ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (18-16-3-1)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (27-9-4-2)
THE BIRTHDAY BOY
Chicago Wolves forward Stefan Noesen turns 29 years old today. The Plano, Texas, native ranks as the oldest skater on this year’s squad, though goaltender Alex Lyon is a couple months older.
While some athletes might not relish adding 1 in the age category, Noesen believes with age comes wisdom about how to score goals. And who’s to argue? Entering today’s play, he joins teammate Andrew Poturalski, Ontario’s Martin Frk and Abbotsford’s Sheldon Dries as the AHL’s top goal-scorers with 21 apiece.
“I think I’m finally figuring out what I need to do to score goals,” said Noesen, who played his 398th professional game Friday night at Rockford. “It took me a little bit to figure it out in juniors. It has taken me a little bit in the pros, too. My game is pretty cut-and-dry. When I’m going well, I get tips on pucks and I’m able to use my frame down low.”
The next time the 6-foot-1, 207-pound Noesen scores a goal, he’ll set a career-high for his eight-year pro career — and the Wolves still have 34 regular-season games remaining.
“The best is still yet to come,” Noesen said. “I tend to heat up in the second half of the season, so hopefully I can just plug away here and win some more games.”
If this is true, then Noesen’s second half should be unreal. From Dec. 11 to Jan. 28, the 2011 NHL first-round pick piled up 14 goals in an 11-game stretch. That spree included FIVE game-winning goals: Dec. 11, Dec. 12, Jan. 9, Jan. 12 and Jan. 28. Noesen paces the AHL with 7 game-winning goals, one more than Stockton’s Jakob Pelletier.
TIME TO START A NEW STREAK
The Chicago Wolves didn’t allow a power-play goal for more than a month, but their franchise-record streak came to a close during Friday night’s 5-4 loss at Rockford. When Michal Teply scored his PPG 16:49 into the first period, that ended the Wolves’ streak at 777 minutes and 59 seconds since the Cleveland Monsters’ Josh Dunne scored at 9:44 of the second period on Jan. 9.
The Wolves wound up killing 35 consecutive power plays during that elongated stretch, which included 12 full games. To put the team’s feat into perspective, the Wolves had never gone more than six consecutive games without allowing a power-play goal in the franchise’s first 27 years. Prior to the run that just ended, the team’s longest streak had been 474 minutes and 19 seconds by the 2018-19 team that went on to the 2019 Calder Cup Finals.
While Chicago’s penalty-kill units set every possible regular-season franchise record, they fell 1 kill shy of the postseason record set in 2002 on the way to the Calder Cup championship.
we are the wolves
Who’s ready for another shootout? In each of Rockford’s last three trips to Allstate Arena — each of them on a Saturday night — the Wolves and IceHogs haven’t been satisfied with playing only 60 minutes or finding a solution in overtime.
On Nov. 20, Rockford’s Dylan McLaughlin tallied the lone shootout goal in the fourth round to give the IceHogs a 3-2 win.
On Nov. 27, the Wolves’ Josh Leivo came through in the third round while Alex Lyon stoned all three Rockford attempts to give Chicago the 3-2 win.
On Jan. 29, Michal Teply and Lukas Reichel scored for Rockford while Stefan Noesen scored for Chicago as the IceHogs claimed a 1-0 decision.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Rockford owned a 5-1 lead 34 minutes into the game, but the Wolves rallied to pull within 1 with 14 seconds left before dropping the feisty Central Division clash.
- Forwards David Gust, Andrew Poturalski and Jamieson Rees and defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald while Poturalski added two assists as the Wolves owned a 47-23 shot advantage.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon stopped 11 of 16 shots and backup Jack LaFontaine rejected all 7 he saw.
- 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.
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 Feb. 4 when Alex Lyon stopped 19 shots in a 1-0 win at Milwaukee. Lyon, who ranks fourth in the league with a 2.16 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).
10:16: The Wolves are gunning to become the first AHL team since the 2007-08 Providence Bruins to lead the league in Shots For (35.40) and Shots Against (25.24) in the same season. Their shots differential per game (10.16) 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. If the Wolves maintain these shot averages the rest of the season, both will set single-season franchise records.
13: One of the ways to earn the Central Division title is to continue to stack up points at home — and the Wolves have earned at least one point in each of their last 13 games at Allstate Arena. The streak began with an overtime loss Nov. 14 against Toronto and has carried through a shootout loss Jan. 29 versus Rockford, but there were a lot of wins in between. The Wolves own a 9-0-2-2 record during this run. It’s the franchise’s best stretch at home since the 2017-18 squad won 13 straight at home from Dec. 6 to Feb. 15.
18: Day Three of the Olympics men’s hockey tournament pitted several former Wolves against each other in the United States vs. Canada preliminary game late Friday night. Nothing was more dramatic than the United States’ Kenny Agostino (the 2016-17 AHL MVP) powering a slap shot through Canada goaltender Edward Pasquale (2010-11) for a crucial insurance goal midway through the third period of Team USA’s 4-2 win. Defenseman Petteri Lindbohm (2014-18) recorded an assist for Finland during a 3-1 victory over Latvia and Arturs Kulda (2007-11). Carl Klingberg (2010-11) scored a goal and Philip Holm (2017-18) notched an assist to help Sweden defeat Slovakia 4-1. There’s still one more round of group play, but looking ahead for the 18 ex-Wolves: The semifinal games are slated for 10:10 p.m. Feb. 17 and 7:10 a.m. Feb. 18. The bronze-medal game is scheduled for 7:10 a.m. Feb. 19, and the gold-medal game happens at 10:10 p.m. Feb. 20.
56: 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. Poturalski racked up 3 points Friday night to push his total to 56 (21G, 35A) in 39 games, which puts him on pace to score 104 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 50 points (8G, 42A).
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
|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|
|Sunday, Feb. 27||at Manitoba||2 p.m.||Canada Life Centre||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.