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.
PLAYING THEIR HEARTS OUT
The Chicago Wolves have been standing atop the American Hockey League’s Central Division every day since Nov. 27 and for more than 80 percent of the season overall. Though the Wolves’ lead over the second-place Manitoba Moose continues to be eight points, head coach Ryan Warsofsky would love to see his players continue to battle through the dog days of February and reassert their general dominance.
“We’re working hard,” Warsofsky said. “It’s just little things in our game that need to get better, but we’re getting there. I think guys’ individual games need to improve. Our younger players need to step it up another gear. We’re halfway through the year. They’re a big part of this team, which sometimes they don’t realize.”
To be sure, the Wolves’ veterans are atop the team’s (and league’s) scoring charts. Captain Andrew Poturalski, who turned 28 last month, leads the AHL with 57 points. Right wing Stefan Noesen, who turned 29 Saturday, shares the league lead with 22 goals. Left wing CJ Smith, who turned 27 in December, shares sixth place in the league with 42 points. But Winnetka native Jack Drury (10 goals) is the only rookie with more than 3 goals, though highly-touted Ryan Suzuki just returned from a three-month injury and owns 3 goals in just 11 games.
“These are the dog days right now, where you can check in and out mentally,” Warsofsky said. “We’ve got to check in because teams are coming for us. Our effort has been really good, consistent. It’s just the smaller details in our game. As long as I’m the coach here, we’re going to strive for greatness. I don’t care who you are. The bar is going to be really high and it’s going to continue to rise until you’re in the National Hockey League.”
BIG WEEKEND AHEAD
On Saturday, Feb. 19, the Wolves host Faith and Fellowship Night. Fans also can volunteer for a pregame service project with the Salvation Army — a chance to make blankets that will be distributed immediately to those in need throughout the Chicago area. Get more details here.
On Sunday, Feb. 20, join the Wolves and LGBTQ+ and ally families, fans and community organizations as we celebrate Pride Day as part of the 3 p.m. game against the Iowa Wild. To learn more, visit here.
WOLVES WIVES VALENTINE’s DAY PUCKS
The Wolves have just three more home games in February, so time is running out to acquire an autographed, commemorative Valentine’s Day-themed puck as part of the team’s traditional Wolves Wives Puck Fundraiser!
The Wolves’ wives and girlfriends are selling the pucks at the Chicago Wolves Charities table located behind Section 105 at Allstate Arena on Feb. 15, 19 and 20. Pucks are just $10 apiece and proceeds benefit Chicago Wolves Charities, driven by Kia.
On his 29th birthday, Noesen scored with 1:41 left Saturday against Rockford to force overtime. Not only did his goal ensure a point for the Wolves, he grabbed a share of the AHL goal-scoring lead with his career-high 22nd tally. The Plano, Texas, native shares first with Abbotsford’s Sheldon Dries in goals, leads with 7 game-winning goals and ranks fourth with 44 points.
The rookie goaltender capped a hectic first month as a professional with his first pro victory Tuesday at Cleveland. The 24-year-old from Mississauga, Ontario, stopped 16 shots in the win. For the week, LaFontaine rejected 39 of 44 shots while playing in all three games. He owns a 1-0-3 record with a 2.31 goals-against average in six appearances for the Wolves.
The Wolves captain has been leading the AHL in scoring for the last 10 weeks straight. Poturalski posted one goal and three assists in three games last week to push his season totals to 21 goals and 36 assists in 40 games. Poturalski’s 57 points are 5 ahead of his closest pursuer. He holds third in assists, shares third in goals and shares fifth in power-play goals (8).
- Stefan Noesen scored with 1:41 left to push the game into overtime, but Rockford’s Michal Teply tallied the lone shootout goal in the third round to give the IceHogs the extra point.
- Forwards Ryan Suzuki and Jack Drury scored during the second period while defenseman Max Lajoie handed out two assists.
- Goaltender Jack LaFontaine posted 16 saves in regulation and overtime.
- 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.
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.