ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (11-17-1-0) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (18-8-1-2)
FAST AND FURIOUS FINAL WEEK
The Chicago Wolves have four games on their agenda during the last week of the 2020-21 season. Officially, the Wolves’ No. 1 goal is to complete their quest to be the AHL’s Central Division leader from start to finish. The Wolves’ magic number to clinch the Central sits at 6 entering today’s matinee against the Rockford IceHogs.
While the Sam Pollock Trophy serves as the tangible goal, Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky finds himself focused on intangible targets as well.
“I think (we’re focused) on what it means to be a pro hockey player,’ Warsofsky said. “We have players that are still learning. It doesn’t really matter if there’s playoffs or not. What it means to be a pro: How you prepare yourself for practice is consistent. How you play is consistent. Right now, we don’t know what we’re getting shift-to-shift. That’s something that we’re preaching right now (as) coaches.”
WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
The Nashville Predators joined the NHL in 1998-99, one season after the Hartford Whalers relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina, and became the Carolina Hurricanes. In the first 22 seasons since the Predators became a thing, they never faced the Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This year, though, the Chicago Wolves are partners with Carolina and Nashville due to COVID-19 limitations that prevented the Milwaukee Admirals (the Predators’ traditional AHL partner) from playing this season.
So who’s going to meet in the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs? Carolina and Nashville, of course, as they have clinched the first and fourth seeds, respectively, in the Central Division. Here are some numbers on how evenly split the Wolves roster has been this season:
Sixteen skaters on Carolina contracts (and three players signed to Wolves deals before Nashville became a partner) have combined for 269 games, 54 goals and 95 assists. Six players (F Morgan Geekie, F Max McCormick, G Petr Mrazek, F Sheldon Rempal, D Joakim Ryan and F Drew Shore) have suited up for the Canes and the Wolves.
Seventeen skaters on Nashville or Milwaukee contracts have combined for 248 games, 61 goals and 102 assists. Eight players (D Frederic Allard, D Alex Carrier, D Jeremy Davies, F Tanner Jeannot, D Tyler Lewington, F Sean Malone, F Rem Pitlick and F Cole Smith) have suited up for the Predators and the Wolves.
Of the six goaltenders who’ve suited up, the four on Carolina/Wolves deals (Beck Warm, Antoine Bibeau, Jeremy Helvig and Mrazek) have teamed up for 23 games and a 15-5-2 record. The two on Nashville deals (Connor Ingram and Devin Cooley) have played seven games with a 3-3-1 mark.
we are the wolves
Two years ago today, the Wolves hit the ice for Game 5 of the Central Division Finals at Iowa. The Wolves had scored just one goal while dropping Games 3 and 4 at Wells Fargo Arena.
Facing the fact that a third straight loss would put them in a 3-2 hole in the best-of-7 series, the Wolves finally figured out a way to solve Iowa goaltender Andrew Hammond.
Curtis McKenzie scored three goals, Stefan Matteau delivered a clutch short-handed goal and AHL MVP Daniel Carr, Gage Quinney and Matt Weis also produced goals as the Wolves earned a 7-4 victory.
last two games
- Grand Rapids’ Tyler Spezia and Turner Elson scored 62 seconds apart late in the second period to snap a tie and set up the Griffins’ win at the Wolves Training Facility.
- Center Tommy Novak extended his point streak to six games with a second-period goal while rookie forward Phil Tomasino pushed his point streak to five games with an assist.
- Goaltender Antoine Bibeau notched 26 saves.
- The Wolves scored twice late in the third to tie, but Riley Barber’s goal with 13 seconds left capped a four-point night and gave Grand Rapids the win at Van Andel Arena.
- Forwards Dominik Bokk and David Cotton scored 86 seconds apart to forge a 4-4 tie with 4:58 left while forwards Anthony Richard and Phil Tomasino gave the Wolves a 2-1 first-period lead.
- Goaltender Beck Warm posted 22 saves.
By the numbers
1: With four games left in the season, the Wolves are in good shape to lead the American Hockey League in goals per game for the first time since the 2008 Calder Cup champions accomplished the feat. This year’s Wolves average 3.97 goals per night, which stands 0.14 goals ahead of second-place Syracuse. However, they’re going to need to score 22 goals over the final four 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: Wolves forward Tommy Novak scored Chicago’s lone goal Saturday night against Grand Rapids, which boosted his season-best point streak to six games. The 24-year-old Wisconsin native has racked up three goals and seven assists during his streak that began April 26. His spree has boosted his season’s totals to six goals and 21 assists in 23 games — or 1.17 points per game.
27: Novak’s 27 points share the team lead with 19-year-old rookie forward Phil Tomasino, who assisted on Novak’s goal Saturday to push his point streak to five games. Tomasino owns four goals and two assists in his five appearances since April 26. He also has produced points in 12 of his last 13 games (7G, 9A) and boasts 12 goals and 15 assists to show for his first 25 professional games. Not only does Tomasino rank fifth among all AHL rookies in points (27), he shares second among all AHL players in plus-minus rating (+19).
45: The Wolves have played just 29 games, but 45 players already have suited up for at least one game after rookie defenseman Marc Del Gaizo’s pro debut April 29. This year’s squad appears it will 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.
55: Three of the Wolves’ five goals over the weekend were scored by rookies, which means the team’s 14 rookie skaters have combined for 55 goals (or 48 percent of the team’s goals). Nineteen-year-old forward Phil Tomasino leads the rookies (and the Wolves) with 12 goals. The other first-year contributors are David Cotton (10), Dominik Bokk (9), Seth Jarvis (7), Ryan Suzuki (5), Jamieson Rees (5), Cole Smith (5) and Zach Solow (2).
66: Defenseman Josh Healey, the only Wolves player to appear in all 29 games this year, ranks second among AHL defensemen and seventh in the league overall with 66 penalty minutes. Healey trails Grand Rapids’ Dylan McIlrath by two minutes for the most among blue-liners.
69.5: The 1999-2000 Wolves’ path to the 2000 Turner Cup began with a .695 points percentage during the regular season (53-21-8; 114 points in 82 games). That points percentage has stood as the franchise record for 21 years, but this year’s group is poised to break that mark. If head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s team picks up 7 of a possible 8 points in their last four games, then they’ll finish with a .697 points percentage.
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.
FINAL THREE GAMES
|Wednesday, May 12||at Grand Rapids||Van Andel Arena||2 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Friday, May 14||at Rockford||Rockford MetroCentre||6 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Saturday, May 15||vs. Rockford||Wolves Training Facility||7 p.m.||AHLTV|