CHICAGO WOLVES (0-1-0-0) At MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS (1-0-0-0)
HEY, YOU LOOK FAMILIAR
The 2020-21 American Hockey League season was a classic case of trying to make the best of everything.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced hockey leagues throughout North America to change their plans. For the AHL, that meant postponing the start of the season until early February — and forcing three teams to keep their doors closed rather than compete.
The Milwaukee Admirals were among the three teams that couldn’t make things work last season, but nobody wanted the Admirals’ prospects to be sidelined for a season. Accordingly, the Carolina Hurricanes (the Wolves’ NHL partner), the Nashville Predators (the Admirals’ NHL partner) and the Wolves forged a one-year deal where the two NHL teams would share the team as evenly as humanly possible.
That meant both teams’ full coaching staffs — led by Chicago (and overall) head coach Ryan Warsofsky and Milwaukee head coach Karl Taylor — full equipment staffs and full training staffs worked together at the Wolves Training Facility in Hoffman Estates to deliver the best possible experience for the players. As long as injuries didn’t interfere with game-planning, Carolina’s prospects and Nashville’s prospects each took nine spots in the lineup for each game.
And the results? They turned out great. The Wolves led the Central Division from start to finish during their 33-game season and led the 28-team AHL in scoring with 4.0 goals per game. Only the Hershey Bears (.758) and Laval Rocket (.694) posted a better points percentage than the Wolves (.682).
“I thought all our coaches worked well together on what we wanted to do and what the plan was,” Warsofsky said as last season closed. “I thought ultimately it was a positive and success story. Obviously winning helps, but I know both organizations are happy with how it went.”
Now that the AHL has returned to its full complement of 31 teams, the Wolves and Admirals have gone their separate ways — but each roster features nine guys who were teammates as recently as May 15.
The Chicago Nine are forwards Dominik Bokk, David Cotton, David Gust, Stelio Mattheos, Spencer Smallman and Ryan Suzuki and defensemen Cavan Fitzgerald, Joey Keane and Max Lajoie. The Milwaukee Nine are forwards Patrick Harper, Anthony Richard, Cole Smith and Zach Solow, defensemen Frederic Allard, Jeremy Davies, Marc Del Gaizo and Josh Healey and goaltender Devin Cooley.
MAKING SOME HISTORY
Last Saturday night, Katie Guay became the first woman to officiate an AHL or NHL game when she served as a referee in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 2-1 home win over Lehigh Valley. Since that game, referees Jacqueline Zee Howard and Kelly Cooke also have worked their first AHL games with linesperson Kelsey Mahoney slated to work tonight at Manitoba.
Saturday it will be Samantha Hiller’s turn to make her debut. Hiller, a firefighter/paramedic for the Lake Forest Fire Department, joins Jordan Samuels-Thomas as the referee combo for Saturday’s game. Hiller’s resume includes officiating International Ice Hockey Federation tournaments overseas in addition to college and high school games closer to home.
we are the wolves
Tonight’s clash has been declared AHLTV’s Free Game of the Week. The AHL provides this as a service to hockey fans everywhere, but this season has moved this weekly contest from Facebook to AHLTV.
For those who do not have an AHLTV account, you can sign up for free at AHLTV.com. Fans who tune in will witness the 280th regular-season meeting between the Wolves and the Admirals since they met for the first time on Oct. 15, 1994 — just two weeks into Chicago’s first season. The Wolves have faced the Admirals more than any other opponent over the years.
OPENING NIGHT RESULTS
- The Wolves seized a 2-0 lead in the second period at Allstate Arena, but the IceHogs answered with four consecutive goals to ruin Chicago’s 28th season opener.
- Forward C.J. Smith delivered a power-play goal, center Ryan Suzuki contributed a short-handed goal and defenseman Eric Gelinas added a power-play tally to pull the Wolves within 4-3 late.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon stopped 17 of 21 shots.
By the numbers
2: Twenty-one-year-old center Jack Drury made his North American professional debut Saturday night against Rockford. Not only did the Winnetka native take the next step toward the NHL (he was the Carolina Hurricanes’ second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft), Drury took a step into the Wolves record book. His father, Ted, produced 21 goals and 21 assists in 68 regular-season games for the 2000-01 Wolves squad that reached the Turner Cup Final. Jack and Ted Drury join Chris and Jake Chelios as the only father-son combos to play for the Wolves in their 28-season history.
3: The Wolves boast a total of three Chicago-area natives on their Opening Night squad. In addition to Winnetka native Jack Drury, who attended Loyola Academy for two years before leaving the state to play junior hockey, the Wolves also feature 22-year-old defenseman Joey Keane from Homer Glen and 27-year-old forward David Gust from Orland Park. Both made their Wolves debuts last season.
14: Last week, 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.
17: Saturday’s opener against Rockford marked the 2,076th regular-season game in Wolves history. It also marked just the 17th time the Wolves received at least five more power-play opportunities than their opponent, yet did not win the game. The Wolves, who earned eight power plays compared to the IceHogs’ three on Saturday, own a record of 31-12-2-3 (.698) when getting at least five man-advantage chances.
18: Second-year center Ryan Suzuki scored a short-handed goal during Saturday’s opener at Rockford — and it marked the first time in 18 games the Wolves suffered a regulation loss while producing a short-handed goal. This hadn’t happened to the Wolves since Oct. 28, 2018, when former Chicago center Gage Quinney registered an SHG in a 3-2 loss at San Antonio.
71: Forward C.J. Smith and defenseman Eric Gelinas scored in their Wolves debut Saturday night against Rockford, which made them the 70th and 71st skaters in Wolves history to score in their first game for the White, Burgundy and Gold. Defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald is the only other player on Chicago’s roster to achieve this feat — as he delivered on Opening Night last season in a 3-1 win over Grand Rapids on Feb. 5, 2021. Milwaukee also has a player on this list as center Cody Glass scored two goals on April 5, 2019, in his professional debut for the Wolves at Panther Arena.
410: Since the Wolves organization played its first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 703 players have suited up for Chicago. That includes 12 players who made their Wolves debut during Saturday’s opener against Rockford. Because nine of Saturday’s Wolves newbies joined the team with NHL experience on their resume — and because forwards Tommy Novak and Phil Tomasino, two members of last year’s team, have made recent NHL debuts with the Nashville Predators — a total of 410 current and former Wolves have competed in the greatest league in the world. Put another way, 58.3 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|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|
|Saturday, Nov. 6||vs. Manitoba||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.