TORONTO MARLIES (6-4-0-0)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (7-3-0-0)
YOU WANT SUSPENSE?
The Chicago Wolves are 10 games into their 2021-22 schedule. So far, sports fans who live for stressful third periods and nailbiting finishes have not been sated. The Wolves have not needed to play beyond 60 minutes. Only one of their games has been decided by one goal — and that was a bit of a misnomer because Milwaukee scored a power-play goal with 11 seconds left on Oct. 22 in order to cut the Wolves’ final margin to 3-2.
On only one occasion, the team that led after two periods failed to win. That lone rally came Oct. 29 when the Wolves scored three third-period goals to secure a 4-2 win at Milwaukee.
The thrill-seekers and adrenalin junkies came away disappointed again Saturday night when the Toronto Marlies, making their first appearance in Chicago since April 19, 2015, scored two goals in the opening five minutes and the Wolves never caught up in a 5-1 final. It marked the third time in five home games that the Wolves allowed five goals in a loss — and the third home game in a row where they fell behind 2-0 before 11 minutes elapsed.
“I think our mental focus from the puck drop lacks at times,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “When things don’t go our way, we let it snowball — snowball out of control.”
If there’s a silver lining, it’s in the fact the Wolves have shown the ability to bounce back from their home losses. Last Saturday, for example, another team from Canada (the Manitoba Moose) made its first visit to Chicago in a few years and earned a 5-1 win. But the following afternoon, the Wolves recovered to earn a 4-2 victory over Milwaukee.
LOVE THAT THIRD LINE
When the season began, the Wolves’ fourth line consisted of left wing Sam Miletic, center Maxim Letunov and right wing Spencer Smallman. But after providing consistent performances night after night, they have moved up to become the third line — and they have been the line head coach Ryan Warsofsky has chosen as his starters in six of the last seven games.
“They’ve been kind of our engine, our line that’s been really good,” Warsofsky said. “They’re setting the tone. That’s why we start them. They’re guys that can hold on to pucks, that can make plays.”
Letunov and Spellman set up Miletic for the Wolves’ lone goal Saturday night. In Rockford Friday night, Spellman set up Letunov for the empty-net goal that clinched the 4-1 win over the IceHogs. For the year, Letunov owns 2 goals, 2 assists and a +2 plus/minus rating, Smallman has 1 goal, 3 assists and a +4 plus/minus rating and Miletic shows 1 goal, 2 assists and a +3 plus/minus rating for his efforts.
The 25-year-old Letunov, who played three games for the San Jose Sharks in 2019-20, carries a three-game point streak into today’s game.
we are the wolves
The first time the Wolves played a team from Toronto, the date was Oct. 25, 2003, and the team was known as the Toronto Roadrunners and affiliated with the Edmonton Oilers.
The Roadrunners’ head coach was Geoff Ward, whose son, Cody, is in his first year as the Wolves’ video coach. One of the more prominent players on that Roadrunners squad was Rocky Thompson, who served as the Wolves’ head coach from 2017 to 2020.
The Roadrunners lasted just one year in Toronto, though, before moving to Edmonton. That paved the way for the St. John’s Maple Leafs to move to Toronto in 2005 and become the Marlies.
Prior to Saturday, the Wolves and the Marlies had not met since April 19, 2015 (the final day of the regular season). Toronto took a 5-2 win at Allstate Arena that afternoon as goaltender Antoine Bibeau, who spent last year with the Wolves, earned the victory.
LAST TWO GAMES
- In the Marlies’ first trip to Chicago in seven seasons, the visitors scored two goals in the opening five minutes and kept going despite the Wolves owning a 39-25 shot advantage.
- Forward Sam Miletic recorded his first goal with the Wolves as linemates Spencer Smallman and Maxim Letunov set up his score.
- Goaltender Beck Warm stopped 20 shots in his first AHL game this season.
- The Wolves scored three first-period goals and outshot Rockford 16-1 in the opening 20 minutes to secure the win in Rockford.
- Forwards Andrew Poturalski and Stefan Noesen and defenseman Eric Gelinas scored in the first period while center Maxim Letunov added an empty-net goal late.
- Goaltender Eetu Makiniemi notched 18 saves.
By the numbers
3: With a little bit of luck, rookie goaltender Eetu Makiniemi could be entering today’s game with three shutouts in six career AHL starts. The 22-year-old from Finland, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes, pitched a shutout in his AHL debut on Oct. 22 at Milwaukee for 56 minutes and 59 seconds. The Admirals couldn’t solve him until they pulled their goalie to set up a 6-on-4 power play. Makiniemi earned a shutout in his second career start with 25 saves on Oct. 27 at Grand Rapids. Then, on Friday night at Rockford, Makiniemi blanked the IceHogs until they scored on a 6-on-4 power play with 3:29 to go.
4: Ontario’s Sean Durzi is the only AHL defenseman who owns more goals than the Wolves’ 25-year-old Jalen Chatfield, who has delivered four goals in 10 games this season. It’s a considerably higher scoring rate than he had shown prior to this year — he joined the Wolves with two goals in 142 career AHL appearances — yet he has found a place in Wolves annals alongside Vince Dunn, now with the Seattle Kraken, and Nic Hague, now with the Vegas Golden Knights. Dunn posted four goals during a three-game streak Feb. 22-26, 2017, while Hague delivered five goals in a four-game stretch Dec. 5-15, 2018. Chatfield became the third Wolves d-man since 2004-05 to post a three-game goal streak Oct. 31 to Nov. 7.
6: The Chicago Wolves wrap up their first 3-in-3 — three games in a three-day stretch — with today’s contest. It’s their first of six such 3-in-3 situations this season, which is the most the AHL schedulemakers have handed the Wolves since the 2016-17 season. None of the other Central Division teams have as many 3-in-3s. Grand Rapids is closest to the Wolves with four while Milwaukee and Rockford have three, Manitoba has two and Iowa and Texas will play one apiece.
11: Today marks the two-week anniversary of the five-point outbursts by Andrew Poturalski and C.J. Smith on Halloween at Grand Rapids. Poturalski’s 3 goals and 2 assists and Smith’s 1 goal and 4 assiss made them the 10th and 11th Wolves to produce a five-point game in the franchise’s 28-season history. Steve Maltais and Rob Brown posted five such games while Jason Krog notched four. Dan Currie and Cory Larose each achieved the feat twice while Lonny Bohonos, Brooks Macek, Spencer Machacek and Brett Sterling each did it once.
34: When he handled the goaltending duties in this year’s opener, Alex Lyon became the first Wolves player since Kari Lehtonen to wear No. 34. Lyon played just three games this season for the Wolves before being recalled by the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. Lyon was yanked from the starting lineup minutes before the Nov. 6 loss to Manitoba due to an injury suffered by Canes backup Antti Raanta. Lyon received his first start for the Canes Saturday night and he came through with a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Lyon rejected 27 shots to pick up his seventh career NHL win — and his first since May 3 when he racked up 35 saves to backstop the Philadelphia Flyers to a 7-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
414: Since the Wolves organization played its first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 707 players have suited up for Chicago. Center Stephen Harper was the latest to make his debut when he played Friday night at Rockford. When forward Paul Cotter made his debut with the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday night and goaltender Zach Fucale became the first goalie in Washington Capitals history to earn a shutout in his debut Thursday night, they became the 413th and 414th Wolves to compete in the greatest league in the world. Put another way, 58.6 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|Wednesday, Nov. 17||at Grand Rapids||10 a.m.||Van Andel Arena||AHLTV|
|Friday, Nov. 19||at Rockford||7 p.m.||MetroCentre||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Nov. 20||vs. Rockford||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Friday, Nov. 26||at Grand Rapids||6 p.m.||Van Andel Arena||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Nov. 27||vs. Rockford||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.