CHICAGO WOLVES (4-1-0-0)
AT GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (2-3-0-1)
Let’s be fair. The Chicago Wolves are only five games into a 76-game regular season. Before Halloween, it’s a little too soon to determine what’s a definite trait of any team and what might just be a trend.
But during this four-game winning streak the Wolves carry into today’s Central Division clash at Grand Rapids, head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s squad has shown all of the signs that good teams exhibit.
First, the Wolves are good at even strength. They own an 11-2 scoring margin at even strength during this winning streak and 11-6 for the season.
Second, the Wolves are good on special teams. They carry a 7-3 lead in power-play goals and they’ve scored the only short-handed goal that has occurred in the first five games. Of the three goals Chicago has allowed while on the penalty kill, two came when a desperate opponent (Milwaukee) pulled its goalie late in the game to set up a 6-on-4 advantage.
Third, the Wolves have a stellar first line that already has figured out how to click in all situations. Center Andrew Poturalski, last year’s AHL scoring champion, has produced 2 points in each game of this winning streak and shares the league lead (minimum three games played) with 1.80 points per game (2G, 7A). Left wing C.J. Smith, meanwhile, owns 3 goals and 3 assists while right wing Stefan Noesen has 2 goals and 2 assists. They have combined for 7 of the Wolves’ 19 goals and 12 of the team’s 34 assists.
Fourth, the Wolves believe they have as much (or more) depth than anyone in the league. Warsofsky is just as content to have his fourth line (LW Sam Miletic, C Maxim Letunov, RW Spencer Smallman) on the ice as his top line. Warsofsky also boasts equal faith in all eight of his defensemen. Twenty of the team’s 21 skaters already have points this season.
FRIGHTENING LIKE JASON
The Wolves have established a potent 1-2 goaltender combo in veteran Alex Lyon and rookie Eetu Makiniemi. The men in the masks have been taking turns in net, which suggests Makiniemi will play this afternoon against the team he shut out Wednesday night at Van Andel Arena.
The 28-year-old Lyon (2-1-0, 2.35 GAA, .891 save percentage) surrendered a few goals Opening Night thanks to some Rockford odd-man rushes, but he has been a stalwart in his last two games against Milwaukee. He blanked the Admirals for nearly 59 minutes on Oct. 23, then allowed one power-play goal and one even-strength goal in Friday’s 4-2 win at Milwaukee.
Makiniemi (2-0-0, 1.00 GAA, .971 save percentage) has been virtually unsolvable in his first two starts in North America. Prior to whitewashing Grand Rapids on Wednesday, Makiniemi shut out Milwaukee for 56 minutes on Oct. 22 before the Admirals battled for two goals with a two-man advantage.
we are the wolves
Today’s game marks just the seventh time the Wolves have suited up on Halloween. Coincidentally, Chicago’s last Oct. 31 game also occurred at Van Andel Arena in 2014 — and it was quite a roller-coaster affair that included three fights.
The Griffins broke out to a 3-0 lead in the opening 14 minutes, but the Wolves responded with four straight goals in less than 11 minutes to seize the lead. Grand Rapids’ Landon Ferraro sent the game into overtime, but the Wolves’ Sebastian Wannstrom tallied 1:56 into the extra session to secure the extra point for the visitors. That boosted the Wolves’ Halloween record to 2-3-0-0 with 1 tie (in 2003 at Houston).
LAST TWO GAMES
- Trailing 2-1 after two periods, the Wolves scored three goals in a six-minute span of the third period to extend their winning streak to four games.
- Forwards Andrew Poturalski and Spencer Smallman and defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald delivered in the third while forward Stefan Noesen opened the scoring in the first.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon posted 22 saves to defeat the Admirals for the second time in seven days.
- The Wolves jumped out to a 2-0 lead for the fourth consecutive game and stayed the course to register their third win in a row.
- Rookie center Jack Drury recorded his first two pro goals in North America — both on the power play — while forward David Gust posted the other goal and Andrew Poturalski had two assists.
- Goaltender Eetu Makiniemi stopped 25 shots to earn his first shutout in North America.
By the numbers
2: For those who didn’t get the AHL memo, Wolves rookie center Jack Drury has been credited with two of the team’s three goals during Wednesday’s 3-0 win at Grand Rapids. In the official box score issued that night, forward C.J. Smith was deemed the goal-scorer on the Wolves’ power-play tally 5:20 into the game. But upon further review the next day, Drury tipped Smith’s pass whistled into the crease. Therefore, that becomes the 21-year-old Drury’s first professional goal in North America. When Drury made his Wolves debut on Oct. 16, he and his father, Ted, became just the second father-son combo in team history — joining Chris and Jake Chelios. Ted Drury suited up for the Wolves in 2000-01 and posted 21 goals and 21 assists while helping the squad reach the Turner Cup Finals in the International Hockey League’s final season.
3: The Wolves are 3-0-0-0 on the road this season with a 10-4 goal differential. They’re the only Western Conference team to pick up three road wins to date. The North Division’s Cleveland Monsters, Rochester Americans and Syracuse Crunch each own three road wins, but they’ve each needed five road games to do it. This marks the first time since 2006-07 the Wolves have won their first three road games. That squad led by AHL MVP Darren Haydar, Jason Krog and Brett Sterling won its first EIGHT road games to set the franchise record.
5: The Wolves have opened the scoring in all five of their games this season, but Friday’s 4-2 win at Milwaukee marked the first time they didn’t score the game’s first two goals. To refresh, the Wolves also have jumped to a 2-0 lead (Oct. 16 vs. Rockford), a 3-0 lead (Oct. 22 at Milwaukee), a 6-0 lead (Oct. 23 vs. Milwaukee) and a 3-0 lead (Wednesday at Grand Rapids). Chicago is the only AHL team to have scored the first goal in each of its games.
5.6: The Wolves lead the AHL with 5.6 power-play opportunities per game (28 in their first five games). Considering they’re converting their power plays at a 25.0 percent rate, this is a lucrative development for the squad. C.J. Smith, Jack Drury and Andrew Poturalski share the team lead with 2 power-play goals apiece.
7: Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski shares third in the AHL in assists with 7. Considering he paced the AHL in assists last year with 34 helpers — seven more than anyone else — this is not a surprise. It’s also not a surprise to see former Wolves center T.J. Tynan leading the AHL with 9 assists in 7 games. Tynan won the AHL’s 2018-19 assist crown with 59 while helping the Wolves reach the Calder Cup Finals — against Poturalski and the Charlotte Checkers.
36: 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 36 penalty minutes in its first five games as the squad has been assessed 18 minors and no majors. The 7.2 penalty minutes per game lags way behind league-leading Toronto, which averages 29.5 penalty minutes per tilt.
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 Oct. 23 against Milwaukee. When goaltender Connor Ingram, who played for the Wolves last year, made his victorious NHL debut with the Nashville Predators last 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
|Saturday, Nov. 6||vs. Manitoba||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Sunday, Nov. 7||vs. Milwaukee||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Friday, Nov. 12||at Rockford||7 p.m.||MetroCentre||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Nov. 13||vs. Toronto||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Sunday, Nov. 14||vs. Toronto||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.