CHICAGO WOLVES (26-8-4-2)
AT CLEVELAND MONSTERS (13-19-4-3)
A MONTH FILLED WITH KILLS
When the Cleveland Monsters visited the Chicago Wolves on Jan. 9 at Allstate Arena, Cleveland’s Josh Dunne scored on the power play at 9:44 of the second period. At the time, it was memorable because it gave the Monsters a 3-2 lead over the Wolves. (Yes, the Wolves rallied for the 4-3 win.)
Today, with the benefit of 30 days’ worth of hindsight, Dunne’s goal remains in the spotlight because it represents the last power-play goal scored against the Wolves.
Chicago has played 700 minutes and 48 seconds since Dunne’s goal without surrendering anything on the power play. That includes each of the team’s last 11 games, which has shattered the previous franchise record of six straight games without allowing a PPG. Not only have the Wolves defused 31 straight power-play opportunities, they have scored 3 shorthanded goals (by Stefan Noesen, Andrew Poturalski and Jalen Chatfield).
Assistant coach Patrick Dwyer, no stranger to the penalty-kill unit during his seven seasons playing for the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, directs the Wolves’ penalty-kill crew. On the morning of Jan. 9, the Wolves ranked 24th in the 31-team AHL with an 80.0 percent kill rate (76 of 95). This morning, the Wolves rank fourth with an 84.6 percent kill rate (110 of 130). For those of you scoring at home, that’s 34 out of 35 kills with the only blemish being Dunne’s goal.
“I think a couple of things have happened,” Dwyer said. “We’ve kind of come into some chemistry in terms of our killing pairs. And it is a system that takes a little bit of getting used to the routes — and getting comfortable in those. Now that we seem to have gotten comfortable, now comes the pressure within those routes. We’re making sure we’re not giving (the other team’s) skill guys time or space to make plays. You talk to skill guys and that’s what they want: Time and space on the half-wall to find their next play. By going hard on those routes, we don’t allow those guys to have any time.”
Another key factor? The Wolves stay out of the penalty box about as well as any team in the league. Through 40 games, the Wolves are averaging 3.25 penalty-kill opportunities per night. Only the Bridgeport Islanders at 3.23 are allowing fewer.
During the Wolves’ lone penalty kill Saturday night at Milwaukee, it would be shorter to list the number of guys who didn’t help kill it off. But rest assured everyone from the league’s top five scorers (Poturalski, Noesen and CJ Smith) on down contributes to the unit.
“Everybody has bought into it,” Dwyer said. “You don’t kill that many in a row without everybody doing it — and doing it the right way. We’ve got everybody blocking shots. Defensemen. Forwards. First-line guys and fourth-line guys. When everybody’s doing that, you have an opportunity to do something special.”
we are the wolves
onight’s game was scheduled originally for Dec. 22, but COVID-19 health and safety protocols prevented the Wolves from traveling to Cleveland.
That means the Monsters did not get to meet the Wolves when they owned the best road record in the 31-team AHL. In fact, the Wolves owned the league’s best road record the entire first half of this season. But Saturday’s 7-5 loss at Milwaukee means the Wolves “only” rank second with their .727 points percentage away from home (15-5-2-0). Utica has edged ahead of Chicago with a .735 showing (11-3-3-0).
If this year’s crew is going to break the single-season franchise record for best road record, they’re going to need to pick up the pace a little bit. John Anderson’s 2006-07 squad owns the record with a 27-8-2-3 record, which computes to a .738 points percentage.
Therefore, this year’s Wolves need to earn 25 points from their final 18 road games to order to finish with the 57 points necessary to break the record.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Milwaukee jumped to a 5-1 lead in the first period, but the Wolves chipped away and cut the deficit to 6-5 with 5:05 left before allowing an empty-net goal in the final second.
- Forwards David Gust, Ryan Suzuki and CJ Smith and defensemen Jesper Sellgren and Jalen Chatfield scored goals while all but Suzuki also contributed an assist.
- Goaltenders Jack LaFontaine stopped 7 of 11 and Alex Lyon posted 11 saves on 13 shots in the loss.
- The Wolves snapped Milwaukee goaltender Connor Ingram’s scoreless streak at 191 minutes, 49 seconds to claim their seventh win in as many tries against the Admirals this season.
- Forward CJ Smith delivered the streak-busting goal at 12:18 of the first and was assisted by defenseman Jalen Chatfield and center Jack Drury.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon stopped 19 shots to earn his third shutout of the season..
By the numbers
4: Saturday’s 7-5 loss at Milwaukee was remarkable in at least one aspect: It marked the first time this season the Wolves lost when scoring four goals or more. Since the Wolves became partners with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and Ryan Warsofsky became the head coach in September 2020, Chicago has posted a 35-2-1-0 record (.934) when scoring at least 4 goals.
7: The Wolves lead the American Hockey League in shutouts with 7, which is more than twice as many as every other AHL team except for Milwaukee (5) and Manitoba (4). The most recent blanking happened Friday night when Alex Lyon stopped 19 shots in a 1-0 win at Milwaukee. Lyon, who ranks second in the league with a 1.95 GAA, owns 3 shutouts. Rookie Eetu Makiniemi, who hasn’t played since Dec. 18 due to injury, has posted two whitewashes while rookie Jack LaFontaine and Daniel Mannella own one apiece. The franchise record of 9 was set in 1999-2000 by Wendell Young (6) and Andrei Trefilov (3).
9.65: The Wolves are gunning to become the first AHL team since the 2007-08 Providence Bruins to lead the league in Shots For (35.13) and Shots Against (25.48) in the same season. Their shots differential per game (9.65) stacks up as the best in the league since the 2001-02 Saint John Flames’ 11.51 shots advantage. The Wolves won just one Shots For title in their first 27 seasons and have yet to lead a league in Shots Against.
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: For the first time in a while, Wolves forwards Andrew Poturalski and Stefan Noesen don’t have the AHL’s goal-scoring lead all to themselves. Ontario’s Martin Frk scored his 20th goal Friday night to pull into a tie with Poturalski and Noesen, Poturalski still holds the AHL’s scoring lead with 52 points (20G, 32A), but former Wolves center T.J. Tynan keeps creeping closer as the Ontario center owns 48 points (8G, 40A).
31: Rookie center Ryan Suzuki, the Carolina Hurricanes’ first-round pick in 2019, had to miss 31 games due to injury. That was a shame because the 20-year-old got off to a hot start with 1 goal and 2 assists in the Wolves’ first five games. But Suzuki returned to the lineup Jan. 28 and scored a goal Saturday night against Milwaukee — his first tally since Opening Night (Oct. 16) against Rockford.
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
|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|
|Saturday, Feb. 19||vs. Iowa||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Sunday, Feb. 20||vs. Iowa||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.