHL-leading Milwaukee Admirals.
For those who aren’t familiar with the details: Through the game’s first 49 minutes, Milwaukee owned a 2-0 lead as goaltender Connor Ingram rejected all 25 of the Wolves’ shots. Then came the deluge. The Wolves scored on their final five shots to deliver the franchise’s first five-goal period since producing five versus Milwaukee on Dec. 22, 2016, at Allstate Arena.
Here’s how it happened:
11:09: Lucas Elvenes accepts a Dylan Coghlan pass at the blue line and spies Jake Leschyshyn heading down the slot. The pass goes to Leschyshyn’s feet, but he tips it to Coghlan at the edge of the left faceoff circle closest to the net and Coghlan knocks the puck between Ingram’s legs.
12:16: Patrick Brown goes to his knees to win a faceoff and knocks it back to defenseman Jake Bischoff, who takes a moment to gather himself before blasting a shot. Valentin Zykov, skating backward through the high slot, redirects the puck through Ingram’s wickets.
13:43: Nicolas Roy battles to win a faceoff and flicks it back to Elvenes, who fires into heavy traffic. The puck hits a defender and trickles toward the crease. Cody Glass spies it. Ingram spies it. They both dive, but Glass stretches with his stick and whacks a backhand beyond Ingram’s reach for a 4-2 lead.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Thursday night’s 5-2 win over Milwaukee doubled as the 2,000th game of Wolves head athletic trainer Kevin Kacer’s professional career — the vast majority of them with the Wolves.
The players celebrated Kacer’s milestone after the game by giving him a Traeger grill/smoker…and awarding him the leather Alpha Wolf vest that goes to the player of the game.
The 55-year-old Northwest Indiana native started his career with the Fort Wayne Flames, Fort Wayne Komets, Fort Wayne Fury and Detroit Pistons before joining the Wolves in 1995. He has been an important part of the organization’s four championships.
Kacer, along with his family, will be recognized prior to tonight’s home game against Grand Rapids.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Trailing 2-0 in the third period, the Wolves scored on their final five shots to rally for the win over a Milwaukee team that owns the best record and the best defense in the AHL.
- Forwards Gage Quinney, Valentin Zykov, Cody Glass and Tye McGinn and defenseman Dylan Coghlan scored for the Wolves while Lucas Elvenes handed out two assists.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 15 saves.
- For the second time this season, goaltender Oscar Dansk posted a 25-save shutout against the Manitoba Moose.
- Forward Gage Quinney opened the scoring with a first-period power-play goal, then he set up Tye McGinn for an insurance empty-netter with 1:24 to go.
- Dansk recorded his third shutout of the year and improved to 13-1-2 in his last 16 starts.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Milwaukee Admirals marked the first time this season the Chicago Wolves won a game they trailed entering the third period. The last time the Wolves earned a win after trailing through 40 minutes? Game 1 of the 2019 Central Division Finals, when defenseman Nic Hague tied the game in the third period and center Cody Glass came through with the winner 18:39 into overtime as the Wolves beat Iowa 3-2.
2: Goaltender Oscar Dansk shares second place with former Wolves teammate Max Lagace (and others) on the AHL wins leaderboard with 18. Dansk has been flying up the charts in all of the AHL’s goaltending categories over the last two-plus months. In his last 17 starts — starting with a Dec. 4 win at Grand Rapids and concluding with Thursday’s win over Milwaukee — Dansk has delivered a 14-1-2 record with a 1.64 goals-against average, a .939 save percentage and 2 shutouts. Dansk has faced the Griffins twice during this stretch and posted a 2-0-0 mark with 2 goals allowed in 120:00 (1.00 GAA) and 48 saves in 50 shots faced (.960).
5: The Wolves scored five goals in a period Thursday for the first time since Dec. 22, 2016 — when they accomplished the feat in the third period vs. Milwaukee to turn a 3-3 tie into an 8-4 win. Some trivia: the five goals in that period were scored by Ivan Barbashev, Mackenzie MacEachern, Bryce Gervais, Jordan Schmaltz and Gervais again (the latter two vs. an empty net). Milwaukee had two players — Alexandre Carrier and Frederick Gaudreau — who played in both games.
15: Veteran forward Tye McGinn has scored five goals in the last five games to take over the team lead in goals with 15. It’s the 29-year-old McGinn’s highest goal total since he piled up a career-high-tying 20 tallies for the Syracuse Crunch in 2015-16. If he maintains his goal-scoring pace the rest of the way and remains healthy — he’s one of five Wolves to appear in all 50 games to date — he’ll finish with 23 goals during the regular season.
17: The Wolves limited the Milwaukee Admirals to 17 shots Thursday night — the fewest by a Chicago foe this season. It also marked the fourth time in the last eight games the Wolves have surrendered 20 shots or fewer. Weirdly, the Wolves are only 2-2-0-0 in those games despite averaging 12.5 more shots per game than their opponents.
24: Late Friday afternoon, the Vegas Golden Knights recalled centers Nicolas Roy and Cody Glass from loan. For Roy, it marked the 23rd time since Oct. 1 that Roy has been moved between the Wolves and the Golden Knights — and the ninth time since Jan. 1. Glass headed back to Vegas after just one game with the Wolves. The 20-year-old contributed one goal and one assist in his first game since suffering a lower-body injury on Jan. 4 with Vegas.
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.
|Sunday, Feb. 16||vs. Cleveland||Allstate Arena||3 p.m.||Tickets|
|Thursday, Feb. 20||vs. Grand Rapids||Allstate Arena||11 a.m.||Tickets|
|Friday, Feb. 21||at Milwaukee||Panther Arena||7 p.m.||My50|