IOWA WILD (20-17-3-3)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (27-10-4-3)
PYOTR THE GREAT
Since the Chicago Wolves’ founding season, thanks in part to the long-time connections built by franchise co-founder Buddy Meyers, the Wolves always have been fond of having Russian players in their lineup. And why wouldn’t they be?
Who earned postseason MVP honors when the Wolves won their first league championship in 1998? Ufa, Russia, native Alexander Semak. Who earned postseason MVP honors when the Wolves won their second Turner Cup in 2000? Moscow native Andrei Trefilov. Who scored the game-winning goal in double-overtime to give the Wolves the 2002 Calder Cup title? Togliatti native Yuri Butsayev.
But for all of the successes by Russia natives in the Wolves’ first 27-plus seasons, Trefilov has been the only Russian to serve as a Wolves goaltender. Until now. Pyotr Kochetkov, who was loaned to the Wolves Tuesday by the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, is expected to make his North American debut as soon as tonight against the Iowa Wild.
It has been a long-awaited opportunity for hockey fans who have tracked the 22-year-old Penza, Russia, native’s statistics and highlights since he burst on the international scene as the Most Outstanding Goaltender at the IIHF’s 2019 World Junior Championships.
Six months after backstopping Russia to the U20 bronze medal while posting a 4-1-0 record, a 1.45 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage, Kochetkov was selected 36th overall by Carolina in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The Florida Panthers’ Spencer Knight, who already has 24 NHL appearances on his resume that includes two playoff games, was the only goaltender taken ahead of Kochetkov in that draft.
What will fans see when Kochetkov makes his debut?
“Big goalie,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “Moves side-to-side really well. Takes up a lot of the net. He looks like he’s on a mission. He looks like he’s getting more comfortable each day. That’s the most important thing.”
THIS WEEK’S WORK
Having played 10 one-goal games in their last 14 outings — including six that went to overtime — the Wolves have gone back to the lab to hone the form that led to so many convincing victories earlier in the year.
“(Thursday) was a really good, hard practice,” Warsofsky said. “(Friday’s) practice went a little longer than normal for the middle of the year, but it’s something that we needed. (Thursday) was probably one of our best practices of the year and then we built on it. We just need to keep going one day at a time and eliminate those big, costly mistakes.”
we are the wolves
The Wolves are hosting Faith and Fellowship Night tonight at Allstate Arena tonight — one of the team’s traditional events that also offers a chance for fans to be part of a pregame service project with the Salvation Army.
More than 100 volunteers have signed up to make blankets in the Skyline Room that’s just across Lunt Avenue from the arena.
Similar to years past, every burgundy-and-gold blanket that they create — expected to be approximately 125 in all — will be given to the Salvation Army’s mobile units and will be distributed directly to Chicagoans in need immediately.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Forward Stefan Noesen scored his league-leading 23rd goal to stake the Wolves to a 2-0 lead, but Milwaukee answered with four scores in the second to swipe the School-Day Game win.
- Forwards David Gust and Josh Leivo also scored goals while Andrew Poturalski and Jack Drury contributed two assists apiece.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon notched 17 saves.
- Forward 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.
By the numbers
4: Former Wolves head coach John Anderson, who led the organization to four league championships and 624 regular-season wins during his 14 years behind the bench, was hired Wednesday to serve as a Bakersfield Condors assistant coach for the rest of this season. Anderson, 64, last served as an assistant for the NHL’s Minnesota Wild from 2016-18. He was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2019.
8: Not only do the Wolves rank second among AHL teams in fewest goals allowed (2.61 per game), they’ve done it while using a franchise-record seven goaltenders this season. If and when Pyotr Kochetkov makes his North American debut, he’ll increase that franchise record to eight — joining Alex Lyon (21 games), Eetu Makiniemi (14 games), Jack LaFontaine (6 games), Daniel Mannella (3 games), Michael Lackey (2 games), Dylan Wells and Beck Warm (1 game each).
10.25: The Wolves are gunning to become the first AHL team since the 2007-08 Providence Bruins to lead the league in Shots For (35.27) and Shots Against (25.02) in the same season. Their shots differential per game (10.25) 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.
18: A total of 18 former Wolves competed in the Olympics men’s hockey tournament, but there are just two battling for the gold medal in the championship game that begins at 10:10 p.m. Saturday (Chicago time). Defenseman Petteri Lindbohm (2013-17), who recorded an assist in Friday’s semifinal, leads the charge for Finland against former Wolves teammate Sergey Andronov (2013-14) and his Russian Olympic Committee squad. Two Wolves short-timers — forward Carl Klingberg (2010-11) and defenseman Philip Holm (2017-18) — suited up for Sweden in Saturday morning’s bronze-medal game against Slovakia.
23: When forward Stefan Noesen scored his 23rd goal of the year Tuesday against Milwaukee, he took the AHL lead by himself. But when Abbotsford’s Sheldon Dries scored twice Wednesday to push his total to 24, it marked the first time in more than a month that a Wolves player did not own the most goals in the league.
59: 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 owns 1 goal and 7 assists during his current five-game point streak to push his season point total to 59 (21G, 38A) in 41 games, which puts him on pace to score 105 points this season. He would become the first AHL player to eclipse the 100-point barrier since 2010. Ontario center T.J. Tynan ranks second in the AHL with 52 points (8G, 44A).
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
|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|
|Wednesday, March 2||vs. Texas||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV|
|Saturday, March 5||vs. Texas||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.