IOWA WILD (12-12-4-0) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (18-5-1-2)
ONE LAST BATTLE
It all makes sense. American Hockey League teams find themselves playing a limited number of opponents during this truncated 2021 season, which means there are more opportunities for bitterness to simmer between two foes.
Throw in the fact the Chicago Wolves have won six of their seven meetings with the Iowa Wild — and outscored them 34-14 along the way — and that provides extra kindling for the fire.
Now throw in the fact the Wolves and the Wild are naturally aggressive teams that aren’t wired to back down to anyone — they’re the AHL’s top two in penalty minutes per game and Iowa owns a healthy lead in major penalties — and situations such as Friday’s testosterone fest are bound to happen.
But all of this logic likely will soothe no souls before the Wolves and Wild meet tonight for the final time this season. Not after the way Friday’s 4-1 Wolves win ended.
Temperatures had been running increasingly hot as the physical battle wore on, but at some point in the third period the game began more about settling scores than trying to score. It culminated with 33 seconds remaining in regulation when 36-year-old forward Cody McLeod, who racked up 1,630 penalty minutes in 776 NHL games and owns 500 PIMS in 182 AHL contests, instigated a fight with 19-year-old Wolves forward Phil Tomasino along the boards behind Iowa’s net.
That maneuver sparked four separate scraps…which sparked a screaming match between the benches…which led to a long discussion by the officials…which led to a game misconduct for McLeod that becomes an automatic suspension for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of the game.
“We’re not going to back down,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “We have some young players that are learning the pro game and it’s hard, it’s physical, every single night. But we’re not going to back down. We’re going to stick together as a group like we’ve done the whole year. And we’re going to go right back at you. If we get knocked down, we’re going to get back up and get back in your face. That’s kind of the mentality we’re going to have.”
SOLOW THE PRO
Former Northeastern University captain Zach Solow is just six games into his professional career, but the rookie forward already draws big praise from head coach Ryan Warsofsky — and not necessarily because the 22-year-old already has 2 goals and 1 assist.
“The power-play time, the penalty-kill time, he’s earned that by the way he plays, by the way he prepares himself,” Warsofsky said. “You’d think this guy was a fifth-year pro with the way he conducts himself off the ice, prepares himself for practices (and) games. He’s a true pro, and you don’t see that very often with guys coming out of college.”.
ONE AWAY FROM 100
With a franchise-record-tying six men sharing the crease over the first 24 games, it has been hard for any Chicago Wolves goaltender to enjoy steady work this season. This is another way of saying it’s hard to predict when Opening Night starter Antoine Bibeau will get his next chance to play, but he’ll be shooting for AHL win No. 100 whenever that time comes. He earned No. 99 Monday night at Grand Rapids with 23 saves on 24 shots.
we are the wolves
The Wolves love to play on May Day. Today marks the 10th time they have suited up on May 1…and there’s only one loss on that ledger.
Here’s the list of NHL-tested goalies who have won on the Wolves’ behalf on May 1: Wendell Young, Pat Jablonski, Andrei Trefilov, Pasi Nurminen, Ondrej Pavelec, Jake Allen, Jordan Binnington and Oscar Dansk.
Even when you throw in Norm Maracle’s 2-1 loss to Grand Rapids in the 2003 Calder Cup Playoffs, the Wolves have allowed just 16 goals in those nine games.
The most recent May 1 game came in 2019, when Cody Glass scored 18:39 into overtime to secure a 3-2 victory over Iowa in Game 1 of the Central Division Finals.
last two games
- Rookie forward Phil Tomasino broke a tie with a second-period power-play goal and center Sean Malone followed 88 seconds later with a short-handed goal to steer the Wolves to the home win.
- Forward Sheldon Rempal scored the Wolves’ first goal and set up Malone’s shortie while rookie forward Zach Solow closed the scoring in the third period.
- Goaltender Beck Warm stopped 26 shots to pick up the win.
- Defenseman Max Lajoie scored a goal and handed out two assists for a career-high-tying 3 points as the Wolves never trailed in their road-trip finale at Grand Rapids.
- Forwards Anthony Richard, Phil Tomasino and David Cotton added goals for Chicago while center Tommy Novak posted a pair of assists.
- Goaltender Connor Ingram stopped 29 of 31 shots to pick up his first win with the Wolves.
By the numbers
1: For almost the entire season, the Wolves have ranked No. 1 in the American Hockey League in scoring. Chicago owns 108 goals in 26 games, which works out to 4.15 goals per game and stands 0.25 goals ahead of second-place Cleveland. The Wolves need to score 29 goals over their final seven games in order to break the franchise record for goals. 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.
6: Tonight’s game caps a stretch of six games in eight days for the Wolves, which hasn’t happened for this organization since the 2004-05 season and just the sixth time in franchise history. Wolves general manager Wendell Young became quite familiar with such compact schedules during the team’s early years. The first such stretch occurred Nov. 18-25 during the inaugural 1994-95 season — and the Wolves posted a 3-2-1 mark with Young and Ray LeBlanc backstopping the squad. Then the Wolves did it again from Dec. 26 to Jan. 2 (posting a 3-2-1 mark) and from Nov. 24 to Dec. 1, 1995 (going 1-3-2).
8: Forward Tanner Jeannot scored Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers to run his totals to 3 goals and 1 assist in 9 games since being recalled by Nashville (NHL). Jeannot has built on the hot streak he constructed with the Wolves. Starting with goals against Iowa on Feb. 21, March 13 and March 14, the 23-year-old holds an eight-game goal streak that’s the longest in the AHL this year. If Jeannot suits up for the Wolves again, which doesn’t seem likely at this point, he can tie Brett Sterling’s franchise record for the longest goal streak (nine games). Jeannot also can tie the AHL’s longest streak over the last nine years. Norfolk’s Tyler Johnson reeled off a nine-game goal streak March 3-24, 2012.
19: Defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald hasn’t scored a goal since Feb. 28, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a large influence on the Wolves’ record. Fitzgerald boasts a team-high +19 plus-minus rating in 24 games. He ranks third in the AHL in plus-minus and also plays a key role on the Wolves’ penalty kill.
25: Nineteen-year-old forward Phil Tomasino scored a goal for the third consecutive game Friday night, which pushed his season totals to 11 goals and 25 points in 23 games. Tomasino ranks third among AHL rookies in points and tied for third in goals. Trevor Zegras (21 points in 17 games) is the only rookie averaging more points per game.
35.14: Iowa and Chicago rank 1-2 in the American Hockey League in penalty minutes per game as the Wild average 18.79 and Wolves 16.35 — for a combined total of 35.14 per game. These teams take it to another level when they meet, which included a season-high 80 combined PIMS Friday night. They’ve teamed up to average 60.9 minutes per game in their first seven meetings this year.
45: The Wolves have played just 26 games, but 45 players already have suited up for at least one game after rookie defenseman Marc Del Gaizo’s pro debut Thursday night. This year’s squad might run out of time to set the franchise record for most players used in one season. The 2010-11 crew needed 47 players to complete an 80-game schedule.
59: Defenseman Josh Healey, the only Wolves player to appear in all 26 games this year, picked up nine penalty minutes Friday night to move his season total to 59. That leads the team as well as all American Hockey League defensemen and fifth in the AHL overall. The majority of Healey’s PIMS have come, well, via major penalties as he paces the AHL with seven fighting majors.
396: Since the Wolves organization played its first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 692 players have donned the Burgundy and Gold. When defenseman Joakim Ryan made his Wolves debut on April 1 in a 4-2 win over Rockford, he became the 396th player in Wolves history who also has appeared in the NHL. Put another way, 57.2 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
|Friday, May 7||at Grand Rapids||Van Andel Arena||7 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Saturday, May 8||vs. Grand Rapids||Wolves Training Facility||6 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Monday, May 10||vs. Rockford||Wolves Training Facility||2 p.m.||AHLTV|