Welcome to Wolves Insider, presented by Rivers Casino: the weekly report that gives you the latest Chicago Wolves news as the organization battles for its fifth league championship.
BEST FIRST-HALF RECORD IN 14 YEARS
For those who missed the news: The American Hockey League has canceled this year’s All-Star Game scheduled for Monday, Feb. 7, in beautiful Laval, Quebec, due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Considering the Wolves have a game scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 5, in Milwaukee and a makeup game Tuesday, Feb. 8, in Cleveland, it wasn’t like the players were going to get much of an All-Star Break anyway.
To make up for missing out on their scheduled days off Feb. 6-7, head coach Ryan Warsofsky and assistants Patrick Dwyer and Bob Nardella determined the Wolves should celebrate their own All-Star Break right now. Everyone has Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to relax and recuperate — and it’s a well-deserved siesta.
The Wolves reached the midpoint of their 76-game regular-season schedule Saturday night and here’s where they stand: Their 25-7-4-2 record leads the Central Division and ranks third overall among the AHL’s 31 teams. The team’s .737 points percentage is the franchise’s best showing in the first half of a season since the 2007-08 squad posted a .738 points percentage (29-10-1-0) on its way to the 2008 Calder Cup championship. Considering this success, the players have earned their break. But Warsofsky, as is his habit, wants more. The Wolves averaged 2.75 goals per game during 12 games in January — as opposed to 3.46 during the 26 games in October, November and December.
“At the end of the day, we need to dig a little bit deeper,” Warsofsky said. “These are the dog days of January, February, March…we can sit there and get comfortable with our spot in the standings, but we need to continue to fight on. We have a target on our back. We said it on Day 1: We’re not just going to get into January and lay down. We’re going to keep going. And we’re going to challenge you as coaches to push you development-wise and to win hockey games. It’s that simple. That’s how we coach.”
THANK YOU, HEALTHCARE HEROES
The Chicago Wolves appreciate all of the Healthcare Heroes (and their families) who utilized the team’s free ticket offer and joined us for our three home games last week. Everyone in the organization also thanks all of the fans who participated in the Golden Ticket raffle, blind auction and silent auction to win the team’s game-worn, autographed Healthcare Heroes jerseys, presented by Turtle Wax. Thousands of dollars were raised for local charities, including Chicago Wolves Charities driven by Kia.
STAR WARS NIGHT
Join us Saturday, Feb. 12, at Allstate Arena to celebrate Star Wars Night as the Wolves host the Rockford IceHogs. Unleash your inner Force-wielder, hero, creature or droid with other Star Wars fanatics as all of your favorite characters will be roaming the arena. For just $25, you can get the exclusive Star Wars Light Saber package that features one lower-level ticket and one light saber. To get yours, click here.
After the Wolves host Star Wars Night and Adopt-A-Dog Night, presented by Premier Veterinary Group, on Feb. 12, there are plenty more big events planned for Wolves home games! On Saturday, Feb. 19, come out for Faith and Fellowship Night and the Salvation Army’s pregame service project (making blankets that will be donated immediately to local charities for people who need them).
Pride Day and Papa Johns Family Sunday are Sunday, Feb. 20. The next giveaways are the Wolves Snow Globe Giveaway, courtesy of Jewel, on Saturday, March 5, and the Wolves Goalie Mask Bank Giveaway, courtesy of My50 Chicago, on Saturday, April 9.
The Wolves captain scored Wednesday against Texas to become the first AHL player to reach the 20-goal mark this season. The 28-year-old from Williamsville, New York, shares the league lead in goals (see below) and continues to pace everyone with 51 points. He has failed to earn a point in just five of the Wolves’ 20 road games so far this year.
Noesen scored two goals during Friday’s win over Grand Rapids, which marked the sixth time in his last 11 games that the 28-year-old from Texas produced two goals in a game. Noesen’s spree has pushed him into a tie for the AHL lead with teammate Andrew Poturalski. Noesen also owns 20 assists in 33 games, so he ranks third on the AHL’s points list.
LaFontaine turned pro Jan. 9 and, after two appearances for the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, played his first two games with the Wolves last week. The 2021 Mike Richter Award winner (for college’s best goalie) delivered the goods as he stopped 31 of 33 shots against Texas and Rockford to finish the week with an 0.94 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage.
- For just the eighth time in Wolves history, a scoreless game was decided by a shootout. Rockford’s Michal Teply and Lukas Reichel tallied in the first two rounds to give the IceHogs the extra point.
- Forward Stefan Noesen scored in the shootout’s first round while Jack Drury fired a game-high 5 shots as the Wolves launched 36 shots to the IceHogs’ 16.
- Goaltender Jack LaFontaine earned his first pro shutout with 16 saves over 65 minutes.
- The Wolves scored three power-play goals in a six-minute, 19-second stretch of the second period to spark the team’s seventh win in as many tries against Grand Rapids this season.
- Forward Stefan Noesen scored two power-play goals and added an assist while center Maxim Letunov and defenseman Max Lajoie also scored as the Wolves outshot the Griffins 40-16.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon stopped 15 shots to earn the win.
- The Wolves outshot the Stars 37-17 (just two shy of tying the team record for fewest Shots Against), but Rhett Gardner scored 2:58 into overtime to give Texas the extra point.
- Captain Andrew Poturalski scored his league-leading 20th goal in the first period as forward CJ Smith and defenseman Max Lajoie earned the assists.
- Goaltender Jack LaFontaine posted 15 saves in his Wolves debut.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|Friday, Feb. 4||at Milwaukee||7 p.m.||Panther Arena||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Feb. 5||at Milwaukee||6 p.m.||Panther Arena||AHLTV|
|Tuesday, Feb. 8||at Cleveland||6 p.m.||Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse||AHLTV|
|Friday, Feb. 11||at Rockford||7 p.m.||MetroCentre||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Feb. 12||vs. Rockford||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.