ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (0-1-0-0) at CHICAGO WOLVES (2-0-0-0)
Tuesday, Feb. 9 | 2 p.m. | Triphahn Center | AHLTV | Facebook Live
FAST STARTS ARE GOOD OMENS
The Chicago Wolves finished the opening weekend of the 2021 American Hockey League season as one of four teams to jump out to a 2-0-0-0 start. To be fair, only 11 teams have played at least two games — but it’s always better to get started on the right foot.
That’s particularly true when it comes to the Wolves. Somewhat surprisingly for a franchise like the Wolves that has done so much winning over the years, this marks just the seventh 2-0-0-0 start in the team’s 27-year history. And when Chicago has started well, it has tended to finish well.
|1997-98||3-0-0||Turner Cup champions|
|2001-02||3-0-0-0||Calder Cup champions|
|2006-07||2-0-0-0||Reached Western Conference Finals|
|2007-08||6-0-0-0||Calder Cup champions|
|2012-13||4-0-0-0||Did not qualify for playoffs|
|2018-19||4-0-0-0||Reached Calder Cup Finals|
What have the Wolves done well so far? Well, they’ve been really productive in even-strength situations — always a good barometer of a team’s overall capabilities. During Friday’s 3-1 home win over Grand Rapids and Saturday’s 5-4 win at Rockford, the Wolves scored six even-strength goals and allowed just one.
Chicago’s youngsters played as if they will not need to negotiate a steep learning curve in order to hang in the AHL. The Wolves’ quartet of 19-year-olds — Seth Jarvis, Jamieson Rees, Ryan Suzuki and Phil Tomasino — combined for three goals and four assists in their first two professional games. Head coach Ryan Warsofsky assigned one teenager to each line — enabling them to play alongside productive veterans — but brought them together on the power-play unit.
GOOD GOALTENDING AS WELL
The Wolves received two solid performances in goal during the opening weekend. Antoine Bibeau, making just his fifth start at any level since April 17, 2019, rejected 22 of 23 shots Friday night to pick up his first AHL win since April 12, 2019. The 26-year-old Quebec native missed all but four games last year due to a hip injury.
On Saturday, 23-year-old Jeremy Helvig made his second career AHL start and earned his second AHL win as the Ontario native surrendered just one even-strength goal. With Bibeau back on the Carolina Hurricanes’ taxi squad, Helvig could be in net again today.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
The Chicago Wolves’ run to the 2019 Calder Cup Finals was aided by an elite group of young defensemen — a crew that included Zach Whitecloud, Nic Hague and Dylan Coghlan.
As a rookie in 2018-19, Whitecloud led the AHL in plus-minus rating with a +39. Now he’s a staple on the Vegas Golden Knights’ blue line and scored his first regular-season goal Sunday against Los Angeles.
On Friday against the Kings, Hague scored his first NHL goal and also handed out two assists — upstaging Coghlan’s NHL debut. Coghlan performed well enough Friday to earn a spot in the lineup again Sunday.
SATURDAY, FEB. 6: CHICAGO 5, (at) ROCKFORD 4
- Center Rem Pitlick scored on a breakaway late in the second period and his goal held up as the game-winner as the Wolves rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win their road opener.
- Forward Jamieson Rees delivered his first professional goal while forwards Seth Jarvis and Tanner Jeannot and defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald also scored goals.
- Goaltender Jeremy Helvig stopped 28 shots to pick up the win in his Wolves debut.
FRIDAY, FEB. 5: (at) CHICAGO 3, GRAND RAPIDS 1
- In his first professional game, center Seth Jarvis scored the game-winner early in the second period with a power-play marker set up by two other rookies: Dominik Bokk and Phil Tomasino.
- Center Tom Novak scored the Wolves’ first goal of the season while defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald set up Novak’s tally and added an insurance goal with seven minutes left in the third.
- Goaltender Antoine Bibeau earned the win as he rejected 22 of 23 shots.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: Last weekend proved to be a fruitful one for professional firsts. Center Seth Jarvis scored the game-winning goal Friday in his first pro game. Right wing Phil Tomasino posted his first two pro points by assisting on the Wolves’ first two goals. Tomasino teamed with Dominik Bokk to set up Jarvis’ goal, which served as Bokk’s first pro point in North America. Forward Jamieson Rees registered his first two points Saturday — but needed nearly 24 hours to confirm his first pro goal. Rees scored a goal during the second period on a highlight-reel drive to the net, but credit was changed to Jarvis during second intermission. On Sunday afternoon, the AHL announced the final change to the goal — which now reads Rees (Joey Keane, Jarvis).
2: Defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald scored just two goals in 25 games last year for the Charlotte Checkers. He already has equaled that total just two games into his Wolves career. The 24-year-old Boston native buried a wicked slap shot for an insurance goal Friday night, then delivered nearly a carbon copy of that blast to pull the Wolves into a 2-2 tie during Saturday’s game at Rockford. Fitzgerald now owns 15 AHL goals in 143 appearances since making his pro debut on Oct. 7, 2017, with the San Jose Barracuda. The fourth-year pro has earned a spot on the Wolves’ leadership team as Fitzgerald joined forward Tanner Jeannot and defenseman Tyler Lewington in wearing the “A” on their jerseys Friday night. When Lewington sat out Saturday’s game, defenseman Alex Carrier added an “A” to his sweater.
3: The Wolves always have prided themselves on featuring local players on their roster — and this season should be no exception. There are three players on the roster who grew up in the Chicago area: forward Lukas Craggs (Elmhurst), forward David Gust (Orland Park) and defenseman Joey Keane (Homer Glen). Keane, who was born in Chicago and spent several youth hockey seasons with the powerful Chicago Mission, was the only one to play in the first two games while Craggs made his Wolves debut Saturday. The 21-year-old Keane was drafted by the New York Rangers in the third round of the 2018 NHL Draft. He spent most of last year with Hartford (AHL), but was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in February. He earned AHL All-Rookie honors last year with 9 goals and 28 assists in 57 games split between Hartford and Charlotte.
13: The Wolves’ 30-man roster features a whopping 13 rookies: Eight already have played this season — Dominik Bokk, Lukas Craggs, Jeremy Helvig, Seth Jarvis, Jamieson Rees, Cole Smith, Ryan Suzuki and Phil Tomasino — while five have yet to make their 2021 debut. For four of the five — forwards David Cotton and Jason Cotton, defenseman D.J. King and goaltender Beck Warm — their first Wolves game also will mark their professional debuts. The fifth rookie, forward Patrick Harper, opened this season with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades, for whom he piled up five goals and four assists in five games.
386: Since the Wolves started playing on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 670 players have donned the Burgundy and Gold. When defenseman Max Lajoie made his Chicago debut Saturday at Rockford, he became the 386th player in Wolves history who also has appeared in the NHL. The 23-year-old Lajoie spent most of the 2018-19 campaign with the Ottawa Senators — posting seven goals and eight assists in 56 games — before seeing just six games with Ottawa last season. The Carolina Hurricanes acquired him Jan. 12 in a trade for forward Clark Bishop.
|Thursday, Feb. 11||vs. Grand Rapids||Triphahn Center||2 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Tuesday, Feb. 16||at Rockford||MetroCentre||6 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Feb. 20||vs. Iowa||Triphahn Center||7 p.m.||AHLTV|
All times Central.