CHICAGO WOLVES (23-5-1-1)
AT IOWA WILD (12-13-2-2)
THE CAPTAIN’S BIRTHDAY
By pretty much every measure, Chicago Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski has to consider his 28th trip around the sun a successful one.
He won his first AHL scoring title by stacking up 43 points (9G, 34A) in 44 games for the San Diego Gulls. The nearly scratch golfer traveled to play several Top 100 courses. He and his wife, Haley, learned in November that their first child, expected around Easter Sunday, will be a boy. He scored his first two NHL points when he earned assists for the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 16-18.
Oh, and he has been shredding AHL defenses at a personal-record clip after devoting his summer training to improving his speed.
As Poturalski celebrates his 28th birthday today, the Williamsville, New York, native finds himself atop the AHL charts in several categories. His 42 points (accrued in just 27 games) are 11 ahead of his nearest pursuers, which suggests he has a good chance to become the first player to lead the AHL in scoring in back-to-back seasons since Philadelphia’s Scott White in 1996-97 and 197-98.
His 26 assists are one ahead of former Wolves standout T.J. Tynan. His 16 goals share the top spot with Rochester’s Michael Mersch. His +19 plus/minus rating is one ahead of teammate Stefan Noesen and Utica defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon. His 7 power-play goals trail only San Jose’s Scott Reedy, who owns 8.
NOT THE ONLY RED-HOT FORWARD
While Poturalski has piled up 7 goals and 11 assists in his last seven games, he’s not necessarily the hottest player on the Wolves squad. Stefan Noesen, who joined Poturalski (and center Jack Drury) to play a pair of games for Carolina in mid-December, has stacked up 9 goals and 5 assists in his last seven Wolves appearances.
Noesen produced single tallies in six of the Wolves’ first 20 games, which was solid, but the Plano, Texas, native hit the hyperspace button once the squad reached the Lone Star State on Dec. 9. He handed out 2 assists Dec. 9, scored 2 goals Dec. 11 and finished the three-game stand in Texas with 2 goals and 1 assist Dec. 12.
After his NHL sojourn, Noesen notched 2 goals and 1 assist Saturday against Iowa, 1 goal and 1 assist Sunday against Cleveland and wrapped the Wolves’ quick three-game home stand with 2 goals Wednesday night against Grand Rapids.
“Our top guys set the tone of how we need to play,” said head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “When they do that, when they’re engaged in the hockey game, it’s a contagious feeling throughout the whole team. Our young guys understand that and they see it and that brings our team to where we need to go.”
we are the wolves
National Olympics rosters are getting settled and the Chicago Wolves will be well-represented at the 2022 Games in Beijing.
Kenny Agostino, who won the AHL’s Most Valuable Player award while racking up 83 points in 59 games for the Wolves in 2016-17, is one of the headliners on the United States squad. He’ll be joined by defenseman David Warsofsky, the younger brother of Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky and the producer of 2 goals and 17 assists in 22 Wolves games last year.
The Czech Republic roster includes right wing Tomas Hyka, who played a big role on the Wolves’ 2019 Calder Cup Finals squad. He shared the team in postseason scoring with 15 points (3G, 12A).
LAST TWO GAMES
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 12: (AT) CHICAGO 4, GRAND RAPIDS 0
- For the fourth time in his last six games, forward Stefan Noesen scored two goals as the Wolves broke to an early 2-0 lead and cruised to their 15th win in the last 16 games.
- Captain Andrew Poturalski added one goal and one assist, forward Jack Drury scored a goal and defenseman Joey Keane handed out two assists.
- Goaltender Daniel Mannella rejected all 23 shots he faced to earn his first professional shutout.
- 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.
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.
1: The Wolves boast the league’s best record at 23-5-1-1, which computes to an .800 points percentage. The franchise has never enjoyed such a hot start through 30 games, though the 1998 Turner Cup champions and the 2008 Calder Cup champions were in the ballpark. John Anderson’s 1997-98 squad opened 21-7-0-2 (.733) on the way to a 55-24-0-3 finish (.689). Anderson’s 2007-08 crew opened 22-7-1-0 (.750) on the way to a 53-22-2-3 finish (for a franchise-record .694).
4: The Wolves capped a furious week of transactions Thursday with four more moves involving netminders. Chicago added Alex Lyon from the Carolina Hurricanes and Dylan Wells from the Norfolk Admirals while releasing Michael Lackey and Daniel Mannella from their professional tryout contracts. Mannella and Lackey, neither of whom had played at the AHL level, guided the Wolves through a harrowing four-games-in-six-days stretch when none of the four goaltenders on their organizational depth chart were able to help. Lyon spent his time in the NHL while rookies Eetu Makiniemi and Beck Warm were unavailable due to injuries and Wells was dealing with medical protocols. Lackey handled the first 88 minutes and 23 seconds of the four-game stretch, but a lower-body injury knocked him out and Mannella did the rest. He preserved Lackey’s first AHL win on Saturday by stopping all 16 shots he faced, then earned his first AHL win on Sunday. To continue his spree of firsts, Mannella produced his first professional shutout Wednesday when he stopped 23 shots in a 4-0 win over Grand Rapids.
8: The Wolves have fought in just eight games this season, but games tend to change dramatically once a bout occurs. Here’s the scoop: The Wolves have trailed by a combined score of 17-6 before their fights, but outscored their opponents 17-3 afterward. What does that mean in terms of wins and losses? At the time of the fights, the Wolves trailed six times, were tied once and led once. They transformed those circumstances into seven wins (including Dec. 4 at Iowa) and just one loss.
34.83: 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 34.83 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
|Saturday, Jan. 15||at Iowa||6 p.m.||Wells Fargo Arena||AHLTV|
|Monday, Jan. 17||at Rockford||1 p.m.||MetroCentre||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Jan. 22||at Manitoba||2 p.m.||Canada Life Centre||AHLTV|
|Sunday, Jan. 23||at Manitoba||2 p.m.||Canada Life Centre||AHLTV|
|Wednesday, Jan. 26||vs. Texas||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.