CHICAGO WOLVES (16-4-1-1)
AT TEXAS STARS (7-9-3-1)
SMALL PACK OF LONE STAR WOLVES
For the first 24 years of their existence, the Chicago Wolves never employed a player born in Texas. Then they signed center J.C. Campagna to play one game on Feb. 1, 2019.
Last year, David Cotton and his older brother, Jason, became the second and third Lone Star natives to suit up for the Wolves. Jason, like Campagna, appeared in just one game, but David developed into that rare rookie to lead the Wolves in goals for a season as he finished with 14 in 26 games.
But no Texas natives ever played for the Wolves in their home state until this week — when Cotton and Stefan Noesen helped secure Thursday’s and Saturday’s wins at the H-E-B Center in Cedar Park.
For the 24-year-old Cotton, it represented his first time playing in his home state since he was in eighth grade. As for Noesen, he became the first Lone Star native to score a goal in Texas when he tallied in the second period Saturday night. Then he became the first to score a game-winning goal when he buried Andrew Poturalski’s slick feed 3:20 into overtime to secure the 4-3 victory.
Noesen, it should be noted, has Chicago roots. His father, Greg, grew up on Chicago’s Northwest Side and played basketball for Gordon Tech High School. From there, he earned a scholarship to Angelo State in Texas, where he still owns the school records for assists in a season (247) and career (499). He stayed in Texas after graduation, which explains why Stefan was born in Plano — just north of Dallas and three hours north of the H-E-B Center.
Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski has been putting up numbers that rank with many of the Chicago Wolves’ all-time greats. With his 4-point effort Saturday night (G, 3A), he owns an AHL-best 32 points (11G, 21A) in 22 games. He’s on pace to score 114 points in a 76-game season, which would be the Wolves’ first 100-point season since Jason Krog racked up 112 while winning league MVP honors and leading the Wolves to the 2008 Calder Cup championship.
But there’s more. Poturalski produced 4 points in Thursday night’s win, too, which made him the first Wolves player to score at least 4 points in back-to-back games since Darren Haydar did the trick on Dec. 12-15, 2006, while he was on his way to setting the AHL point streak record (39 games) and claiming the 2006-07 MVP award.
But there’s more. Poturalski already has four games this season with at least four points. That’s the most for any Wolves player since the 2006-07 season, when Haydar hit the four-point mark in seven games while Brett Sterling scored five points once and four points three times.
Where does Poturalski stand in relation to Rob Brown, who owns the greatest single season in Wolves history with 143 points (52G, 91A) in 1995-96? Brown scored four points or more in eight games.
we are the wolves
It’s not uncommon for a former professional player to turn to officiating when his playing career is done.
Cody Beach spent the majority of the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons with the Wolves — racking up 9 goals, 15 assists and 424 penalty minutes over 100 regular-season games as a physical forward.
The fifth-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft hung up his skates after the 2015-16 season, but put them on again in 2018 as he started to referee low-level games. In September, Beach was hired to work AHL and NHL games. Saturday’s game marked the first time Beach worked a Wolves contest. Today will be No. 2.
LAST TWO GAMES
- After the Wolves and Stars took turns scoring one goal each period during regulation, Andrew Poturalski set up Stefan Noesen 3:20 into overtime for Chicago’s eighth straight win.
- Noesen posted two goals, Poturalski produced four points (G, 3A), C.J. Smith scored one goal and defenseman Jesper Sellgren handed out two assists.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon rejected 27 shots to win his fourth game in a row.
- 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.
By the numbers
2: Goaltender Alex Lyon wound up with the second-longest scoreless streak in Wolves history with his 175-minute, 57-second run that concluded during Saturday’s 4-3 overtime win at Texas. Lyon’s streak began at the 5:11 mark of the second period on Nov. 27 vs. Rockford, picked up steam with shutouts of Iowa (on Dec. 2 and 5) and ended 16:08 into Saturday’s game. Only Elmhurst native Garret Sparks, who strung together a 191-minute, 14-second run in 2019-20, ranks ahead of Lyon. For the year, Lyon ranks No. 2 among AHL goaltenders in goals-against average (1.63) and No. 3 in save percentage (.930).
5: The Wolves are wrapping up a five-game road trip today. If they pull off the victory, it will mark the first time in franchise history that the Wolves have gone undefeated on a road trip of five games or more. This year’s squad already owns an 11-1-0-0 mark on the road, edging the 2006-07 squad’s 10-1-0-0 performance for the best road start in team annals. Chicago’s .917 points percentage on the road is the best in the AHL — slightly better than Utica (7-0-2-0; .889).
6: Six players have taken the ice for all 22 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 41 of the Wolves’ 73 non-shootout goals — including nine of the 12 goals during the first two games of this three-game set — and 61 of the team’s 127 assists. Smith, Poturalski and Noesen have served as the team’s top line for all but two games — and they hold three of the top eight spots on the AHL’s points list.
8: The Wolves boast the AHL’s longest active winning streak with their eight-game run that began Nov. 26 at Grand Rapids. If the Wolves win tonight, then they’ll have the organization’s first nine-game streak since the 2005-06 season when John Anderson’s squad made a run from March 18 to April 7 in a late sprint to try to earn a playoff berth. It would be just the fifth streak of at least nine games in franchise history.
15: In addition to running their winning streak to eight games Saturday night, the Wolves set a franchise record by outshooting their opponent for the 15th consecutive game. They broke the mark established by the 1998-99 squad. During this 15-game streak, the Wolves have built a 541-375 shot advantage that works out to a 36.1 to 25.0 margin per game. This year’s team has been outshot just twice this season: Oct. 22 at Milwaukee and Nov. 6 vs. Manitoba.
35.1: The Chicago Wolves’ single-season record for shots per game was set by the 1998-99 squad with 34.65 per outing. That led the 16-team International Hockey League that season — and marks the only time in the Wolves’ first 27 years they’ve 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 average 35.0 shots per game, which owns first place in the 31-team AHL just ahead of the Colorado Eagles (34.57).
415: Since the Wolves played their first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 710 players have suited up for Chicago. Defenseman Eric Williams became No. 710 Saturday night. 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
|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|
|Wednesday, Dec. 22||at Cleveland||6 p.m.||Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse||AHLTV|
|Thursday, Dec. 23||at Cleveland||6 p.m.||Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.