CHICAGO WOLVES (20-4-1-1)
AT ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (11-11-1-1)
In a season filled with record-breaking accomplishments, somehow it makes sense that the Chicago Wolves just set the mark for the longest in-season break in franchise history.
Thanks to COVID-19 protocols that have triggered safety precautions throughout the American Hockey League specifically and society in general, it has been 20 days since the Wolves last took the ice.
So what has happened since the Wolves knocked off the Milwaukee Admirals 4-2 on Dec. 18 at Allstate Arena to extend their winning streak to a franchise-record-tying 12 games? Well, it hasn’t been as quiet as you think.
The Wolves have been a part of 13 transactions during their break — with many of them consisting of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes reassigning the Wolves’ most prolific contributors back to Chicago.
If you’ll recall, the Wolves played without their top five point-producers — captain Andrew Poturalski, C.J. Smith, Stefan Noesen, Josh Leivo and Jack Drury — for the final two games before the break while they were busy helping the Hurricanes win two games that propelled them to the top of the NHL standings. The quintet combined for two goals (both Drury’s), three assists (two for Poturalski, one for Leivo) and a total of 106 minutes, 47 seconds of action in Carolina’s wins on Dec. 16 and 18.
Now that the five forwards have returned to Chicago along with defensemen Jalen Chatfield and Max Lajoie, the Wolves have their full roster available for the first time since Nov. 28 — when they defeated Grand Rapids at Allstate Arena for Win No. 3 of the current streak.
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE STREAKS
When the 1999-2000 Wolves went on their 12-game winning streak from Feb. 25 to March 17, head coach John Anderson preferred to rotate his pair of strong goaltenders: Wendell Young and Andrei Trefilov. During the 12-game winning streak, each started six times. They combined for three shutouts and allowed just 23 goals in those 12 games.
This year, head coach Ryan Warsofsky has rotated goaltenders Alex Lyon and Eetu Makiniemi most of the season. During the current 12-game winning streak that began Nov. 26, Makiniemi and Lyon have taken turns the whole time and made six starts apiece. They have combined for three shutouts and allowed just 21 goals in these 12 games.
For the season, Lyon and Makiniemi have teamed up to play 25 of the Wolves’ 26 games. Their collective record is 20-3-2 with a 1.94 goals-against average (49 goals in 1,514 minutes, 47 seconds), a .925 save percentage (606 saves in 655 shots) and their four shutouts pace the AHL. Lyon ranks second in the league with his 1.79 GAA while Makiniemi ranks fourth at 2.06.
we are the wolves
The Chicago-Rockford rivalry is one of the tightest in professional sports.
Entering tonight’s clash, the Wolves have won 81 regular-season games and the IceHogs have won 80 since they met for the first time on Oct. 19, 2007 — when the Wolves earned a 5-4 overtime win over the IceHogs and goaltender Corey Crawford at Allstate Arena.
While the teams’ win totals are incredibly close, their goal totals are not. The Wolves have racked up 515 goals in their 161 regular-season meetings with the IceHogs — an average of 3.20 per game — while Rockford has produced 461 for an average of 2.86.
LAST TWO GAMES
- The Wolves produced their franchise-record-tying 12th straight win as they scored almost every way possible: Even-strength, on the power play, short-handed and with an empty net.
- Forwards David Gust, Jamieson Rees, David Cotton and Spencer Smallman scored goals while Cotton and Smallman earned the primary assist on each other’s goals.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon posted 29 saves to win his sixth start in a row.
- After 60 scoreless minutes — the 11th scoreless regulation in Wolves history — forward Dominik Bokk scored 2:50 into overtime to give the Wolves their 11th consecutive win.
- Bokk’s game-winner was unassisted as he dashed up the right wing, pivoted in the high slot and fired a wrister from the top of the left circle that beat goaltender Connor Ingram.
- Goaltender Eetu Makiniemi stopped 25 saves for his second shutout and sixth straight win.
By the numbers
2: On Monday, veteran forward Josh Leivo was honored as the AHL’s Player of the Month for December. Leivo racked up 14 points (4G, 10A) and one game-winning goal in six games to earn the award. When coupled with captain Andrew Poturalski’s Player of the Month honor in October, this marks the first time the Wolves have won a pair of Player of the Month awards in the same season since the AHL originated the award in 2007-08.
3: Today’s game starts the Wolves’ fourth of five 3-in-3s this season. After going 1-1-1 for the first one (Nov. 12-14), they swept the second one (Nov. 26-28) and the third one (Dec. 16-18) to bookend their current winning streak. The Wolves haven’t swept three 3-in-3s in the same season since 2009-10, when Don Lever’s squad swept four of their 10 3-in-3 opportunities. The 1998-99 team also won four 3-in-3s.
5: The Wolves rarely take five minutes for fighting, but amazing things happen when they do. They have engaged in just eight fights this season spread out over seven games. In five of those seven games, they trailed at the time of the bout — yet they have wound up on the winning end of all seven games. Those include the Wolves’ wins over Rockford on Nov. 12 and Nov. 27. Here’s the key stat: The Wolves have trailed by a combined score of 11-6 before their fights, but outscored their opponents 17-1 afterward.
12: The Wolves boast North American professional hockey’s longest active winning streak with their 12-game run that began Nov. 26 at Grand Rapids. As mentioned on Page 1 of these notes, they have the franchise record set in 1999-2000. But they’re one game shy of the longest AHL winning streak this season: The Utica Comets opened with 13 straight wins on the way to their current 18-2-3-0 mark that leads the North Division and the entire AHL. In related streak news, the Wolves are riding a 13-game point streak (12-0-0-1) because they lost a shootout to Rockford on Nov. 20 in the last game before the wins started flowing. That’s just one away from the team point streak record of 14 that has been done three times: in 2007-08, 2009-10 and 2017-18.
29: During the Wolves’ 12-game winning streak, head coach Ryan Warsofsky has called on 27 skaters and two goaltenders to keep things moving in the right direction. This group includes five skaters who came up from the ECHL to provide help: Forwards Noah Corson, Stephen Harper, Cedric Lacroix and Kyle Marino and defenseman Eric Williams.
34.69: 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 34.69 shots per game, which owns first place in the 31-team AHL by a smidge over Manitoba (34.52).
416: Since the Wolves played their first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 712 players have suited up for Chicago. Forward Noah Corson became No. 712 when he made his AHL debut Dec. 17 at Milwaukee. When center Jack Drury made his debut with the Carolina Hurricanes Dec. 16, he became the 416th Wolves alum to compete in the greatest league in the world. Put another way, 58.4 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|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|
|Saturday, Jan. 15||at Iowa||6 p.m.||Wells Fargo Arena||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.