CHICAGO WOLVES (15-4-1-1)
AT TEXAS STARS (7-9-2-1)
NOW IT’S A DOZEN
Entering the Chicago Wolves’ 28th season, only nine Wolves skaters had managed to score five or more points in a game: Steve Maltais, Rob Brown, Jason Krog, Dan Currie, Cory Larose, Lonny Bohonos, Brett Sterling, Spencer Machacek and Brooks Macek.
We’re just eight weeks and 21 games into the new season, but the Five-Pointers Club already has swelled to 12 members. Captain Andrew Poturalski (3G, 2A) and forward C.J. Smith (G, 4A) pledged the group when they scored five points apiece during the 6-5 win Oct. 31 at Grand Rapids. Forward Josh Leivo joined their ranks when he produced a career-high five points (2G, 3A) during Thursday’s 8-4 win at Texas.
The 28-year-old Leivo has been red-hot during the Wolves’ seven-game winning streak. He started Chicago’s five-goal third-period rally on Nov. 26 at Grand Rapids that triggered this run. The following night, he closed things out by delivering the only shootout tally in the 3-2 home win over Rockford. He capped the 3-in-3 weekend by notching the game-winning goal Nov. 28 vs. Grand Rapids.
After taking a one-game break for health reasons, Leivo posted one goal, one assist and a career-high 10 shots Dec. 5 at Iowa before going berserk Thursday night at Texas. His spree marked the first time since Jan. 30, 2016, that he posted more than three points in a pro game — scoring two goals and two assists for the Toronto Marlies against the Binghamton Senators.
LYON PROWLS THE NET
Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky is expected to continue rotating his goaltenders tonight, which means Alex Lyon gets back in the net for the first time since blanking the Iowa Wild on Sunday. Lyon, who celebrated his 29th birthday Thursday, seeks to become the first goaltender in Wolves history to string together shutouts in three consecutive starts.
Here’s the list who’ve recorded back-to-back blankings. It’s a pretty impressive group:
Wendell Young: Feb. 1 and Feb. 9, 2000
Pasi Nurminen: Dec. 1 and Dec. 2, 2001
Kari Lehtonen: Nov. 20 and Nov. 24, 2004
Pheonix Copley: Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, 2015
Jordan Binnington: March 11 and March 15, 2017
Garret Sparks: Oct. 31 and Nov. 7, 2019
Alex Lyon: Dec. 2 and Dec. 5, 2021
Lyon, who leads the AHL with his 1.47 goals-against average and hasn’t allowed a score since the 5:11 mark of the second period Nov. 27 versus Rockford, enters tonight’s game with a 159-minute, 49-second scoreless streak. That stands fourth on the Wolves’ all-time list behind Sparks (191:14), Matt Climie (173:57 in January 2013) and Lehtonen (170:54).
we are the wolves
The Wolves’ 8-4 win Thursday at Texas improved the team’s road record to 10-1-0-0, which stands alone as the best road points percentage (.909) in the American Hockey League.
However, it does not stand alone as the best road start in Wolves history. In the 2006-07 season, John Anderson’s crew won its first eight away from Allstate Arena and delivered a 10-1-0-0 showing in their first 11 road games as they averaged 5.6 goals per game.
Alas, they lost Road Game No. 12 by a 6-4 count on Nov. 24, 2006, at Grand Rapids, so there’s an opening for this year’s squad to seize the Wolves’ best start.
LAST TWO GAMES
- After the teams took turns scoring the game’s first four goals in the opening 3:36 and trading the first eight goals in 32 minutes, the Wolves scored the final four to win their seventh in a row.
- Forward C.J. Smith posted a hat trick and Josh Leivo scored a career-high five points as Leivo (2 goals), Andrew Poturalski, Jack Drury and Joey Keane lit the lamp for the Wolves.
- Goaltender Eetu Makiniemi recorded 19 saves to earn his fourth straight win.
- Alex Lyon became the seventh goaltender in Wolves history to record shutouts in back-to-back appearances as the Wolves pushed their winning streak to a season-high six games.
- Forwards David Cotton, Jack Drury, Stefan Noesen and Josh Leivo scored goals while C.J. Smith handed out two assists playing in his hometown of Des Moines.
- Lyon rejected 20 shots to register his eighth career AHL shutout.
By the numbers
2: Wolves legends Gene Ubriaco and Bob Nardella were among the 13 people honored by the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame Friday night during NIASHF’s 43rd Gala and Induction Ceremony at the Westin O’Hare in Rosemont. The 83-year-old Ubriaco was hired as the Wolves’ first head coach in 1994 and has worked for the organization ever since — serving currently as the team’s Senior Advisor and Director of Hockey Operations. The 53-year-old Nardella was on the ice for the Wolves’ first game on Oct. 1, 1994, and wound up winning three league championships in nine seasons with the team. He ranks second on the Wolves’ all-time list in games (476) and sixth in points (298). Now in his fifth season as a Wolves assistant coach, Nardella caught a 6:30 a.m. flight back to Chicago Friday and returned to Texas this morning.
6: Six players have taken the ice for all 21 games to date — and all are forwards: Jack Drury, Maxim Letunov, Stelio Mattheos, Stefan Noesen, captain Andrew Poturalski and C.J. Smith. This six-man crew has combined for 37 of the Wolves’ 69 non-shootout goals — including five of the eight goals Thursday — and 58 of the team’s 120 assists. Smith, Poturalski and Noesen have served as the team’s top line for all but two games.
8: The Wolves boast the AHL’s longest active winning streak with their seven-game run that began Nov. 26 at Grand Rapids. If the Wolves can make it eight tonight, it will serve as the organization’s first eight-game streak since the 2016-17 season when Craig Berube’s squad made a run from Dec. 22 to Jan. 7 on their way to the Central Division title. It would also be just the eighth streak of at least eight games in franchise history.
14: In addition to running their winning streak to seven games Friday night, the Wolves extended their streak of outshooting their opponent to 14 games as they outgunned Texas by a 35-23 count. In doing so, they tied the franchise record set by John Anderson’s squad that won the shots battle in 14 consecutive games Jan. 2-30, 1999. Anderson’s team posted an 8-4-0-2 mark during its streak while Ryan Warsofsky’s squad owns a 10-2-1-1 mark. The current Wolves have built a 508-345 shot advantage during this spree. That works out to a 36.3 to 24.6 margin per game.
35.1: 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 tonight’s game averaging 35.10 shots per game, which has overtaken Central Division mates Manitoba and Iowa within the last week to move into first place in the 31-team AHL.
415: Since the Wolves organization played its first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 709 players have suited up for Chicago. Defenseman Daniel Brickley was the latest to make his debut when he played last Thursday against Iowa and defenseman Eric Williams, who signed a PTO with the Wolves today, figures to become No. 710 today. 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, 58.5 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|Sunday, Dec. 12||at Texas||5 p.m.||H-E-B Center||AHLTV|
|Thursday, Dec. 16||vs. Manitoba||11 a.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV|
|Friday, Dec. 17||at Milwaukee||7 p.m.||Panther Arena||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Dec. 18||vs. Milwaukee||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Tuesday, Dec. 22||at Cleveland||6 p.m.||Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.