CHICAGO WOLVES (8-4-1-1)
AT GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (7-5-2-1)
One of the Chicago Wolves’ finest and longest-running traditions occurs on Thanksgiving Day. Not long after co-founding the Wolves, owner and chairman Don Levin realized the players couldn’t leave town for the holiday due to all of the games that week.
That’s when Levin decided he would rent a ballroom at The Drake Hotel downtown and invite all of the players and hockey operations staff and their families for a feast. Anything anyone could possibly want to enjoy on Thanksgiving — whether it be an appetizer, a main course, a dessert or a little something from the open bar — is always there at your fingertips. You can take some to go, too.
This year, the team worked out in the morning at Allstate Arena, then shared a chartered bus ride into the city for mid-afternoon dining. Then the Wolves re-boarded the bus and set a course for Grand Rapids and tonight’s Black Friday affair.
Which brings us to the Wolves’ other Thanksgiving tradition: Hitting the road for a Black Friday contest, then returning home to play Saturday (and usually Sunday). Usually, though, the Wolves get to have their Thanksgiving coma in their own bed Thursday night before taking a Friday afternoon bus ride to their next game.
From 2014 to 2019, the Wolves played at either Rockford or Milwaukee each Black Friday (except when they had nothing scheduled in 2016). Chicago posted a 2-2-1-0 mark in those games.
From 2014 to 2019, the Wolves always played at home on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. They fashioned a 3-1-2-0 mark in those games. But when they followed that with a Sunday afternoon home game, they went 0-4-0-0.
FINDING THAT CONSISTENCY
The Wolves completed an arduous six-games-in-nine-days stretch with Saturday’s shootout loss to Rockford. They finished with a 2-2-1-1 record in those games despite scoring just nine goals over the final five contests. Head coach Ryan Warsofsky gave his players two days off to recuperate, then he conducted brisk workouts Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to prepare for this weekend’s 3-in-3. What does Warsofsky want to see during these three games in a 48-hour stretch?
“Obviously the results aren’t what we want, but we’ve done some good things and we continue to learn,” Warsofsky said. “I think every team in the American Hockey League is going through it. You talk to other coaches, you see other teams: They win 6-1 and then the next night they lose 5-2. It happens early in the season. We’re still finding our way. It’s going to be important that we continue to get better. We can’t take steps back. We have to take a step forward and it starts in practice. Get going and just focus on our practice. We can’t get too wrapped up in what happens this weekend. That’s where we get a lack of focus.”
we are the wolves
A little bit of history is on the line tonight as the Wolves can win their fourth straight game at Van Andel Arena. Since the Chicago-Grand Rapids rivalry began Nov. 1, 1996, the Wolves have won four games in a row in the same season on Griffins ice just one time: Oct. 29 to Dec. 11, 2004.
In each of those games, Kari Lehtonen starred in net for the Wolves while Joey MacDonald started all four for the Griffins. Chicago outscored Grand Rapids by a combined 14-6 as center Cory Larose scored a pair of goals in the Nov. 18 win and defenseman Travis Roche notched a pair of goals in the Nov. 26 win (also, coincidentally, a Black Friday game).
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves seized a 2-0 lead in the opening nine minutes, but the IceHogs caught up in the third period to set up Dylan McLaughlin’s game-winner in the fourth round of the shootout.
- Forwards Stefan Noesen and David Gust gave the Wolves the lead while Andrew Poturalski, C.J. Smith and Max Lajoie earned the assists.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon stopped 23 of 25 shots in regulation and overtime.
- 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.
By the numbers
2: You can count on two fingers the number of times the Wolves have been outshot during their first 14 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 seven-game streak of outshooting its opponent. The Wolves own a 254-178 margin (36.3-25.4 per game) in shots during this run.
8.9: While the Wolves rank near the top of the AHL with 34.5 shots per game — that’s third in the league behind Central Division mates Iowa and Manitoba — they rank near the bottom with their 8.9 shooting percentage (43 goals on 483 shots). Considering the Wolves have posted a season-long shooting percentage in the 8s just once in their 28-year history — the 2015-16 team that was the only one not to post a winning record finished at 8.8 — it’s highly likely Chicago will return to the mean soon and start scoring in bunches.
25: The Wolves added a new player Wednesday when they signed rookie right wing Ivan Lodnia to a Standard Player Contract (SPC). He’ll wear No. 25 for the Wolves. The 22-year-old was selected by the Minnesota Wild in the third round of the 2017 NHL Draft, just 12 picks after new Wolves teammate Stelio Mattheos. The Los Angeles native stacked up 106 goals during five junior hockey seasons with the OHL’s Erie Otters and Niagara IceDogs. In 2017, he was teammates with current Blackhawks Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat on a high-powered Erie Otters squad that reached the Memorial Cup championship game. Alas, the Windsor Spitfires (and new Wolves teammate Jalen Chatfield) won the title game 4-3. Lodnia has played just six pro games in North America. When he was 18, he joined the Iowa Wild on an amateur tryout contract and played six games near the end of the 2017-18 regular season.
26: For each of the Wolves’ first 13 games, their top line consisted of left wing C.J. Smith, center Andrew Poturalski and right wing Stefan Noesen. But in the team’s most recent game Saturday, the coaching staff decided to move rookie Jamieson Rees, who wears No. 26, to the top spot on the left wing. “We thought, ‘Shake it up a little bit,’ ” said head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “Nothing they did wrong. Just give some lines a different look.”
27: Orland Park native David Gust never quite got rolling last year when the Wolves had to juggle affiliations with the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators as he got to play in just 16 of the team’s 33 games. But this time around, Gust has switched his jersey from No. 23 to No. 27 and become a crucial part of everything the Wolves do. He has been called on in all situations and ranks second on the team in goals (5), fourth in points (9) and tied for second in plus-minus rating (+5). He enters tonight’s game riding his second two-game goal streak of the season — something that hadn’t happened since he scored in four in a row for the Charlotte Checkers Jan. 14-24, 2020.
48: When the Wolves launched 48 shots in their 2-1 overtime win Nov. 17 at Grand Rapids, it marked the 23rd time in the team’s 28-season history 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.
415: 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 forward Ben Jones made his debut with the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday, he became the 415th Wolves alum to compete in the greatest league in the world. Put another way, 58.7 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|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|
|Sunday, Dec. 5||at Iowa||3 p.m.||Wells Fargo Arena||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.