ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (6-9-1-0) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (10-2-0-1)
OK, WHERE WERE WE?
After the American Hockey League had wait nearly 11 months to play between the abrupt end to the 2019-20 season and the start of the shortened 2021 season, it seems weird to feel out of sorts after just 13 days between games.
But that’s how everything seems after the Chicago Wolves postponed two games in accordance with the AHL’s COVID-19 protocols. The Wolves and Grand Rapids did not play on March 19 and March 23 in Michigan — games that have been rescheduled for April 13 and April 26 — which means tonight’s game marks Chicago’s first time in competition since March 14.
During the interim, the Wolves practiced in groups large and small in order to maintain the momentum they built during the first five-plus weeks of the season. While the Wolves’ 21 points rank seventh in the 28-team AHL, their .808 points percentage stands second in the league (trailing only the Henderson Silver Knights) as they continue to control the Central Division in points and points percentage.
Chicago also continues to hold the AHL’s No. 1 spot in goals per game (4.39) and penalty minutes per game (18.15). The Utica Comets are closest in scoring at 3.78 goals per game while the Iowa Wild rank second with 15.93 penalty minutes per game.
MAKING SOME MOVES
While the Wolves haven’t played any games since March 14, they have made several adjustments to their roster.
Change has been particularly brisk in net as rookie Beck Warm was recalled to join the Carolina Hurricanes’ taxi squad on March 16 — just three days after he recorded his first AHL shutout at Iowa. Antoine Bibeau, the Wolves’ Opening Night goaltender, returned to Chicago as part of that transaction. Rookie Jeremy Helvig spent last week with the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets and got to see action in three games in three days, then returned to the Wolves.
The Wolves also made moves on the blue line as second-year pro Joey Keane took his 8 assists to Carolina’s taxi squad, but veteran Joakim Ryan was reassigned to the Wolves to take his place. Ryan, a seventh-year pro, spent the last three seasons with the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings and owns 4 goals and 20 assists in 141 NHL games.
On Thursday, the Wolves signed rookie defenseman Matt Murphy to a professional tryout contract. Murphy owns 1 goal and 3 assists in 11 games for Fort Wayne (ECHL). Lastly, Stelio Mattheos rejoined the forward ranks after spending a week in Fort Wayne.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
While the Wolves sat idle for 13 days, several people with Wolves pedigrees made an impact in the NHL.
On March 17, the Buffalo Sabres named Don Granato as their interim head coach after dismissing Ralph Krueger. In 2008, Granato had the unenviable task of succeeding John Anderson as Wolves head coach after Anderson capped his four-championships-in-11-years run with a move to become the Atlanta Thrashers’ head coach.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves converted three of their four power-play opportunities and notched a short-handed goal to sweep the weekend series at Wells Fargo Arena.
- Rookie forward Dominik Bokk scored the team’s first goal for the third game in a row while David Warsofsky, Tanner Jeannot, Max Lajoie, Josh Healey and Phil Tomasino also produced goals.
- Goaltender Jeremy Helvig posted 29 saves to improve his record to 4-0-0.
- Rookie goaltender Beck Warm recorded the first shutout of his professional career while the Wolves’ special teams scored two power plays and went 7-of-7 on the penalty kill.
- Forwards Dominik Bokk, Tanner Jeannot, Tommy Novak and Sheldon Rempal each produced one goal and one assist as Chicago scored twice in the second and third periods.
- Warm posted 31 saves as the Wolves earned their first shutout since Feb. 7, 2020.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: Yes, if the Wolves play all 33 games on their current regular-season schedule, this season will only be 43 percent as long as a normal American Hockey League slate. But after providing that caveat, it’s still intriguing to note this year’s squad is on pace to shatter the franchise record for most goals per game. These Wolves have scored 57 goals in 13 games — a league-leading average of 4.39 per outing. The only Wolves team that has averaged more than 4 per game is the 2006-07 crew that paced the AHL with 4.14 per game.
2: Rarely has scoring the first goal mattered so much to one team. Only two of the Wolves’ first 13 games have featured any lead changes — and none since the first two games of the year. Chicago recovered from a 1-0 deficit on Opening Night (Feb. 5) against Grand Rapids to earn a 3-1 victory. The next day at Rockford in the IceHogs’ opener, the Wolves fell behind 2-0 and 3-2 during the opening 25 minutes before rallying to secure a 5-4 win. But in each of the Wolves’ last 11 games, the team that scored first has gone ahead and earned the win without trailing.
3: Prior to each game, the Wolves host a First Goal Pool (bit.ly/WolvesFirstGoal) where one fan who correctly predicts Chicago’s first player to score a goal wins a $50 gift card to Pet Supplies Plus. Unless he has cooled off during the 13 days between games, it might make sense to select rookie forward Dominik Bokk as the First Goal pick to click. In each of the Wolves’ last three games, Bokk has been the first Wolves player to tickle the twine. He’s one of eight Wolves to record the team’s first goal, but only five are on the current roster: Bokk 3, defenseman Max Lajoie, center Tommy Novak, forward Anthony Richard and rookie forward Phil Tomasino. Rookie Seth Jarvis (3) has returned to the Portland Winterhawks (WHL), Morgan Geekie (2) has returned to the Carolina Hurricanes (NHL) and Rem Pitlick has been with the Nashville Predators (NHL) since March 4.
34: The Wolves have played just 13 games, but 34 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 14 skaters from the Nashville Predators organization have combined for 113 games of action. The 17 skaters from the Carolina Hurricanes organization (including the three signed to Wolves contracts) also have combined for 121 games. Of the 34 players to compete for the Wolves this season, 10 have played in the NHL this season as well: Frederic Allard, Alex Carrier, Jeremy Davies, Morgan Geekie, Tanner Jeannot, Sean Malone, Rem Pitlick, Sheldon Rempal, Drew Shore and Cole Smith.
82: This is the number 20-year-old Jack Young wore Monday night when he made his professional debut as an official. The younger son of Wolves general manager Wendell Young served as a referee for the Rockford IceHogs’ 6-1 home win over the Iowa Wild. Behind the scenes, Rockford’s management presented Young with an official game puck, a framed picture and other commemorative mementos from his first pro game. To learn more great stories about Jack Young’s burgeoning career, and how it has changed his dad’s perspective on officials, listen to the new Wolves podcast episode here.
393: Since the Wolves started playing on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 681 players have donned the Burgundy and Gold. When defenseman Frederic Allard made his NHL debut Saturday night for Nashville against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, he became the 393rd player in Wolves history who also has appeared in the NHL. In other words, 57.7 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
|Sunday, March 28||at Rockford||Rockford MetroCentre||4 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Thursday, April 1||vs. Grand Rapids||Wolves Training Facility||2 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Saturday, April 3||vs. Rockford||Wolves Training Facility||7 p.m.||AHLTV|