CHICAGO WOLVES (19-8-1-2) AT GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (15-10-3-1)
CHANCE TO CLINCH TONIGHT
The stakes can’t be more clear-cut: If the Chicago Wolves win tonight at Grand Rapids, then they clinch the Central Division title for the fourth time in the last five years.
Chicago owes Grand Rapids a note of thanks for moving within one step of claiming the Sam Pollock Trophy. The Wolves’ magic number dropped to 2 when the Griffins earned a 2-0 victory at Cleveland on Tuesday night.
Now all it takes for the Wolves to claim the crown is for head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s team to earn two points over their final three games…or for the Monsters to miss out on two points in their final two games…or for some combination of the two to occur.
To be fair, though, the second-place Monsters aren’t the only ones trying to catch the Wolves. The third-place Griffins have been a motivated group that took two games from Chicago before knocking off Cleveland Tuesday night. If the Griffins win their final three games (they travel to Cleveland Friday and host the Monsters Saturday) AND the Wolves lose their final three in regulation, then Grand Rapids will sweep its way to the title.
CONGRATS TO CAVAN
On Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald has signed a two-year, two-way deal with the NHL squad that covers the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons.
It’s a reward for a job well-done by the 24-year-old Boston native, who has spent this season in Chicago after signing a one-year AHL deal with the Wolves. Fitzgerald scored in each of the Wolves’ first two games before settling into a role as one of the team’s defensive aces. He owns three goals and eight assists in 26 games. In addition, Fitzgerald and teammate Phil Tomasino share second in the AHL in plus/minus rating at +19.
“Cavan has had a great season in a leadership role with the Wolves,” said Hurricanes president and GM Don Waddell. “This signing helps solidify our defensive depth over the next couple seasons.”
INTRASQUAD SCRIMMAGE AT NHL LEVEL
When the Nashville Predators hosted the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night in both teams’ regular-season finale, several players on each team could say they’ve been teammates this season with several players on the other side.
Carolina’s lineup featured six players who’ve suited up for the Wolves this season: F Morgan Geekie, D Joey Keane, F Max McCormick, G Petr Mrazek, D Joakim Ryan and F Drew Shore. Nashville’s lineup featured four players who’ve suited up for the Wolves this season: D Jeremy Davies, F Tanner Jeannot, D Tyler Lewington and F Rem Pitlick.
we are the wolves
While the Chicago Wolves and Milwaukee Admirals have achieved a level of detente this season with several Admirals joining the Wolves roster due to Milwaukee’s inability to field a team, the franchises weren’t nearly this cozy 17 years ago.
The Admirals won the 2004 Calder Cup, but not before struggling to defeat the brick wall known as Kari Lehtonen. Seventeen years ago today, the Admirals outshot the Wolves 44-24 in Game 5 of the West Division Final, but Lehtonen posted 43 saves to give Chicago the 2-1 victory.
Lehtonen piled up 257 saves during the six-game series for a whopping 42.8 saves per game.
last two games
- Rookies Phil Tomasino and Jamieson Rees scored in the opening 71 seconds as the Wolves scored four times in the first period to set the tone for the matinee win.
- Rees added a second goal and forwards Brandon Hickey, David Cotton and Tommy Novak also scored while forward Dominik Bokk and defenseman Josh Healey added two assists apiece.
- Goaltender Beck Warm posted 23 saves to pick up his team-high seventh win.
- 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.
By the numbers
1: With three 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 4.03 goals per night, which stands 0.32 goals ahead of second-place Syracuse. However, they’re going to need to score 16 goals over the final three 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.
7: Wolves center Tommy Novak scored the game-winning goal Monday afternoon against Rockford to improve his season-best point streak to seven games. The 24-year-old Wisconsin native has racked up four goals and seven assists during his streak that began April 26. His spree has boosted his season’s totals to seven goals and 21 assists in 24 games — or 1.17 points per game.
29: In a normal hockey world, 19-year-old forward Phil Tomasino would have spent this season ripping up the junior hockey scene with the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals. But the pandemic opened a door for some OHL players to compete in the AHL — and Nashville’s 2019 first-round pick stomped his way through that door. He leads the Wolves in goals (13) and points (29) in 26 games and shares third place among all AHL rookies in scoring.
45: The Wolves have played just 30 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.
59: Four of the Wolves’ six goals Monday afternoon were scored by rookies, which means the team’s 14 rookie skaters have combined for 59 goals (or 49 percent of the team’s goals). Forward Phil Tomasino leads the rookies with 13 goals. The other first-year contributors are David Cotton (11), Dominik Bokk (9), Seth Jarvis (7), Jamieson Rees (7), Cole Smith (5), Ryan Suzuki (5) and Zach Solow (2).
68: Not that it’s a competition, but the Wolves’ Josh Healey and Grand Rapids’ Dylan McIlrath share the lead among AHL blueliners in penalty minutes. Healey has registered 68 PIMs while playing in all 30 Wolves games while McIlrath has needed just 26 games to earn his total. Sixteen of Healey’s minutes have come against the Griffins while eight of McIlrath’s minutes have occurred against the Wolves.
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 has an opportunity to break that mark. If head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s team picks up 5 of a possible 6 points in their last three games, then they’ll finish with a .697 points percentage.
397: 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 Joey Keane made his NHL debut with the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night — wearing No. 44 and playing 19 minutes, 34 seconds — he became the 397th player in Wolves history to compete in the NHL as well. Put another way, 57.4 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL. That number could increase again tonight if 21-year-old defenseman Brayden Pachal makes his NHL debut with the Vegas Golden Knights.
FINAL TWO GAMES
|Friday, May 14||at Rockford||Rockford MetroCentre||6 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Saturday, May 15||vs. Rockford||Wolves Training Facility||7 p.m.||AHLTV|