TUCSON ROADRUNNERS (33-18-1-2) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (26-25-5-2)
TIME TO EAT AT HOME
Tonight’s game against the Tucson Roadrunners marks the start of the Chicago Wolves’ longest homestand since the 2016-17 season. The Wolves will play six games in 11 days at Allstate Arena — three against direct competitors for Central Division playoff spots and three against non-divisional foes.
The last time the Wolves played six in a row at home — Feb. 22 to March 9, 2017 — head coach Craig Berube’s squad posted a 5-0-1 record and jumped into second place in the Central Division on the way to claiming the first of three consecutive division crowns.
While a fourth straight Central Division title seems out of the question — division-leading Milwaukee stands 27 points ahead of the Wolves with just 18 games to go — it’s crucial to the Wolves’ playoff hopes to claim as many points as possible during this stretch at home.
Milwaukee (86 points) and Iowa (79 points) have all but clinched Calder Cup Playoff slots, but there’s a four-way logjam for the last two spots with seventh-place Texas (55 points) not out of the realm of possibility:
|TEAM||POINTS||GAMES PLAYED||RECORD||POINTS %|
|3. Grand Rapids||61||60||27-26-3-4||.508|
|4. San Antonio||60||58||24-22-7-5||.517|
The Tucson Roadrunners are also in the middle of a heated race. Tucson holds first place in the Pacific Division with 69 points in 54 games (.639), but the Colorado Eagles (.635) and Stockton Heat (.625) are right behind and hold two games in hand. Roadrunners forward Beau Bennett, who helped the Wolves win the 2018 Central Division title, has been hot lately with four goals in the last five games.
GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER
The Chicago Wolves have been so bogged down by injuries and illness and NHL recalls to the Vegas Golden Knights, they flew just 20 players to Manitoba last weekend. Then, when Brandon Pirri was recalled Saturday as the team prepared to hit the ice, they had to fly in forward Matt Boudens from Toledo and have him sign his fourth PTO of the season in order to play in Sunday’s game.
This week, though, the Wolves have welcomed back centers Gage Quinney and Nicolas Roy and Pirri from Vegas while other players have shown progress on their injuries. Chicago also signed 27-year-old defenseman Patrik Parkkonen, who has been playing for the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder, to a PTO on Tuesday. Could the Wolves be deep enough to have a healthy scratch or two this weekend? Stay tuned.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
With the hockey world still abuzz about 42-year-old emergency goalie David Ayres’ yeoman work for the Carolina Hurricanes against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 22, maybe now is a good time to celebrate Wolves senior advisor Gene Ubriaco’s history as an emergency goalie.
When Ubriaco served as head coach for the Eastern Hockey League’s Baltimore Clippers during the 1979-80 season, he had to serve as the backup goaltender more than once. However, Ubriaco only had to enter a game one time. In November 1979, when he was nearly 42 years old, he stepped in for the final four minutes and stopped all three shots he saw.
It’s important to note, though, that Ubriaco was not a goaltender by trade. During his 10-year professional career (1961-70), Ubriaco was a forward who racked up 39 goals and 35 assists in 177 NHL games and 162 goals in 456 AHL appearances.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Moose forward C.J. Suess scored 1:32 into overtime to give Manitoba its second overtime win over the Wolves in as many days.
- Forward Lucas Elvenes scored in the first period, then center Patrick Brown and defenseman Jake Bischoff notched shorthanded goals 35 seconds apart in the second to take a 3-1 lead.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks stopped 26 shots.
- Moose defenseman Leon Gawanke scored 50 seconds into overtime to drop the Wolves’ record on Leap Day to 0-2-1-1-0.
- Forward Tye McGinn gave the Wolves a 1-0 lead in the first, then rookie forward Paul Cotter scored with 2:24 left in regulation to earn a point for the Wolves.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk rejected 34 of 36 shots in regulation.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: Forward Lucas Elvenes ranks second among all AHL rookies with 32 assists and shares eighth among all players in assists. Elvenes earned his 32rd assist on Feb. 16 when he picked up the secondary helper on Dylan Coghlan’s game-winning overtime goal. Elvenes owns 12 goals and 32 assists to lead the Wolves in scoring and share 22nd place overall in the AHL. The 20-year-old Angelholm, Sweden, native is bidding to become the first rookie to pace the Wolves in points since Ty Rattie posted 31 goals and 17 assists in 2013-14.
6: Veteran forward Tye McGinn paced the Wolves with six goals during February — his most productive month of the season. The 29-year-old from Fergus, Ontario, surged into the team lead with 17 goals in 58 games. Forwards Gage Quinney and Brandon Pirri and defenseman Dylan Coghlan shared second on the squad with four goals apiece during the Wolves’ 11 February games, though Quinney missed three Wolves games in order to play his first three NHL games with the Vegas Golden Knights.
7: The Wolves enter today’s game ranked seventh in the league with just 2.86 goals allowed per game. If the Wolves can maintain this spot or improve it, this would mark the fourth season in a row that they finished among the eight stingiest defenses in the AHL. Last year’s squad ranked third (2.62), the 2017-18 squad stood sixth (2.74) and Craig Berube’s 2016-17 crew wound up eighth (2.63).
27.05: The Wolves rank last out of the 31 AHL teams with 27.05 shots attempted per game, which is on pace to break the single-season franchise record for fewest shots per game. Last year’s Calder Cup finalists set the mark with 27.71 shots per game. Curiously, the Wolves enjoy a better points percentage when they don’t reach their shots per game average. The squad is 16-14-3-0 (.530) when attempting 27 shots or fewer, but 10-11-2-2 (.480) when trying 28 shots or more.
37: If Wolves defenseman Patrik Parkkonen makes his AHL debut tonight — he signed a PTO with the Wolves on Tuesday — then he’ll become the 37th player to compete for the team this year. Parkkonen joins the Wolves after producing eight goals and 37 assists in 55 games for the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder. The 27-year-old from Porvoo, Finland, ranks among the ECHL’s top 10 assist men during his first professional season in North America.
133: Since the regular season began on Oct. 5, the Wolves have been a part of 133 roster transactions. Is that a lot? Well, consider that the Wolves made it through ALL of the 2018-19 regular season with just 57 transactions. Center Nicolas Roy has been the busiest traveler on the team — if not in professional hockey — as he has either been recalled or reassigned by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights 29 times through Wednesday’s reassignment to the Wolves.
373: When center Gage Quinney made his NHL debut with Vegas on Feb. 22, he became the 373rd player in Wolves history to put NHL experience on his resume. When forwards Dan DeSalvo and Shawn St-Amant made their Wolves debuts Feb. 23 vs. Rockford, they became the 647th and 648th players to don the Wolves uniform since the franchise was founded in 1994. That 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 goalies (70.2 percent) can say they’ve played in the NHL.
|Saturday, March 7||vs. Tucson||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Sunday, March 8||vs. Rockford||Allstate Arena||3 p.m.||Tickets|
|Friday, March 13||vs. San Antonio||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|