CHICAGO WOLVES (23-6-2-1)
AT ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (14-12-1-1)
A TOUGHER ROAD
During the first three months of the season, the Chicago Wolves treated road games as if they were feasts. Head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s squad posted a 13-1-0-0 record away from home and outscored their foes by a whopping 56-28 margin. As the calendar flipped from 2021 to 2022, no other AHL team had more than eight road wins.
But since the Wolves started hitting the road in 2022, success has been much harder to find. Ten days ago, the Rockford IceHogs spoiled the Wolves’ franchise-record-tying 12-game winning streak by posting an 8-0 victory. Over the weekend, the Wolves traveled to Des Moines to face an Iowa Wild squad they already had beaten four times in four tries. The Wild flipped the script with a 4-3 regulation win Friday and a 3-2 overtime win Saturday.
Ergo, the Wolves enter today’s matinee at Rockford with a 0-2-1-0 road mark in this calendar year. Don’t worry, the Wolves still boast the AHL’s best road points percentage (.794), but that’s not sitting well with anyone based on how the weekend went.
When the Chicago Wolves traveled to Cedar Park on Dec. 9 to start a three-game road set with the Texas Stars, Wolves forward Stefan Noesen shared 19th place on the AHL’s scoring charts with 17 points (6G, 11A) in 20 games. He was also 10 goals behind AHL leader Michael Mersch’s 16 tallies.
Since that time, despite the fact he missed three Wolves games while playing for the NHL’s Charlotte Hurricanes, Noesen has rocketed from a share of 19th into a share of second on the AHL’s scoring list.
Noesen has piled up 17 points in his last nine games to zoom into a four-way tie at 34 points with Rochester’s Michael Mersch and Jack Quinn and Ontario’s T.J. Tynan. As for the list of goal leaders, Noesen’s 10 tallies over the last eight games has pushed him into a share of third place with Quinn and San Jose’s Scott Reedy — just 2 behind Mersch.
Since the 28-year-old Noesen turned pro near the end of the 2013-14 season, he never has scored more than 21 goals in one season. In 2019-20, Noesen split his season between the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (14 goals in 22 games), Pittsburgh Penguins (1 goal in 6 games) and San Jose Sharks (6 goals in 34 games).
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. HOLIDAY
Every year, the Rockford IceHogs host a Monday afternoon home game on the federal holiday commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. This marks just the second time the Wolves have had the honor to be the visiting team. On Jan. 19, 2015, the Wolves earned a 4-1 victory as goaltender Jordan Binnington stopped 29 shots to outduel Scott Darling.
we are the wolves
Seven years ago today, the Wolves and IceHogs played before their third-largest crowd in the rivalry’s history.
With 15,225 jammed into Allstate Arena on a Saturday night, Chicago’s Jordan Binnington and Rockford’s Michael Leighton engaged in a sterling goaltenders’ duel. The IceHogs came away with a 3-2 shootout victory as Leighton, the AHL’s all-time leader in shutouts, rejected 44 of 46 shots in regulation and overtime.
Binnington stopped 19 of 21 shots as he launched a franchise-record streak where he started 18 consecutive games.
LAST TWO GAMES
- After being stonewalled for the first 54 minutes by Iowa goaltender Hunter Jones, the Wolves broke through with two goals in 86 seconds to ensure a point at Wells Fargo Arena.
- Forwards Stefan Noesen and David Gust scored during the third-period rally. For Noesen, it marked his 10th goal in his last eight games.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon notched 26 saves.
- The Wolves fought back from a two-goal deficit to forge a tie in the third period, but Iowa’s Nick Swaney posted a shorthanded goal with 5:49 remaining to pick up the win at Wells Fargo Arena.
- Captain Andrew Poturalski, Des Moines native C.J. Smith and defenseman Max Lajoie scored goals while Stefan Noesen earned two primary assists.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon posted 25 saves as his six-game winning streak came to a close.
By the numbers
0: The Wolves received zero power-play opportunities in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss at Iowa (compared to the Wild’s 3). How rare is that? The Wolves hadn’t had zero power-play chances in a regular-season game since Feb. 13, 2015, in a 1-0 win at Oklahoma City. That’s a stretch of 456 regular-season games. It was just the fourth time in Wolves’ regular-season history that they didn’t get any power-play tries. Adding to the unlikelihood of the zero? The Wolves entered the night tied for the league lead in power-play attempts with 151 in 31 games — nearly 5 per game.
9: Defenseman Joey Keane made his season debut with the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday afternoon, which made him the ninth Wolves player this season to suit up for the National Hockey League’s No. 2 team in terms of points percentages. The Hurricanes’ .743 showing trails only the Florida Panthers (.750). Keane played 13 minutes, 38 seconds Saturday in Carolina’s 4-1 win over Vancouver. The 22-year-old Homer Glen native now has two NHL games under his belt.Here are the other Wolves who have played for the Canes this season: Goaltender Alex Lyon, defensemen Jalen Chatfield and Max Lajoie and forwards Jack Drury, Josh Leivo, Stefan Noesen, Andrew Poturalski and C.J. Smith.
30: The Wolves have scored 109 goals this season and given up 79, which means they own a +30 goal differential through 32 games. This +30 ranks third among all AHL teams as the Pacific Division-leading Stockton Heat are sitting at +32 and the North Division-leading Utica Comets check in at +31. They’re a clear Big Three as the next-closest team is the Ontario Reign at +22. In the Central Division, only one other team owns a positive goal differential as the Wolves have helped skew other teams’ showings. The second-place Manitoba Moose, who trail the Wolves by 6 points in the standings, possess a +21 differential.
34.56: 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 34.56 shots per game, which owns first in the 31-team AHL with Colorado (34.41) the nearest pursuer.
110: It’s dangerous to try to project season point totals when a team hasn’t even reached the halfway point, but let’s have some fun with multiplication anyway. Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski has racked up a league-high 44 points (17G, 27A) in just 29 games this season. If he maintains this 1.517 points-per-game the rest of the season and has the good fortune to stay healthy, then he’s on pace to finish with 110 points this season. Nobody has scored that many points in an AHL season since the Wolves’ Jason Krog stacked up 112 points (39G, 73A) in 80 games on his way to winning the league’s MVP award — and he didn’t quit until he led the Wolves to the 2008 Calder Cup title.
416: Since the Wolves played their first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 716 players have suited up for Chicago. Defenseman Billy Constantinou became No. 716 when he made his AHL debut Saturday at Iowa. When center Jack Drury made his debut with Carolina on Dec. 16, he became the 416th Wolves alum to compete in the greatest league in the world. Put another way, 58.1 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|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|
|Friday, Jan. 28||vs. Grand Rapids||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Saturday, Jan. 29||vs. Rockford||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.