CHICAGO WOLVES (25-7-4-2)
AT MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS (20-18-2-2)
LET’S START THE SECOND HALF
Tonight’s visit to Milwaukee marks the start of the second half of the Chicago Wolves’ 76-game regular-season schedule. Seems like a great time to measure the Wolves against the rest of the 31-team AHL and guess what might transpire over the next 12 weeks.
The Wolves’ .737 points percentage ranks third in the AHL and finds head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s squad in position to win the organization’s fifth Central Division title in the last six years. Manitoba ranks second in the Central at .662, which is roughly a 6-point advantage. (That .737 points percentage, by the way, is the Wolves’ best showing halfway through a season since the 2007-08 squad posted a .738 start at 29-10-1-0. Of course, that team went on to capture the 2008 Calder Cup.)
How have the Wolves built this record? There are multiple statistics that provide insight.
1) The Wolves lead the league in Shots For (35.37 per game) and Shots Against (25.66). No AHL team has led the league in both categories since the Providence Bruins ran the table in 2007-08 with 34.04 Shots For and 25.36 Shots Against. Over the last 30 seasons, only two AHL teams have posted a better shot differential than the Wolves’ current +9.71: The 2001-02 Saint John Flames finished at +12.1, then the 2001-02 Flames posted a +11.51 mark.
2) The Wolves lead the league in Power Play differential (+52) as they’ve earned 178 power plays while allowing just 126. They’ve done this by ranking second to Utica in power plays earned per game (4.68) and fourth in power plays allowed per game (3.32).
Even when the Wolves are forced to the penalty kill, they’re not getting burned. They’ve defused their foes’ last 28 power-play chances and haven’t allowed a PPG since the 9:44 mark of the second period on Jan. 9 vs. the Cleveland Monsters. That’s a franchise-record run of 580 minutes and 48 seconds. Prior to this, no Wolves team had gone more than six full games without allowing a PPG.
3) The Wolves continue to trot out the most productive line in the AHL. In left wing CJ Smith (12 goals, 27 assists), center Andrew Poturalski (20 goals, 31 assists) and right wing Stefan Noesen (20 goals, 20 assists), Chicago boasts the AHL’s top two goal-scorers and three of the top six point-producers.
Since the Wolves and the Admirals last met on Dec. 18, Milwaukee has fashioned a 10-5-0-2 record to climb from sixth place to fourth in the Central Division. The Admirals have been particularly terrific since Jan. 17 as they have won their last seven games by a 22-6 margin, which includes 4 shutouts.
Reigning AHL Player of the Week Connor Ingram, who tended goal for the Wolves in five games last season, has been in net for all seven games and delivered an 0.85 goals-against average and a .973 save percentage. Rocco Grimaldi has contributed five goals and seven assists over the last seven.
we are the wolves
The last time the Wolves visited Milwaukee on Dec. 17, the Wolves created a nice chunk of franchise history.
When Dominik Bokk scored 2:50 into overtime against Milwaukee goaltender Connor Ingram to give Eetu Makiniemi (25 saves) and Chicago the 1-0 win, it marked the first time in Wolves history they wrapped up a shutout during overtime.
The Wolves own 143 shutouts all-time. Four have been 1-0 shootout wins. Four have been 1-0 shootout losses. A whopping 134 have ended in regulation. Only the Dec. 17 shutout concluded in overtime.
LAST TWO GAMES
- For just the eighth time in Wolves history, a scoreless game was decided by a shootout. Michal Teply and Lukas Reichel tallied in the first two rounds to give Rockford 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.
By the numbers
1: Wolves goaltender Alex Lyon leads the American Hockey League in goals-against average with a 2.04 showing in his 16 games. The 29-year-old Baudette, Minnesota, native also owns an 11-3-2 record and .917 save percentage. Prior to this season, while serving as Lehigh Valley’s backstop for most of the last five years, his best single-season GAA was 2.69 and his best save percentage was .916.
4: Rookie goaltender Jack LaFontaine, making his fourth appearance as a professional, recorded his first shutout Saturday night and joined an exclusive but weird club at the same time. You see, LaFontaine got the shutout but not the win as the Wolves dropped a 1-0 decision in a shootout to Rockford. LaFontaine joined the company of Wendell Young (Nov. 11, 2000), Manny Legace (Oct. 23, 2009) and Jake Allen (April 1, 2014) as the Wolves goaltenders who’ve earned a shutout without also getting a win. LaFontaine has made two starts for the Wolves since being loaned by the Carolina Hurricanes (NHL) on Jan. 24. He owns an 0-0-2 record with an 0.94 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage.
6: Rookie Jack LaFontaine’s shutout Saturday night marked the Wolves’ AHL-leading sixth of the season. Only two other teams have more than three: Milwaukee’s 5 (all courtesy of Connor Ingram) and Manitoba’s 4. The Wolves have an excellent opportunity to break the franchise’s single-season record of 9 shutouts set by Wendell Young (6) and Andrei Trefilov (3) in 1999-2000. What’s remarkable is that four goaltenders have contributed to the team’s six-shutout total. Alex Lyon and Eetu Makiniemi own two blankings while LaFontaine and Daniel Mannella each have one.
15: The Olympics men’s hockey tournament begins Wednesday in Beijing and the Wolves will be well-represented with 15 former players listed on the active 25-man rosters: forward Tyler Wong and defenseman Jake Chelios (China); defenseman Konrad Abeltshauser (Germany), forward Sergey Andronov (Russian Olympic Committee), forwards Daniel Carr, Adam Cracknell, Landon Ferraro and Eric O’Dell and goaltender Edward Pasquale (Canada), forward Kenny Agostino and defenseman David Warsofsky (USA), forward Tomas Hyka (Czech Republic), defenseman Petteri Lindbohm (Finland) and forward Nicklas Jensen (Denmark). In addition, former captain and assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner will serve as an assistant for Team Canada while ex-defenseman Morgan Ellis stands at the ready on Canada’s taxi squad.
20: Wolves forward Stefan Noesen scored two goals last Friday night, which means he has scored a pair of goals in six of his last 12 games dating back to Dec. 11. Noesen, who has racked up 14 goals and 9 assists in his last 13 games, has jumped into a tie for the AHL’s goal-scoring lead with linemate Andrew Poturalski. With the Wolves having played 38 of their 76 regular-season games, it’s clear both are on pace to score 40-plus goals. No Wolves player has scored that many in an AHL season since Brett Sterling stacked up a league-leading 55 goals on his way to Rookie of the Year honors in 2006-07. No Wolves pair has scored 40-plus in the same year since 2006-07, when league MVP Darren Haydar abetted Sterling with 41 goals and 81 assists.
35.37: 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 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 35.37 shots per game, which owns first in the 31-team AHL with Colorado (34.08) the nearest pursuer.
417: Since the Wolves played their first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 720 players have suited up for Chicago. Goaltender Jack LaFontaine became No. 720 when he made his Wolves debut Jan. 26, but he also became the 417th player to compete for the Wolves and in the greatest league in the world. Put another way, 57.9 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|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|
|Tuesday, Feb. 15||vs. Milwaukee||11 a.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.