CHICAGO WOLVES (27-8-4-2)
AT ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (17-16-3-1)
Friday, Feb. 11 | 7 p.m. | MetroCentre | AHLTV | Facebook Live
THE YOUNG MAN AND THE “w”
Chicago Wolves rookie goaltender Jack LaFontaine earned his first professional win Tuesday night when he stopped 16 shots in the Wolves’ 3-2 overtime victory at Cleveland. For the 24-year-old from Mississauga, Ontario, it capped a whirlwind of a first month as a pro.
When LaFontaine woke up on Sunday, Jan. 9, he was prepared for the final stretch of his college career at the University of Minnesota and planning to take a graduate school course this semester. Then the Carolina Hurricanes, who picked LaFontaine in the third round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, contacted him and asked if he was ready and willing to turn pro. Now.
“By that night, I was packing for Raleigh,” LaFontaine said. “It happened pretty quick. It came out of left field. I got the call that Sunday and was just as surprised as anyone would have been. In my heart of hearts, I knew it was the right decision and I pounced on it.”
LaFontaine already had proven everything possible at Minnesota. Last season, he won the Mike Richter Award as college’s best goaltender and was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award that goes to the best college player overall. Oh, and he also earned recognition as an Academic All-American. He owns a degree in English.
“I love literature,” he said. “I love reading. I’m a big writer myself. That’s just something I enjoy and something I decided to study. My favorite author is Hemingway. He’s my go-to.”
Hemingway’s final work, of course, was “The Old Man and the Sea,” which explains why this note is titled The Young Man and the “W.”
With injuries to other goaltenders a factor, LaFontaine went straight to Carolina to start his career. After two appearances with the Hurricanes, he joined the Wolves Jan. 24 and has posted a 1-0-2 record with a 2.42 goals-against average. He feels more comfortable with each outing.
“I believe in the compound effect: One percent (better) each day,” LaFontaine said. “Each time I step on the ice, I know I’m getting better and I know I’m getting more acclimatized to the speed here.”
we are the wolves
Since the Wolves and IceHogs started playing on Oct. 19, 2007, each side has won 82 regular-season games.
A representative game occurred 10 years ago today when the Wolves won 6-2 at Rockford. Matt Clackson and Brandon Bollig engaged in the game’s first fight just 3:22 into the game, then Clackson and Bollig got matching 10-minute misconducts with 1:11 left in regulation.
In between, Mark Mancari scored two goals — his 19th and 20th of the season — while Mark Matheson and Steve Reinprecht handed out two assists apiece as the Wolves improved their record to 27-18-1-3.
LAST TWO GAMES
TUESDAY, FEB. 8: CHICAGO 3, (AT) CLEVELAND 2 (OT)
- Maxim Letunov set up Joey Keane for the game-winner 22 seconds into overtime as the Central Division-leading Wolves never trailed at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
- Forwards David Gust and Stefan Noesen scored during regulation while Keane registered the primary assist on Noesen’s AHL-leading 21st goal of the season.
- Goaltender Jack LaFontaine rejected 16 shots to earn his first win as a professional.
SATURDAY, FEB. 5: (AT) MILWAUKEE 7, CHICAGO 5
- 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.
By the numbers
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).
9.83: The Wolves are gunning to become the first AHL team since the 2007-08 Providence Bruins to lead the league in Shots For (35.12) and Shots Against (25.29) in the same season. Their shots differential per game (9.83) ranks as the AHL’s biggest positive margin since the 2001-02 Saint John Flames managed a 11.51 shots advantage. The Wolves own just one Shots For title in their first 27 seasons — it happened in 1998-99 — and have yet to lead a league in Shots Against.
17: The Olympics men’s hockey tournament is underway as 12 countries got in their openers Wednesday or Thursday. Of the 17 former Wolves on active rosters in the tournament, Team Canada goaltender Edward Pasquale enjoyed the biggest start as he rejected 23 of 24 shots when Canada posted a 5-1 win over Germany. Eric O’Dell handed out two assists and Adam Cracknell one for Canada. In other action, Kenny Agostino and David Warsofsky helped Team USA claim an 8-0 win over China. By the way, Tyler Wong and Jake Chelios suited up for China, but you might not recognize their names in the box score because they’ve been given new names by their country. Wong is listed as Taile Wang while Chelios is Jieke Kailiaosi. Meanwhile, Sweden added defenseman Philip Holm to its active roster for Thursday’s 3-2 win over Latvia while Canada added defenseman Morgan Ellis to its 25-man active roster (but he did not play against Germany.
34: The Wolves’ penalty-kill units have not allowed a power-play goal since the 9:44 mark of the second period on Jan. 9 versus Cleveland, which means they have established regular-season franchise records for most consecutive kills (34), most consecutive full games without allowing a PPG (12) and longest streak without allowing a PPG (761 minutes and 10 seconds). This crew, however, still has at least one more team record to break because during the 2002 Calder Cup Playoffs, the Wolves defused 36 consecutive power plays from Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinal against Syracuse (May 7) to Game 1 of the Calder Cup Final against Bridgeport (May 24).
53: Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski, who won the AHL scoring title last year with 43 points in 44 games, has been at the top of the league’s scoring list this year since he recorded his 24th point on Dec. 4. Now Poturalski owns 53 points (20G, 33A) in 38 games, which puts him on pace to score 101 points this season. Ontario center T.J. Tynan, who paced the AHL with 59 assists in 2018-19 on behalf of the Wolves, ranks second in the AHL with 48 points (8G, 40A).
418: 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 418th player to compete for the Wolves and 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, 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|
|Saturday, Feb. 26||at Manitoba||2 p.m.||Canada Life Centre||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.