IOWA WILD (9-5-1-0)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (11-4-1-1)
On the eve of the Chicago Wolves’ season opener in mid-October, head coach Ryan Warsofsky was enamored with his eight-strong defenseman group.
“On our back end, we don’t say we have a No. 1 defenseman,” Warsofsky said. “I think we have 1 through 6-7-8. The competition will sort itself out.”
Well, things have sorted themselves out — but not necessarily due to competition. NHL veteran Eric Gelinas, who scored in the season opener and played in nine of the first 12 games, opted to return to the Swedish Hockey League last week. More importantly, blue-line stalwarts Jalen Chatfield and Max Lajoie were recalled from loan Monday by the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes after two of their defensemen headed into COVID-19 protocols.
Chatfield and Lajoie were the only two defensemen to play in all 17 Wolves games this season and also served as the team’s top blue-line scorers: Chatfield ranking one off the AHL lead with 4 goals and Lajoie providing 8 points (1G, 7A). Both played well in their NHL season debuts Tuesday night at Dallas and don’t figure to return any time soon.
Long story short, it’s an inconvenient time to rework defensive pairings and add Norfolk (ECHL) recall Daniel Brickley into the mix. Starting tonight at Allstate Arena, the first-place Wolves face third-place Iowa three times in four days — and the Wild rank fourth in the AHL with 3.60 goals per game.
“We’re going to be challenged by a really good team,” Warsofsky said. “We’ve been watching them. They can score. They’re a high-powered offensive team. They’re well-coached. They play with good structure. They have some younger players who are really contributing and they have veterans like Kyle Rau, so they have a little bit of everything. This is going to be a good test for us. We’ve got to simplify our game. Puck management is going to be a big key.”
BUILDING A RIVALRY
Historically speaking, the Chicago Wolves’ biggest rivals are the Grand Rapids Griffins, Milwaukee Admirals and Rockford IceHogs. But the Wolves and the Iowa Wild have been building a little something over the last few years.
The Wolves and Wild battled fiercely in the 2019 Central Division Finals (won by Chicago in six games), then last season’s eight-game set was noteworthy for all of the physicality. The teams engaged in 13 fights in those eight games (six of which were won by the Wolves).
The Wolves averaged 32.8 penalty minutes per game against Iowa last year, but just 10.7 penalty minutes per game against all other teams. Iowa averaged 33.3 against the Wolves and 14.5 against all other teams.
we are the wolves
Upon even further review, Friday’s 5-3 victory at Grand Rapids stands alone as the only time in franchise history (that’s 2,092 regular-season and 249 playoff games) when the Wolves trailed by 3 goals in the third period and rallied to win in regulation.
Overall, it marked the ninth time the Wolves have rallied from three goals down in the third to win — but all the others required overtime or shootout to get the W. The 1995-96 squad made a habit of massive rallies with four such comebacks from Dec. 29 to April 10.
The Wolves’ biggest postseason rally happened on April 19, 1997, when Chicago scored three in the third and Rob Brown scored at 3:06 of OT for a 4-3 win over the San Antonio Dragons.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves controlled play throughout as they built a 3-0 lead in the opening 40 minutes and owned a 44-19 shot advantage for the game to stay in first place in the Central Division.
- Forward Stefan Noesen scored one goal and assisted on the other two, which were delivered by forwards Josh Leivo and Andrew Poturalski.
- Goaltender Eetu Makiniemi earned 18 saves, including multiple highlight-reel stops.
- Rockford scored two goals in the second period to take the lead, but the Wolves tied it with 5:19 remaining and Josh Leivo scored in the third round of the shootout to win it.
- Forwards Maxim Letunov and C.J. Smith scored in regulation while Smith and captain Andrew Poturalski earned the primary assists.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon stopped 17 shots in regulation and overtime and all three shootout tries.
By the numbers
2: You can count on two fingers the number of times the Wolves have been outshot during their first 17 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 today’s action riding an 10-game streak of outshooting its opponent — the second-longest streak in franchise history. John Anderson’s 1998-99 squad owns the record as it won the shots battle in 14 consecutive games from Jan. 2 to Jan. 30 and posted an 8-4-0-2 record during that run. The current Wolves own a 361-248 shot margin (36.1-24.8 per game) during this spree.
2.11: Goaltenders Alex Lyon and Eetu Makiniemi have combined to play all but one of the Wolves’ games this year. And in those games, they have combined to allow just 2.11 goals per 60 minutes. Lyon (4-1-1), whose turn it is to play tonight, ranks second among AHL goalies with his 1.95 goals-against average. Makiniemi (7-2-1) ranks seventh with his 2.20 GAA. The Wolves and the Utica Comets (Akira Schmid and Nico Daws) are the only AHL teams to have two goaltenders ranked among the Top 15 in GAA.
4: Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski tied a franchise record Friday night when he produced four points in Chicago’s five-goal third period that turned a 3-0 deficit into a 5-3 triumph at Grand Rapids. It marked the seventh time in Wolves history that somebody managed four points in one regular-season period — and the first time since Jason Krog posted 2 goals and 2 assists in the second period of a 7-4 win on Dec. 19, 2007, at Peoria. Poturalski ranks second in the AHL with 23 points — one behind Rochester’s Jack Quinn —and shares second with 14 assists.
34.65: The Chicago Wolves’ single-season record for shots per game was set by the 1998-99 squad with 34.65 per outing. This output led the 16-team International Hockey League that season — and marks the only time in the Wolves’ first 27 years that they led their league in shots per game. This year’s squad has a chance to break the team record AND become the second in franchise annals to lead the league. The Wolves enter today’s game averaging 34.71 shots per game, which ranks third in the 31-team AHL. Iowa, as it happens, leads the way with 36.07 shots per outing.
38: New defenseman Daniel Brickley will wear No. 38 tonight for the Wolves. He has been with the ECHL’s Norfolk Admirals all season and delivered three goals and eight assists in 16 games. Prior to this year, the 26-year-old Utah native had played almost exclusively in the Los Angeles Kings’ organization. He made his pro debut with the Kings on April 5, 2018, and has five NHL games on his resume. He also played 76 games for the Ontario Reign and two for the Manitoba Moose in the AHL.
415: Since the Wolves organization played its first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 708 players have suited up for Chicago. Right win Ivan Lodnia was the latest to make his debut when he played Sunday vs. Grand Rapids. When forward Ben Jones made his debut with the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 20, he became the 415th 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, Dec. 4||at Iowa||6 p.m.||Wells Fargo Arena||AHLTV|
|Sunday, Dec. 5||at Iowa||3 p.m.||Wells Fargo Arena||AHLTV|
|Thursday, Dec. 9||at Texas||7 p.m.||H-E-B Center||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Dec. 11||at Texas||7 p.m.||H-E-B Center||AHLTV|
|Sunday, Dec. 12||at Texas||5 p.m.||H-E-B Center||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.