CHICAGO WOLVES (8-3-1-0)
AT ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (3-6-1-0)
SHOOTING OUR SHOT
Not many American Hockey League teams enjoying firing pucks at the net as much as the Chicago Wolves do. Head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s crew enters tonight’s game at Rockford ranked third in the league with 34.67 shots per game.
The Wolves have three players among the AHL’s Top 50 in shot attempts — and they’re all members of the team’s top line. Left wing C.J. Smith shares 13th place with 40 shots, center Andrew Poturalski shares 21st place with 38 shots and right wing Stefan Noesen shares 24th place with 37 shots.
As a whole, the Wolves have been particularly trigger-happy since last Friday’s game at Rockford — when they outshot the IceHogs 16-1 in the first period on the way to a 4-1 victory.
After piling up 34 shots last Friday, the Wolves launched 39 shots Saturday against Toronto, 38 shots Sunday against Toronto and a season-high 48 shots during Wednesday’s 2-1 overtime victory at Grand Rapids. Those 48 shots, by the way, are the most by a Wolves team in a regular-season game since a 50-shot outburst during a 5-2 loss on Jan. 9, 2016, at Texas. The 48 shots are tied for the 17th-highest total in Wolves history.
There’s a reasonable chance the Wolves will improve their shots per game average tonight. Rockford ranks last in the AHL in shots allowed (37.40), but also ranks last in shots for (21.50). The Wolves have contributed to both of these totals by stacking up 77 shots in their two meetings with Rockford this season while allowing just 41.
GETTING THOSE ROAD DUBS
Wednesday’s overtime victory at Grand Rapids improved the Wolves’ road record to an AHL-best 6-0-0-0. The Utica Comets (5-0-0-0) and Stockton Heat (4-0-0-0) are the only other teams that have maximized their road opportunities. Despite this excellence — which features a league-best +13 goal differential — this Wolves crew still has a ways to go to crack the team’s record book.
This marks the Wolves’ 10th road winning streak of at least six games in their 28-season history. The record is owned by the 1999-2000 squad that won nine straight from Feb. 25 to March 30 on the way to the Turner Cup championship. The craziest thing about that streak? Each of the last six games was won via shootout. Current Wolves general manager Wendell Young won two of those shootouts and eventual postseason MVP Andrei Trefilov won the other four.
This year’s Wolves haven’t even set the record for most wins to start a season. That mark belongs to the 2006-07 squad that opened on an 8-0-0-0 spree while outscoring their foes 45-17. That group enjoyed breaking home teams’ hearts so much, they pieced together a six-game road winning streak just one month later.
we are the wolves
This weekend marks the first of three times this season when the Wolves and IceHogs will play each other on back-to-back nights. On all three occasions (which include Dec. 31-Jan. 1 and Feb. 11-12), Rockford hosts the first game and Chicago the second.
Saturday’s contest is the Wolves’ third annual Red Kettle Game presented by the Salvation Army. This is the time of year when the most people are in need, which means supporting the Salvation Army’s wide variety of services becomes particularly important. To find the best tickets for the Red Kettle Game, contact a Wolves ticket representative HERE or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Thirty-one seconds into overtime, captain Andrew Poturalski slalomed through three defenders and deked the goaltender to score the game-winner at Van Andel Arena.
- Forward Jamieson Rees scored his first of the season to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead in the second. Jack Drury assisted on his goal and Stefan Noesen assisted on Poturalski’s winner.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon stopped 26 shots to earn the win.
- With 1.3 seconds remaining in overtime, Toronto rookie center Semyon Der-Arguchintsev scored to give the visitors the extra point at Allstate Arena.
- Center Maxim Letunov extended his point streak to four games with a first-period goal that was assisted by forward Jamieson Rees and defenseman Joey Keane.
- Goaltender Eetu Makiniemi rejected 25 of 27 shots.
By the numbers
4: When Wolves center Andrew Poturalski beat three defenders and a goaltender to score the game-winning overtime goal Wednesday at Grand Rapids, it marked the fourth time in the 27-year-old’s career he has won a game in OT. Poturalski earned his first OT winner on Feb. 24, 2017, in a 5-4 home win for the Charlotte Checkers over the Cleveland Monsters. He notched his other two overtime winners for the Checkers during the 2018-19 season that led to the Calder Cup — the first on Dec. 2 at Providence and the second on Dec. 29 at Laval. Poturalski has delivered 21 game-winning goals during his six-year career — 18 in the regular season and 3 in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
10: The Chicago Wolves’ penalty-kill crew has snuffed their opponents’ last 10 power plays and 16 of the last 17 overall. That has improved the team’s success rate from 69.2 percent to 79.1 percent, which stands 19th in the 31-team AHL. The only successful power play against the Wolves since the first period of the Nov. 7 win over Milwaukee occurred last Friday at Rockford when Brett Connolly scored at 16:31 of the third period when the IceHogs pulled their goalie in order to gain a 6-on-4 advantage. “We’re finding our identity and who we can trust in that situation and that’s been good,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. The majority of the team took turns killing penalties during Wednesday’s win at Grand Rapids, though Max Lajoie and Cavan Fitzgerald were the first defensemen pairing for all three penalty kills. In fact, Lajoie, Fitzgerald and forward Spencer Smallman had to stay on the ice for the first 1:45 of the Griffins’ second power play.
35: Four days before the season began, the Wolves’ social media team asked each player and coach to state their opinion on who’s the GOAT in sports. While most answered along the lines of “Tom Brady” or “Tiger Woods,” rookie goaltender Eetu Makiniemi (who wears No. 35) stood out for declaring Tuukka Rask as the greatest of all time. While that might be a bit of a stretch, the 22-year-old Finland native has been putting up numbers like his Stanley Cup-champion countryman. Makiniemi enters today’s game ranked sixth among all AHL netminders in goals-against average (1.99). The Carolina Hurricanes’ fourth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft shares fourth in wins (5) and stands eighth in save percentage (.929).
48: When the Wolves launched 48 shots in Wednesday’s game at Grand Rapids, it marked the 23rd time in the team’s 28-season history that they fired at least 48 shots in a regular-season game. Of those 23 games, the Wolves own 19 wins, 2 losses and 2 shootout losses. Those 48 shots also set a Wolves record against Grand Rapids, which is particularly impressive because the Wolves and Griffins have been battling since 1996 and Wednesday’s game was the 174th regular-season meeting in their long rivalry. The previous mark was 47, which occurred during a 5-1 Grand Rapids win on Oct. 16, 2004.
200: Today’s game serves as the 200th professional game for Orland Park native David Gust. The 27-year-old forward has spent his entire professional career in the American Hockey League since being graduated from The Ohio State University in 2017. Gust has been an important part of the Wolves offense this season as he ranks fourth on the squad with 7 points (3G, 4A) in 11 games. In two seasons with Bakersfield, one with Charlotte and one-plus with the Wolves, Gust owns 47 goals, 52 assists and a +16 plus/minus rating.
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 last Friday night at Rockford. When goaltender Zach Fucale became the first goalie in Washington Capitals history to earn a shutout in his debut Thursday night, he became the 414th Wolves alum 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
|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|
|Sunday, Nov. 28||vs. Grand Rapids||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Thursday, Dec. 2||vs. Iowa||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.