Welcome to Wolves Insider, presented by Rivers Casino: the weekly report that gives you the latest Chicago Wolves news as the organization bids for its fifth league championship.
LET’s PLAY SOME GAMES!
The last time the Chicago Wolves played a game, they were the hottest team in professional hockey. They claimed their 12th straight victory — tying the franchise record — with their 4-2 home win over the Milwaukee Admirals on Dec. 18.
Since that time, the Wolves have had five games postponed due to COVID-19 protocols that have been affecting all walks of life. Yet the Wolves remain the hottest team in pro hockey and here’s the crazy thing: Head coach Ryan Warsofsky finally has his whole team together for the first time since the winning streak stood at a modest three games.
Here’s what we mean: On Nov. 29, top defensemen Jalen Chatfield and Max Lajoie were recalled from loan by the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes to bolster their shorthanded blue line. Then, while the Wolves were vying for their 10th, 11th and 12th consecutive wins, the Hurricanes recalled the Wolves’ TOP FIVE SCORERS — Andrew Poturalski, C.J. Smith, Stefan Noesen, Josh Leivo and Jack Drury — to help a forward corps affected by COVID-19.
They helped the Hurricanes remain the NHL’s No. 1 team in terms of winning percentage (currently at .758), but now they have all been reassigned to the Wolves. Noesen, Chatfield and goaltender Alex Lyon, who spent a week on Carolina’s taxi squad, were the last ones to return to Chicago on Monday.
So what’s next? The Wolves jump right into their fourth “three-in-three” of the season. They travel to Rockford on Friday night, then host the Iowa Wild at 7 p.m. Saturday on Adopt-A-Dog Night and host the Cleveland Monsters at 3 p.m. Sunday on Papa Johns Family Sunday. The Wolves have pulled off sweeps the last two times they’ve had to play three games in three days: Nov. 26-28 and Dec. 16-18.
LEIVO PLAYER OF THE MONTH
The American Hockey League is just three months into the 2021-22 season, but the Chicago Wolves already have set a franchise record by claiming two of the league’s first three Player of the Month awards.
Captain Andrew Poturalski earned the honor in October after stacking up a league-best 14 points (5G, 9A) in just six games. On Monday, the AHL recognized forward Josh Leivo as its Player of the Month for December after the 28-year-old forward stacked up a league-best 14 points (4G, 10A) in just six games.
During the course of December, the ninth-year pro set a professional-best when he produced 5 points (2G, 3A) in an 8-4 win Dec. 9 at Texas. He also set a career-high when he fired 10 shots (while contributing 1 goal and 1 assis) during the 4-0 win Dec. 5 at Iowa. He was recalled by Carolina on Dec. 17 and delivered an assist in the Hurricanes’ win over Los Angeles on Dec. 18.
The AHL started giving out the Player of the Month award in 2007-08 and Leivo became the sixth Wolves player
to receive the honor. He joined Kenny Agostino (Dec. 2016), Brandon Pirri (Dec. 2018), Daniel Carr (Feb. 2019), Rem Pitlick (Feb. 2021) and Poturalski.
OFFICIAL MAKEUP DATES
The Wolves have finalized makeup dates for four of the five games that were postponed from Dec. 22 to Jan. 2.
Chicago’s games at Cleveland, initially scheduled for Dec. 22-23, have been moved to Tuesday, Feb. 8, and Tuesday, March 29. Both will be played at 6 p.m. Chicago time and streamed via AHLTV.com. The Wolves’ New Year’s Eve game at Rockford has been moved to 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 30.
The Chicago New Year’s Classic presented by Planet Fitness, which was slated for Jan. 1 at Allstate Arena, has been shifted to Tuesday, April 19, and will be broadcast by My50 Chicago. All tickets for Jan. 1 will be honored April 19, but the Wolves also will make accommodations for anyone who cannot attend this rescheduled game. Fans who want to pick a new date for their tickets should contact their Wolves ticket representative or email a request to [email protected].
As the calendar flips from 2021 to 2022, it’s a great opportunity to look at some of the giveaway nights the Wolves are hosting. On Saturday, March 5, it’s Wolves Snow Globe Giveaway Night courtesy of Jewel (there’s also a free postgame skate, presented by Chicagoland Jiffy Lube).On Saturday, April 9, there’s a Wolves Goalie Mask Bank Giveaway, courtesy of My50 Chicago.
This week’s Top Line is devoted to the three Chicago-area natives on the squad. We start with the 21-year-old rookie from Winnetka who made his NHL debut with the Carolina Hurricanes Dec. 16 and scored a goal. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, Drury scored in his second NHL game on Dec. 18 as well. He ranks fifth on the Wolves in scoring with 7 goals and 9 assists in 23 games.
Right behind Drury on the Wolves’ scoring list is this 27-year-old Orland Park native. The fifth-year pro has been a steady force on the Wolves’ second line as he owns 6 goals and 6 assists in 21 games. Gust is on pace to break his career-highs for goals (18), assists (20), games (60), plus-minus rating (+11) and shooting percentage (12.1%).
Only four Wolves have played in every game during their current 12-game winning streak: Forward Dominik Bokk, center Maxim Letunov, defenseman Jesper Sellgren and this 22-year-old defenseman born in Chicago and raised in Homer Glen. Keane leads all Wolves blueliners with 12 points (2G, 10A), which includes 1 goal and 5 assists during the winning streak.
- All three games (Dec. 31, Jan. 1 and Jan. 2) were postponed. See above for makeup dates.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|Friday, Jan. 7||at Rockford||7 p.m.||MetroCentre||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Jan. 8||vs. Iowa||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Sunday, Jan. 9||vs. Cleveland||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV|
|Wednesday, Jan. 12||vs. Grand Rapids||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Friday, Jan. 14||at Iowa||6 p.m.||Wells Fargo Arena||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.