GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (4-2-0-0) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (7-1-0-0)
A NEW CHALLENGE
The Chicago Wolves had virtually everything go their way during their first seven games. They scored early. They scored often. They stopped 94 percent of the shots their opponents put on net. They never once went into the dressing room facing a deficit — not after the first, second or third periods.
But when the Wolves hopped on the bus Friday night in Grand Rapids to complete the second leg of their six-hour round trip to Michigan, it marked the first time they didn’t score early or often. They stopped just 31 of 35 shots. And they trailed each time they headed into the locker room as Grand Rapids earned a 4-1 win and made the Wolves the final American Hockey League team to suffer a loss.
So what now? Time for the Wolves’ band of young brothers to figure out quickly how to respond and make adjustments as Grand Rapids make its own six-hour round trip to play at the Wolves Training Facility in Hoffman Estates.
One potential issue for the Wolves to solve? Who fills the role of powerful forward Tanner Jeannot, who was recalled to the Nashville Predators’ taxi squad prior to Friday’s loss. Not only did Jeannot rank third on the Wolves in points (3 goals, 5 assists), he seemed to rank first in the more subjective categories of leadership and aggressiveness.
When there has been any disorder on the ice, Jeannot always has his teammates’ backs. And in the moments the general public can’t see, Jeannot has led the way as well. Rookie forward Jamieson Rees, who turned 20 Friday, lauded the 23-year-old Jeannot this week for the way he has treated the youngsters.
“Coming in as young guys is definitely tough,” Rees said. “You don’t really know what to expect. There’s things that come and go, kind of random all the time that you’re not ready for. So to have an older guy that’s kind of been through it already is definitely huge. ‘Jeanner’ definitely helps all the boys out a lot. He’s always there making sure everyone is comfortable. I think he has definitely made the process a lot easier for all of us.”
THE WARSOFSKY COMBO DEBUTS
Thirty-year-old defenseman David Warsofsky made his debut Friday night at Grand Rapids, which means 33-year-old head coach Ryan Warsofsky became the first AHL boss to coach his brother since 1993-94 — when Marc Crawford coached his younger brother, Lou, for the St. John’s Maple Leafs.
“He’s going to be coached like every other brother,” Ryan Warsofsky said with a smile. “He’s going to be coached like any other player. He’ll be challenged to be better…I think my older brothers (Adam and Jarod) are on my side. I told my parents they can’t be cursing out the coach for not giving him enough opportunity anymore — because I will hear about it. No, it will be all good.”
WE ARE THE WOLVES
The Chicago Wolves have claimed three of the last four Central Division crowns. When they finished at the top of the heap in 2017, 2018 and 2019, they were aided by strong Februarys as those three teams combined for a 23-8-1-0 showing (.734) in the year’s second month.
Now, this season is unconventional — what with February being the season’s opening month instead of its fifth — but what this year’s squad has done could be one for the Wolves history books.
If the Wolves earn two points today, they’ll finish with an .889 points percentage for February. That would eclipse the record set by the 2007-08 Calder Cup champs and tied by the 2009-10 squad. Both posted a 10-1-1-1 mark in February (.846).
LAST TWO GAMES
- Grand Rapids’ Riley Barber scored 3:59 into the game and as the Griffins built a 3-0 lead on the way to handing the Wolves their first defeat of the season.
- Center Rem Pitlick scored in the opening minute of the third — assisted by Anthony Richard and Frederic Allard — to pull the visitors within 3-1.
- Goaltender Antoine Bibeau rejected 31 of 35 shots.
- Center Morgan Geekie scored two goals in the first period as the Wolves set a franchise record for fastest start to the season as they improved to 7-0-0-0.
- Center Rem Pitlick added his sixth goal of the season — tied for the AHL lead — while Tanner Jeannot added an empty-net goal and defenseman Joey Keane handed out two assists.
- Goaltender Beck Warm stopped a career-high 40 shots in the win.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: The Wolves rank first in the American Hockey League in goals (35) and goals per game (4.38). Head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s crew has found the summit despite ranking in the middle of the pack with 29.6 shots per game, which means they own a shooting percentage of 14.8. The Wolves’ rise is a dramatic departure from last year, when the team ranked 29th among the AHL’s 31 teams in goals per game (2.54) and dead last in shots (26.79). The team’s production has been split relatively evenly between the 18 veteran skaters (20 goals) and the 10 rookie skaters (15 goals).
7: By scoring the Wolves’ lone goal Friday night at Grand Rapids, second-year center Rem Pitlick moved to the top of the AHL goal-scoring list with seven markers. The Plymouth, Minnesota, native averages one goal per game. Pitlick owns five even-strength goals, one power-play tally and one shorthanded goal. It’s not uncommon for the 23-year-old to lead his squad or league in goals. As a junior at Minnesota (2018-19), he led the Gophers with 21 tallies. He also tied for the Big Ten goal-scoring crown with 13 in 24 league games. Pitlick shared Minnesota’s goal-scoring title in 2017-18 with 12 markers.
17: Center Morgan Geekie made the most of his whirlwind stay in Chicago. He was loaned to the Wolves Thursday, showed up Friday, scored 19 seconds into his team debut Saturday (part of a two-goal, one-assist effort) and scored twice in the first period Sunday. For his efforts, he earned the AHL’s Player of the Week award Monday — right around the time he learned the Carolina Hurricanes recalled him. It marked the 17th time the franchise has reaped the Player of the Week honor since Chicago joined the AHL prior to the 2001-02 season. Geekie joins a list that consists of J.P. Vigier (2004-05), Darren Haydar (2006-07, 2012-13), Jason Krog (2006-07, 2007-08), Cory Larose (2006-07), Ondrej Pavelec (2008-09), Peter Mannino (2009-10), Paul Postma (2009-10), Nigel Dawes (2010-11), Ty Rattie (2014-15), Pat Cannone (2015-16), Brad Hunt (2016-17), Kenny Agostino (2016-17), Teemu Pulkkinen (2017-18) and Oscar Dansk (2018-19).
20: The Wolves have killed off their last 20 shorthanded situations to move into the AHL’s top 10 for penalty kills. Assistant coach Patrick Dwyer heads up the PK unit that hasn’t been dented since Grand Rapids’ Kyle Criscuolo scored at 16:20 of the second period on Feb. 11. That means the Wolves’ streak stands at 203 minutes and 40 seconds heading into tonight’s game. They stopped one Griffins PP late in the third period, then went 5-for-5 on Feb. 16 at Rockford, 6-for-6 vs. Iowa on Feb. 20, 4-for-4 vs. Iowa on Feb. 21 and 4-for-4 Friday at Grand Rapids. As an added bonus, the Wolves share the AHL lead in shorthanded goals with 3.
33: The Wolves have played just eight games to date, but 33 players already have suited up for at least one game. Last year, the franchise needed just 37 players to get through the 61 games before the pandemic brought the season to a permanent halt. For those curious about the breakdown between the Wolves’ two NHL partners, the 13 skaters from the Nashville Predators organization have combined for 72 games of action. The 17 skaters from the Carolina Hurricanes organization (including the three signed to Wolves contracts) also have combined for 72 games. Carolina prospects have handled all of the goaltending.
389: Since the Wolves started playing on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 680 players have donned the Burgundy and Gold. When defenseman David Warsofsky made his Chicago debut Friday night, he became the 389th player in Wolves history who also has appeared in the NHL In other words, 57.2 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
|Friday, March 5||vs. Cleveland||Wolves Training Facility||7 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Saturday, March 6||vs. Cleveland||Wolves Training Facility||3 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Saturday, March 13||at Iowa||Wells Fargo Arena||6 p.m.||AHLTV|