CHICAGO WOLVES (18-4-1-1)
AT MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS (10-12-1-0)
EVERYTHING’S AN OPPORTUNITY
Thanks largely to a surge in positive COVID-19 tests, the North American professional hockey world is in a state of flux. Games are being postponed in the NHL and the AHL. Players (and coaches) are going into quarantine. It’s a perplexing and vexing time.
But by the same token, each time an NHL player or coach has to shut it down, another player gets to step it up. And then another player gets to step into that player’s role…and so on down the line. You get the idea. And nowhere has this trend provided more opportunities than for tonight’s combatants: the Chicago Wolves and Milwaukee Admirals.
(Both teams, by the way, are riding terrific winning streaks. The Wolves have won 10 in a row — second-longest streak in franchise history — while the Admirals have won five straight.)
The Wolves watched eagerly as center Andrew Poturalski, right wing Stefan Noesen and center Jack Drury — three of the team’s top four scorers — went from participating in Wednesday’s practice at the Wolves Practice Facility in Hoffman Estates to flying to Carolina to prepare for Thursday’s game with the Detroit Red Wings. They were recalled by the Canes on an emergency basis.
“Happy for those guys to go up there and get their chance,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “Now it’s an opportunity for guys who are playing maybe lesser minutes to play a more prominent role. You don’t want to look back in April and May and June and say, ‘I didn’t really get a great opportunity.’ This is your opportunity. It might be 2-3 games, it might be 6-7 games…”
Sure enough, with Poturalski and Noesen gone from the Wolves’ top line, center Spencer Smallman and right wing Josh Leivo stepped up to join C.J. Smith. Leivo produced a game-high 3 points, including a goal with 1.1 seconds left to give Chicago the 4-3 win over Manitoba. Meanwhile, Maxim Letunov jumped into Drury’s second-line center spot. He scored a crucial goal with 8.3 seconds left in the second to start the Wolves’ rally from a 3-1 deficit, then assisted on Leivo’s game-winner. Rookie Jamieson Rees was given a bigger role and earned the primary assist on Letunov’s and Leivo’s goals.
Then, roughly 4.5 hours after the Wolves wrapped up their School-Day win, the new Hurricanes took advantage of their chances, too. Just 2:05 into Carolina’s 5-3 win over Detroit, Poturalski assisted on Nino Neiderreiter’s power-play goal to earn his first NHL point. At 18:40 of the first, the 21-year-old Drury buried his own rebound to score a goal in his NHL debut.
this GOES FOR MILWAUKEE, too
Milwaukee head coach Karl Taylor and assistant Scott Ford found themselves fulfilling those same roles for the Nashville Predators in Thursday night’s 5-2 victory over Colorado. Taylor and Ford, who served as assistants for last year’s Wolves squad that was shared by Carolina and Nashville, had not coached at the NHL level previously.
Their roster featured several current Admirals, including ex-Wolves center Cody Glass. Nashville is slated to play the Blackhawks tonight, so one way or another they’ll be facing a team from Chicago.
we are the wolves
The Wolves and Admirals have met 283 times in regular-season play since their first clash on Oct. 15, 1994.
Over this long span, the teams have combined for eight winning streaks of at least five games. Milwaukee has built six of those eight, but the Wolves have a chance to earn their third today as they have swept the first four games in this year’s series.
Incidentally, the series’ longest winning streak belongs to the Wolves. They won eight straight from Dec. 26, 2014, to Oct. 10, 2015. Jordan Binnington was in goal for seven of those Ws.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Forward Josh Leivo’s highlight-reel goal with 1.1 seconds left not only completed a rally from a 3-1 deficit, it pushed the Wolves to their 10th straight win — second-longest streak in team history.
- Defenseman Artyom Serikov and forwards Maxim Letunov and David Cotton also scored goals while Leivo and forward Jamieson Rees each posted two assists.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon notched a season-high 33 saves to win his fifth game in a row.
- After giving up the opening goal in the opening minute, the Wolves responded with the next five tallies to sweep the three-game set in Texas and push their winning streak to nine games.
- Forwards Stefan Noesen and Jack Drury posted two goals and one assist apiece while defenseman Josh Jacobs and forwards Andrew Poturalski and Spencer Smallman also scored.
- Goaltender Eetu Makiniemi posted 26 saves to earn his fifth straight win.
By the numbers
2: And then there were 2. With captain Andrew Poturalski, Stefan Noesen and Jack Drury making the move to the NHL Thursday and missing the Wolves’ 4-3 win over Manitoba, Maxim Letunov (7G, 4A) and C.J. Smith (10G, 18A) are the only Wolves to appear in all 24 games. And who knows how long that might last? The Hurricanes played with just 10 forwards Thursday night, so there could be two spots available for Saturday’s home game against Los Angeles. “This is an opportunity to say, ‘Maybe Carolina didn’t call me up (this time), but maybe I’ll go out and show them that Carolina should have called me up,’ ” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky.
3: When the Wolves signed center Cedric Lacroix to a Professional Tryout Contract (PTO) on Thursday and placed him in the lineup against Manitoba, he made a little history. Cedric’s father, Daniel, played for the Wolves’ 1999-2000 squad that captured the 2000 Turner Cup, so they became the third father-and-son combo to suit up for the Wolves. They join Chris Chelios and his son, Jake, and Ted Drury and his son, Jack.
5: The Wolves rarely take five minutes for fighting. They have scrapped just six times this season. But each time they do, something magical happens — and it happened again Thursday. The Wolves’ Kyle Marino and Manitoba’s Evan Polei fought on the faceoff with 2:30 left in the second period — and both received five for fighting and a game misconduct for their troubles. The Wolves trailed 3-1 at the time, but rallied to win 4-3. This means in the six games with a Wolves fight, they have trailed by a combined score of 11-6 before the fights…but outscored their opponents 16-1 afterward to win each game. For Marino, it marked the second time this year he took a game misconduct that sparked a Wolves rally. It also happened Nov. 7 vs Milwaukee.
10: The Wolves boast the AHL’s longest active winning streak with their 10-game run that began Nov. 26 at Grand Rapids. Thursday’s win moved this streak into the No. 2 mark in franchise history. The only crew ahead of them? John Anderson’s 1999-2000 squad that captured the Calder Cup championship. They won 12 in a row from Feb. 25 to March 17 while allowing 1.92 goals per game.
16: While the Wolves were able to extend their winning streak on Josh Leivo’s last-second goal, they could not salvage their franchise-record streak for outshooting their opponents. The streak ended at 16 games as Manitoba outgunned Chicago 36-29. Coincidentally, the Wolves’ streak began immediately after the Moose outshot them 30-23 Nov. 6. Manitoba and Milwaukee (on Oct. 22) are the only teams to outshoot the Wolves this season.
34.58: The 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 crew has a chance to break the team record AND become the second in franchise annals to lead the league. The Wolves average 34.58 shots per game, which owns first place in the 31-team AHL by a smidge over Manitoba (34.5).
416: Since the Wolves played their first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 711 players have suited up for Chicago. Center Cedric Lacroix became No. 711 as part of Thursday’s win over Manitoba. Lacroix joined the Wolves, in part, because center Jack Drury made his debut with the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night and became the 416th Wolves alum to compete in the greatest league in the world. Now 58.5 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|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|
|Friday, Dec. 31||at Rockford||6 p.m.||MetroCentre||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Jan. 1||vs. Rockford||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.