ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (4-6-1-0)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (8-4-1-0)
KEEP PUSHIN’ ON
Chicago Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky isn’t big on excuses. Not many professional hockey coaches are. So Warsofsky will not be the one who points out that tonight’s Red Kettle Game against the Rockford IceHogs will be the Wolves’ sixth contest in nine days. Meanwhile, this will be just the IceHogs’ third over the same timeframe.
Now, over the course of a full season, the Wolves figure to be the more rested team approximately as often as they’re not — though the Central Division’s imbalanced schedule will have a small influence on that. In addition, being better-rested doesn’t necessarily mean a team becomes more likely to win.
But during the course of this busy stretch, the Wolves aren’t catching many breaks from the schedulemaker. Last Saturday, the Wolves hosted a Toronto Marlies squad that hadn’t played in a week. Toronto earned a 5-1 victory against a Chicago squad that had battled the night before in Rockford.
Last night, the Wolves traveled to Rockford and suffered a 6-3 loss after breaking out to a 2-0 lead. Did the game’s reversal have anything to do with the fact the IceHogs hadn’t played in a week while the Wolves had played three games in the previous six days? Maybe. Maybe not.
What matters now is how the Wolves respond in tonight’s game. After last Saturday’s 5-1 loss to Toronto, they came back the next afternoon and delivered a more physical, complete effort that ended in a 2-1 overtime loss despite dominating the extra session.
A LOOK AROUND THE LEAGUE
When the Wolves suffered their first road loss Friday night after opening with six wins, the Utica Comets (5-0-0-0) and Stockton Heat (4-0-0-0) became the AHL’s only flawless road teams. Actually, the Comets are flawless all the way around as they set the AHL record for best start with Friday’s 4-1 win over Charlotte. Utica’s 12 straight wins to open the season breaks the record set by the 1984-85 Rochester Americans. (We won’t be the ones to tell the Comets those Amerks finished third in their division and didn’t make it past the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs).
Closer to home, today marks the first time since Oct. 27 that the Wolves wake up outside of first place in the Central Division. The Iowa Wild sneaked past the Wolves with a 5-0 home win over the Tucson Roadrunners, which pushed the Wild’s points percentage to .708 while the Wolves’ loss at Rockford dropped them to .654. The third-place Manitoba Moose edged closer to the Wolves with a 4-3 home win over Milwaukee that moved the Moose’s points percentage to .633.
The Pacific Division boasts the top two teams in the Western Conference — at least according to points percentage — in the Stockton Heat (9-0-2-0) and the Ontario Reign (10-1-0-0).
we are the wolves
Friday’s game served as Jared Nightingale’s debut behind the bench as Rockford’s assistant coach.
Nightingale and the Wolves have enjoyed a longtime friendly relationship dating all the way back to the 2007-08 season, when the defenseman from Cheboygan, Michigan, appeared in five regular-season games for the eventual Calder Cup champs.
Nightingale returned to the Wolves in 2015-16 and 2016-17 and helped Chicago win the AHL’s 2017 Central Division crown. This also was the time he joined forces with Scooter Vaughan to form the Great Lakes Hockey Camp, which hosts week-long events in the
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves jumped to a 2-0 lead in the opening eight minutes, but Rockford caught up after 20 minutes and scored the game’s final three goals in the third period.
- Forward Dominik Bokk and defenseman Josh Jacobs scored early and forward David Gust pulled the Wolves into a 3-3 tie late in the second period.
- Goaltender Eetu Makiniemi stopped 21 of 25 shots.
- 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.
By the numbers
2: You can count on two fingers the number of times the Wolves have been outshot during their first 13 games this season. The first game was way back on Oct. 22 when the Wolves allowed a season-high 43 shots in a 3-2 win at Milwaukee. The second was Nov. 6 when Manitoba limited the Wolves to a season-low 23 attempts during a 5-1 Moose win at Allstate Arena. Chicago enters tonight’s action riding a six-game streak of outshooting its opponent. The Wolves own a 221-152 margin (36.8-25.3 per game) in shots during this run.
8: Second-year forward Dominik Bokk notched his first goal of the season to open the scoring Friday night at Rockford. It came in his eighth appearance of the year, which counts as a dry spell for the explosive 21-year-old Germany native. But if Bokk’s performance last year is any indication, this will be the start of a nice run for him. Last season, Bokk didn’t score his first goal until Game 9 — but he promptly scored four games in a row and seven of the next 10.
20: Dominik Bokk wasn’t the only Wolves player to score his first goal of the season Friday night. Less than five minutes after Bokk gave Chicago a 1-0 lead, defenseman Josh Jacobs whistled a rising wrister past goaltender Arvid Soderblom to secure his first goal since Feb. 9, 2020, while playing for the Binghamton Devils against the Cleveland Monsters. Jacobs had gone 38 games without a goal. More to the point of this note, Bokk and Jacobs became the 19th and 20th Wolves this season to produce a goal. This leaves only four skaters who have yet to notch a goal this season: Defenseman Jesper Sellgren (12 games) and forwards Josh Leivo (5 games), Stephen Harper (3 games) and Kyle Marino (loaned to Idaho on Thursday after 3 games for the Wolves).
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 Wolves’ previous best against the Griffins was 47, which occurred during a 5-1 Grand Rapids win on Oct. 16, 2004.
200: Orland Park native David Gust made his 200th American Hockey League game count. With the Wolves trailing 3-2 late in the second period Friday night at Rockford, Gust rifled home a blast to pull the Wolves into a tie — and lift his career AHL numbers to an aestheticly pleasing ratio. Gust now owns 100 points (48G, 52A) in those 200 games spread between Bakersfield, Charlotte and the Wolves.
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 Nov. 12 at Rockford. When goaltender Zach Fucale became the first goalie in Washington Capitals history to earn a shutout in his NHL debut on Nov. 11, 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
|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|
|Saturday, Dec. 4||at Iowa||6 p.m.||Wells Fargo Arena||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.