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Gameday: When they say 13 is a jinx…

IOWA WILD (12-12-2-2)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (20-5-1-1)

Saturday, Jan. 8 | 7 p.m. | Allstate Arena | My50 Chicago | AHLTV |  Facebook Live

WHEN THEY SAY 13 IS A JINX

Excited to get the green light to play for the first time in 20 days, good vibes were everywhere during the Chicago Wolves’ morning skate Friday as they made final preparations for what they hoped would be a franchise-record 13th consecutive win.

During an interview with Chicago’s NBC-TV affiliate, head coach Ryan Warsofsky admitted the team recently had enjoyed its best practices of the season. The team’s roster featured more healthy players than there’d been in weeks. The starting lineup would include the team’s top five point-producers and top two defensemen together for the first time since Nov. 28 — as each spent some time helping the Carolina Hurricanes maintain the NHL’s best points percentage.

Then, well, things got strange — just as triskaidekaphobians might have warned the Wolves.

After the morning skate, the Wolves training staff discovered backup goaltender Beck Warm suffered an injury that would prevent him from fulfilling his role. Rookie goaltender Eetu Makiniemi, ranked fourth in the AHL with a 2.06 goals-against average, had been ruled out earlier in the week with an injury that needs a little time to heal.

But the Wolves still had starting goaltender Alex Lyon, who ranks second among AHL netminders with a 1.79 GAA. But when Carolina decided Friday afternoon to recall Lyon from loan to join its taxi squad, that required Wolves general manager Wendell Young to find TWO goaltenders in a hurry.

Young secured the services of 30-year-old local semipro Caydon Edwards to serve as the backup, then worked the phones even harder to find Indy Fuel (ECHL) backup Michael Lackey to fulfill the starting role. There was just one catch: the 24-year-old Washington, D.C. native Lackey had to drive the 275 miles from Indianapolis to Rockford quickly in order to make his AHL debut.

When all was said and done in Rockford, the IceHogs owned an 8-0 victory that marked the most goals allowed by the Wolves since an 8-5 loss to Grand Rapids on Oct. 5, 2019, in that season’s opener. It also set the franchise record for largest margin of defeat.

But there’s nobody in the Wolves camp who’s attributing the lopsided score to the man in the net. Rockford capitalized on one breakaway when a defenseman cherry-picked after spending time in the penalty box, scored on more than one odd-man rush and benefited from multiple defensive breakdowns and odd bounces.

At the other end, the Wolves’ potent offense didn’t enjoy its usual advantage in possession time in the offensive zone. Though they had a few nice flurries, including during a power play early in the second period with the score 2-0, the Wolves were outshot for just the third time this season.

we are the wolves

As Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky liked to say even prior Friday night’s result, his team’s 12-game winning streak is in the past.

The current Wolves wound up tying the 1999-2000 team for the longest winning streak, but how do their streaks compare?

The 1999-2000 squad outscored its opponents 42-23 while winning 12 times in 22 days. Four of their wins came in the shootout.

The 2021-22 squad outscored its opponents 47-21 while winning 12 times in 23 days. They earned two wins in overtime and one via shootout.

LAST TWO GAMES

FRIDAY, JAN. 7: (AT) ROCKFORD 8, CHICAGO 0

  • Playing for the first time in 20 days, the Wolves were shut out for the first time in 719 days as their franchise-record-tying 12-game winning streak came to a close.
  • Rockford goaltender Collin Delia, who had posted the previous Wolves shutout on Jan. 19, 2020, rejected 30 shots to pick up his first shutout of the season.
  • Goaltender Michael Lackey, signed to a PTO that afternoon, stopped 27 shots in his AHL debut.

SATURDAY, DEC. 18: (AT) CHICAGO 4, MILWAUKEE 2

  • 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.

By the numbers

2: The home fans will get to see two new Wolves goaltenders this weekend. Michael Lackey, signed to a professional tryout contract (PTO) Friday afternoon, is a 24-year-old Washington, D.C., native who made his AHL debut Friday night. He spent two years with the U.S. National Team Development Program before playing for three years at Harvard and one at Providence. He made his pro debut last year with the ECHL’s Orlando squad. Today, the Wolves have signed 26-year-old Daniel Mannella to a PTO. The first-year pro from Woodbridge, Ontario, owns a 9-3-1 record and 2.38 goals-against average for the ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers, for whom he played Friday night in Allen, Texas. Mannella played at St. Lawrence from 2016-20 and earned his team’s MVP award as a senior.

3: Today’s game marks the middle of the Wolves’ fourth of six 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 more than two 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.

6: On Monday, veteran forward Josh Leivo became the sixth player in Wolves history to be honored as the AHL’s Player of the Month. Leivo racked up 14 points (4G, 10A) and one game-winning goal in six games to earn the award for December. When coupled with captain Andrew Poturalski’s Player of the Month honor in October, this marked 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. Who are the other four Wolves to win AHL Player of the Month? Eventual AHL MVP Kenny Agostino (Dec. 2016), Brandon Pirri (Nov. 2018), eventual AHL MVP Daniel Carr (Feb. 2019) and current Minnesota Wild forward Rem Pitlick (Feb. 2021).

12: With Friday’s loss, the Wolves came up short of making franchise history on a couple of fronts. Had they won Friday, they would have snapped the team record with a 13th consecutive win. Instead, the 2021-22 team settles for a tie with John Anderson’s 1999-2000 squad that went on to the 2000 Turner Cup championship. Had the Wolves earned at least one point Friday, they would have tied the organization’s point streak record at 14 games. The 2008 Calder Cup champions set that mark during their first 14 games of the year with a 13-0-1-0 run. The 2009-10 squad matched it with a 12-0-0-2 stretch from Jan. 24 to Feb. 21, then the 2017-18 Central Division champs added their name to the record book with a 12-0-1-1 run from Dec. 9 to Jan. 6.

34.52: 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 34.52 shots per game, which owns first place in the 31-team AHL by a smidge over Manitoba (33.96).

416: Since the Wolves played their first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 713 players have suited up for Chicago. Goaltender Michael Lackey became No. 713 when he made his AHL debut Friday night. 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, 58.3 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.

NEXT FIVE GAMES

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
Monday, Jan. 17 at Rockford 1 p.m. MetroCentre AHLTV

 

All games are streamed on AHLTV.