CHICAGO WOLVES (2-1-0-0)
AT GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (1-2-0-0)
KEEP PUSHING ON
The Chicago Wolves thoroughly enjoyed their pair of wins over the Milwaukee Admirals last weekend. The Wolves never trailed during their 3-2 and 6-1 victories in the home-and-home series. Now Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky aims to ensure his guys aren’t still basking in the glow of those wins when they hit the ice tonight at Grand Rapids.
“(Tuesday’s practice) was an important day for what we’re going to see (today),” Warsofsky said. “But moreso, it was about how we need to play. The message was pretty clear: Today is a new day. For us to be successful, we have to play the same way every day. It needs to be Friday night, Saturday night, Monday at practice, Tuesday at practice, and Wednesday at the game again. That’s part of being a pro — and part of being a successful team.”
For his part, Warsofsky spent Tuesday afternoon’s three-hour bus ride to Grand Rapids scouring Griffins video yet again. While some of Grand Rapids’ more memorable veterans have moved along after years in western Michigan (think Dylan McIlrath and Joe Hicketts), there are still plenty of familiar faces (think Riley Barber, Kyle Criscuolo and Taro Hirose) who the Wolves faced 10 times between February and May last season.
“Their team has changed a little bit on the back end, but they’re still a structured team that plays well in their own building,” Warsofsky said. “We need to be aware of what they’re trying to do — and what we did Saturday needs to continue. We can’t take a step back.”
GOALIES ON A ROLL
From the third period of their opener on Oct. 16 to the final seconds of their 6-1 win over Milwaukee on Oct. 23, the Chicago Wolves went 133 minutes and 5 seconds without allowing an even-strength goal. While that’s a credit to everyone on the ice, an extra nod deserves to go to goaltenders Eetu Makiniemi and Alex Lyon.
On Friday at Milwaukee, the 22-year-old Makiniemi turned his North American debut into a spectacular showcase. The Vantaa, Finland, native stopped the first 36 shots he saw — including a pair of Anthony Richard breakaways 27 seconds in the second period and a ridiculous diving play to rob Richard in the third — and finished with 41 saves to earn the 3-2 win. The only goals he allowed came when the Admirals enjoyed a 6-on-4 advantage in the waning minutes and were in desperation mode.
On Saturday in Rosemont, it was Lyon’s turn to be a stone wall. He wasn’t as busy as Makiniemi, but the 28-year-old from Baudette, Minnesota, was just as effective as he rejected 18 of 19 shots he faced. Milwaukee didn’t get on the board until a scramble around the net 1:09 remained in regulation.
“Eetu was outstanding,” Warsofsky said. “Those two breakaway saves were a game-changer. And then Alex, he’s very calm back there. You can tell he’s got some confidence. He has played at a high level.”
we are the wolves
This marks the seventh year in a row the Grand Rapids Griffins head coach boasts extensive Wolves ties.
In 2015, former Wolves assistant coach Todd Nelson took over the Griffins top job. Nelson, who won the 2008 Calder Cup as John Anderson’s right-hand man, led Grand Rapids to the 2017 Calder Cup before being hired by the Dallas Stars as an assistant in May 2018.
That’s when Ben Simon, Nelson’s top assistant, took over as Griffins boss. Simon made his AHL debut with the Wolves in 2001 and produced 11 goals and 23 assists for a squad that wound up hoisting the 2002 Calder Cup. Simon played in all 25 postseason games.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves scored three goals in a 93-second stretch late in the first period on their way to a 6-0 lead and a weekend sweep of the Admirals.
- Forwards David Gust, Stefan Noesen and Maxim Letunov scored in the first while forwards Andrew Poturalski, Stelio Mattheos and C.J. Smith added goals in the second and third.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon blanked the Admirals for nearly 59 minutes and finished with 18 saves.
- The Wolves scored one goal in each period to grab a 3-0 lead, then held on for their first win of the year despite two late Milwaukee goals during 6-on-4 power plays.
- Forward C.J. Smith earned the game-winning goal with a power-play tally while forward RDavid Cotton and defenseman Jalen Chatfield also scored for the Wolves.
- Goaltender Eetu Makiniemi posted 41 saves to win his North American debut.
By the numbers
2: On Tuesday, the American Hockey League announced the four people who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Feb. 7 during the AHL All-Star Classic at Laval. Keith Aucoin and Nolan Baumgartner both have Wolves ties as they capped their legendary North American playing careers in Chicago. Aucoin ranked second on the 2014 Midwest Division champions with 43 points (11G, 32A) in 62 games. Baumgartner served as captain for the 2012 Midwest Division champions, then hung up his skates to become a Wolves assistant coach. That launched a career behind the bench that finds him in his fifth year as a Vancouver Canucks assistant.
3: The Wolves have opened the scoring in all three of their games this season — jumping out to a 2-0 lead over Rockford in their Oct. 16 opener, a 3-0 lead on Oct. 22 at Milwaukee and a 6-0 lead on Oct. 23 at home. Chicago and the Bakersfield Condors are the only AHL teams to have scored the first goal in each of their games. The Condors are 2-2-0-0 in their games.
9: Left wing C.J. Smith, No. 9 on your roster, has scored one goal in each of the Wolves’ first three games and is the only player on the squad with more than one tally this season. If he scores in tonight’s game, he’ll match the four-game goal streak that 19-year-old rookie Seth Jarvis authored to start last season. Smith and Jarvis are the first Wolves player to score goals in each of the first three games since Jason Krog tallied once in each of the first three games of the 2007-08 season. Krog, of course, went on to win the AHL’s regular-season and postseason MVP awards to lead the Wolves to their fourth league championship.
10: The Wolves pride themselves on being consistent. One piece of evidence this season? The Wolves have attempted at least 10 shots in all nine periods they’ve played this season. On the flip side, the Wolves have allowed fewer than 10 shots in five of those nine periods. Chicago ranks seventh in the 31-team AHL with 27 more shots than its opponents. Grand Rapids, meanwhile, ranks fourth from the bottom with 31 fewer shots than its opponents
20: Last year, the Wolves ranked third among the AHL’s 28 teams in penalty minutes with an average of 16.03 PIMS per game. But this year, the Wolves have been the most gentlemanly team in the AHL. Chicago served just 20 penalty minutes in its first three games as the squad has been assessed 10 minors and no majors. The 6.67 penalty minutes per game lags way behind league-leading San Diego, which averages 19.67 penalty minutes per tilt.
22: Veteran center Andrew Poturalski, who wears No. 22, has the distinction of being the first Wolves player since Paul Thompson in 2017-18 to wear the “C” on his sweater. The likable Poturalski says he prefers to lead by deeds as opposed to words — and the Williamsville, New York, native is off to a fast start in this regard. Poturalski leads the squad in assists (4) and points (5) as he joins linemate C.J. Smith (3G) as the only Wolves to get on the scoresheet in all three games.
411: Since the Wolves organization played its first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 705 players have suited up for Chicago. Twenty-year-old Russia native Artyom Serikov was the latest to make his debut Saturday against Milwaukee. When goaltender Connor Ingram, who played for the Wolves last year, made his victorious NHL debut with the Nashville Predators Sunday, he became the 411th current or former Wolves player to compete in the greatest league in the world. Put another way, 58.3 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|Friday, Oct. 29
|Sunday, Oct. 31
|at Grand Rapids
|Van Andel Arena
|Saturday, Nov. 6
|Sunday, Nov. 7
|Friday, Nov. 12
All games are streamed on AHLTV.