GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (13-10-4-1)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (22-5-1-1)
HEROES AND ZEROES
It has been 46 days since the Chicago Wolves and Grand Rapids Griffins have met, but it feels even longer because the Wolves and Griffins battled five times in a 33-day stretch. Much to the Griffins’ chagrin, they have zero wins to show for the first five meetings.
One of the reasons the Wolves have won every time? Because of what happens when captain Andrew Poturalski and Stefan Noesen are the ice. The Wolves have outscored the Griffins 19-8 in their first five meetings. But when Poturalski has been on the ice, the Wolves have owned a 16-0 advantage. His linemate Noesen, meanwhile, has been on the ice for 15 Wolves goals and zero Griffins tallies.
Poturalski owns six goals and seven assists against the Griffins, nearly 33 percent of his league-leading 40 points even though he has played just 19 percent of his games against Grand Rapids. The 27-year-old Williamsville, New York, native is on pace to become the first player to lead the AHL in scoring in back-to-back years since Philadelphia’s Peter White in 1996-97 and 1997-98.
Poturalski’s 40 points are nine ahead of Stockton’s Jakob Pelletier and Ontario’s T.J. Tynan. Poturalski shares the assist lead with Tynan (the Orland Park native who suited up for the Wolves in 2017-19) and his 15 goals are 1 behind Park Ridge native Michael Mersch.
Noesen, meanwhile, has been flying up the AHL charts with five multi-point games (7 goals, 5 assists) in his last six outings. He rolled up 4 goals and 3 assists in three games in his native Texas Dec. 9-12, spent a few weeks with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and then put up 3 goals and 2 assists over the weekend when the Wolves beat Iowa and Cleveland at Allstate Arena.
A TOTAL TEAM EFFORT
The Griffins are not the same team that the Wolves defeated five times. Grand Rapids has posted a 4-0-2-0 record since Dec. 22 to climb into third place in the Central Division. That’s why the Wolves, who have won 11 of 12 since last seeing the Griffins, need to continue to get contributions up and down the lineup.
When head coach Ryan Warsofsky was asked Tuesday who might be the team’s most improved player this season, he had no shortage of candidates.
“(Second-year forward Stelio) Mattheos would be in the conversation,” Warsofsky said. “Cavan Fitzgerald has really come into who he is as a player. I think C.J. Smith has been really good. Obviously points-wise (10 goals and 20 assists), but we’re focusing in on him with his play away from the puck and he has been really good with that. (Artyom) Serikov has taken some steps. You know who I think has been really good as of late is Joey Keane. He has really stepped up after not having a very good start.”
we are the wolves
The Wolves and Griffins have been playing since Nov. 1, 1996. Over the course of their 176 regular-season meetings, neither team has been able to assert superiority over the other for long periods of time.
Yet the Wolves can set some rivalry history tonight. Neither team ever has won seven straight against the other — but the Wolves will accomplish the feat with a win tonight.
The Wolves’ current streak began May 12 at Grand Rapids when David Cotton’s hat trick and Beck Warm’s 35-save effort gave Chicago a 7-0 win to clinch the 2021 Central Division crown.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Trailing by one entering the third, the Wolves received goals from Stefan Noesen and Andrew Poturalski while holding the Monsters without a shot in the final period.
- Center Jack Drury and forward Dominik Bokk also scored goals while Poturalski (G, 2A) and Noesen (G, A) scored multiple points for the second day in a row.
- Goaltender Daniel Mannella stopped 24 shots to earn his first AHL win in his first AHL start.
- Led by Stefan Noesen’s two goals and one assist, the Wolves stacked up five goals in the opening 32 minutes to register their 13th win in the last 14 games.
- Captain Andrew Poturalski also notched two goals and one assist, Sam Miletic scored a season-high 3 points (G, 2A) and rookie Ivan Lodnia produced his first North American professional goal.
- Goaltender Michael Lackey notched 11 saves in the first 28 minutes to pick up his first AHL win and Daniel Mannella stopped 16 of 16 shots in relief to highlight his AHL debut.
By the numbers
0: The Wolves didn’t allow the Cleveland Monsters any shots on goal during the third period Sunday afternoon, which marked just the second time in franchise history that the Wolves have blanked an opponent for a period. The other occasion was Nov. 18, 2005, in the third period against the Peoria Rivermen. Coincidentally, the Wolves won both games by a 4-3 count. Sunday’s third period served as the first time in the AHL this season that a team was limited to no shots. It had not happened anywhere in the league since Bridgeport blanked Providence in the first period on March 31, 2021.
2: The Wolves enter tonight’s game with the Western Conference’s best record and the AHL’s No. 2 record overall. Chicago’s .793 points percentage is eclipsed only by Utica’s .820 clip. However, if the Wolves win tonight and the Comets lose in regulation, then the Wolves will own the league’s best percentage by an .800-.788 margin. Regardless of whether the Wolves win or lose, they’ll still boast the best 30-game start in franchise history.
5: The Wolves are down to “only” five goaltenders after having six netminders on their roster for Sunday’s win over Cleveland. It’s bordering on irony that the Wolves needed to sign four goaltenders in a 48-hour period over the weekend because they probably enjoyed the AHL’s most stable goaltending situation for the season’s first 12 weeks. In essence, Alex Lyon and Eetu Makiniemi took turns in net for 25 of the team’s first 26 games. But when Makiniemi suffered an injury last week and Lyon was recalled by Carolina (NHL) AND Beck Warm suffered an injury in Friday’s morning skate, that’s what required Wolves GM Wendell Young to swing into action again and again. His first signee, Indy Fuel (ECHL) backup Michael Lackey, started Friday and Saturday, but left with a lower-body injury midway through Saturday’s game. That means Daniel Mannella, winner of Sunday’s game in his first AHL start, and Billy Christopoulos, Sunday’s backup, figure to be the combo again tonight. Mannella has spent this season with the ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers (9-3-1, 2.38 GAA) while Christopoulos has served for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye (13-2-2, 2.45 GAA).
7: The Wolves have won seven home games in a row, which stacks up as the longest active streak in the AHL. If Chicago wins tonight, then it will tie Utica (Oct. 17 to Nov. 2) for the longest AHL streak this season. This group has a ways to go to reach the franchise record, though. Rocky Thompson’s first Wolves team won 13 straight home games from Dec. 6, 2017, to Feb. 15, 2018.
34.86: 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 34.86 shots per game, which owns first place in the 31-team AHL with Colorado (34.43) the nearest pursuer.
416: Since the Wolves played their first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 715 players have suited up for Chicago. Defenseman Marcus McIvor became No. 715 when he made his AHL debut in Sunday’s win over Cleveland. 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, 58.2 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|Friday, Jan. 14
|Wells Fargo Arena
|Saturday, Jan. 15
|Wells Fargo Arena
|Monday, Jan. 17
|Saturday, Jan. 22
|Canada Life Centre
|Sunday, Jan. 23
|Canada Life Centre
All games are streamed on AHLTV.