ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (0-1-0-0) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (0-0-0-0)
GREAT TO BE HOME
After 587 days away from Allstate Arena, the Chicago Wolves are back in their longtime home and ready to compete for the Calder Cup. The Wolves haven’t enjoyed the chance to play at Allstate Arena since March 8, 2020, when defenseman Dylan Coghlan’s blast 3:24 into overtime lifted Chicago to a 3-2 win over the Rockford IceHogs in both teams’ final game before the 2019-20 American Hockey League season was canceled due to COVID-19.
A lot has changed for the Wolves since the last time they hosted the IceHogs at Allstate Arena. In September 2020, the Wolves formed a partnership with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and announced Ryan Warsofsky as head coach and Patrick Dwyer as one of the assistants (joining veteran Wolves assistant Bob Nardella on staff).
This new partnership led to a completely new roster and, despite having just 33 games on last year’s abbreviated schedule, the Wolves utilized a franchise-record 45 players during last season’s run to the 2021 Central Division crown.
Ten players on today’s Opening Night roster played roles on last year’s title team: leading goal-scorer David Cotton (14 goals in 26 games), Central Division All-Star goaltender Beck Warm (8-4-1, 2.74 goals-against average), forwards Dominik Bokk, David Gust, Stelio Mattheos, Spencer Smallman and Ryan Suzuki and defensemen Cavan Fitzgerald, Joey Keane and Max Lajoie.
The Wolves also have loaded up on experienced newcomers who know the ropes in the NHL and the AHL. Center Andrew Poturalski, for example, won the AHL’s scoring title last year with 43 points (9G, 34 A) in 44 games. Forwards Josh Leivo, Stefan Noesen and C.J. Smith, defenseman Jalen Chatfield and goaltender Alex Lyon all spent time in the NHL last season.
WHAT’S NEW IN THE AHL
After a shortened 2020-21 schedule that included just 28 of the 31 teams and didn’t conclude with a Calder Cup champion, the American Hockey League returns to normal for the 2021-22 season.
There have been a few changes, though. The Wolves were part of an eight-team Central Division in 2019-20, but now there are just seven teams as Chicago is joined by the Grand Rapids Griffins, Iowa Wild, Milwaukee Admirals, Manitoba Moose, Rockford IceHogs and Texas Stars.
The Utica Comets moved across North America to become the Abbotsford Canucks, which swelled the Pacific Division to nine teams. The Binghamton Devils shifted cities in New York to keep the Utica Comets in the league. Twenty-three teams will qualify for the postseason — all but two teams in each division. In the Central, that means the No. 4 and 5 seeds will play a best-of-three opening-round series.
we are the wolves
Today’s game marks just the second time in Wolves history that they’ve opened the season against the Rockford IceHogs. The first opener occurred on Oct. 13, 2012, when 14,505 hockey-hungry fans poured into Allstate Arena at a time when NHL players were locked out by the owners.
The fans were treated to a taut defensive battle as, for just the fifth time in Wolves history, the scoreboard remained blank after 65 minutes of action. But the Wolves’ Jordan Schroeder, Bill Sweatt and Darren Haydar scored in the shootout to earn a 1-0 win for goaltender Eddie Lack, who posted 25 saves during regulation and OT before rejecting 3 of 4 shootout attempts.
- Rookie forward Blake Murray broke a 3-3 tie as he scored with 2:30 remaining in regulation to lift the Wolves to the exhibition win at the Wolves Training Facility in Hoffman Estates.
- Left wing Sam Miletic posted two goals, center Andruw Poturalski recorded two assists and an empty-net goal and defenseman Josh Jacobs scored the other goal.
- Goaltender Eetu Makiniemi rejected 20 shots to pick up the win.
- The Wolves scored three goals in the first 10 minutes of the second period, but the Admirals responded with five consecutive goals in the next 10 minutes of exhibition play at Panther Arena.
- Forwards Terry Broadhurst, Blake Murray and Stelio Mattheos scored to stake the Wolves to the 3-0 lead. Murray also added an assist.
- Starting goaltender Beck Warm posted 15 saves in 40 minutes while Dylan Wells rejected all eight shots he faced in the third.
By the numbers
.611: This is the Wolves’ points percentage in season openers since their founding in 1994. Chicago boasts a 14-8-2-3 record entering its 28th season opener, which includes a 7-2-1-0 mark (.750) when starting a new campaign on home ice. The Wolves won last year’s opener by a 3-1 count over Grand Rapids on Feb. 5, 2021, at the Wolves Training Facility in Hoffman Estates — the only season Chicago hasn’t played at Allstate Arena.
3: The Wolves boast three Chicago-area natives on their Opening Night squad, which squares with the franchise’s reputation for doing their best to welcome home-grown players. Orland Park native David Gust, a 27-year-old forward, and Homer Glen resident Joey Keane, a 22-year-old defenseman, are in their second season with the Wolves. Twenty-year-old rookie center Jack Drury, who was born in Winnetka the same year his father, Ted, joined the Wolves for the 2000-01 season, figures to make his North American professional debut tonight.
5: The Wolves are gunning for their fifth league championship. On the road to that goal, Chicago seeks its fifth Central Division title in the last six seasons. The Wolves’ four division crowns in the last five years are two more than any other AHL team.
10: This season, the AHL has hired 10 women as officials — seven referees and three linespersons. Massachusetts resident Katie Guay, who has officiated in the Olympics, is scheduled to serve as a referee for tonight’s game between Lehigh Valley and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. When the game starts, she’ll become the first woman to officiate an AHL or NHL game. Expect a woman to officiate a Wolves game in the near future.
14: On Friday, the Wolves announced 27-year-old forward Andrew Poturalski will wear the “C” this season — becoming the 14th captain in team history and the first to earn the title since Paul Thompson in 2017-18. The last time Potularski played on Allstate Arena ice, he was busy earning the AHL’s Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the playoff MVP while helping the Charlotte Checkers defeat the Wolves in the 2019 Calder Cup Finals. Head coach Ryan Warsofsky will rotate his assistant captains, but forward Stefan Noesen and defenseman Max Lajoie are slated to wear the As tonight.
42: When the NHL set its Opening Night rosters Monday, 42 former Wolves were spread across 20 teams. Here’s the list: Dmitrij Jaskin, Antoine Roussel (ARI), Tage Thompson (BUF), Chris Tanev (CAL), Seth Jarvis, Jamieson Rees (CAR), Jani Hakanpaa (DAL), Robby Fabbri (DET), Zack Kassian (EDM), Kevin Connauton (FLA), Rem Pitlick (MIN), Jake Allen, Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson, Nick Suzuki (MON), Alexandre Carrier, Cody Glass, Tanner Jeannot, Phil Tomasino (NSH), Sammy Blais (NYR), Erik Brannstrom, Zach Sanford (OTT), Patrick Brown (PHI), Vince Dunn, Morgan Geekie (SEA), Ivan Barbashev, Jordan Binnington, Ville Husso, Jordan Kyrou, Colton Parayko, Jake Walman (STL), Zach Bogosian (TBL), Brad Hunt (VAN), Jake Bischoff, Dylan Coghan, Nic Hague, Keegan Kolesar, Nic Roy, Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch and Zach Whitecloud (VGK) and Bryan Little (WPG).
399: Since the Wolves organization played its first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 691 players have donned the Burgundy and Gold. When forwards Jake Leschyshyn and Jonas Rondbjerg made their NHL debuts with the Vegas Golden Knights Thursday night, they became the 398th and 399th players in Wolves history to compete in the NHL as well. Put another way, 57.7 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|Friday, Oct. 22||at Milwaukee||7 p.m.||Panther Arena||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Oct. 23||vs. Milwaukee||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Wednesday, Oct. 27||at Grand Rapids||6 p.m.||Van Andel Arena||AHLTV|
|Friday, Oct. 29||at Milwaukee||7 p.m.||Panther Arena||AHLTV|
|Sunday, Oct. 31||at Grand Rapids||3 p.m.||Van Andel Arena||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.