CHICAGO WOLVES (30-10-4-3)
AT MANITOBA MOOSE (26-17-2-1)
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
For the first time all season, the Chicago Wolves were outshot and allowed more power-play chances than they earned Saturday afternoon at Canada Life Centre. But did it matter in this showdown between the Central Division’s top two teams? Not one bit as the Wolves rolled to a 5-1 victory over the Manitoba Moose.
After losing three of their first four games this season against Manitoba, including both contests on their last trip to the province in January, the Wolves were determined not to get off to a slow start Saturday. Sure enough, they kept the puck in Manitoba’s zone much of the first period and jumped to a 2-0 lead with goals from defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald and center Jack Drury.
“We’ll do some different things because it’s a 2 o’clock game and we didn’t like our starts last time,” said head coach Ryan Warsofsky after the Wolves’ final practice for this weekend’s games. “It’s unique with the travel the day before and not skating. So we can do some things differently, but when we get to the game, we’re only worried about ourselves.
“The way we play has got to be consistent. When we do that, we have a lot of success.”
The Wolves have been remarkably consistent in their last three games as they’ve scored five goals each time out while winning all three games. This marks the first time this season Chicago has scored at least five goals in three straight games — and just the second time for the franchise since 2018.
What was impressive about Saturday’s 5-goal output is that the Moose did their utmost to limit Chicago’s opportunities. The Wolves entered the game averaging a league-high 35.46 shots per game, but finished with their second-lowest shots total of the year (24).
The Wolves also entered the game leading the AHL with 4.70 power-play chances per game, but received just two power plays Saturday. That was the team’s fewest since getting two in a Jan. 22 overtime loss at Manitoba — a stretch of 13 games.
STREAKS ON STREAKS ON STREAKS
With two assists Saturday, captain Andrew Poturalski tied his career-high by extending his point streak to eight games. He has produced 2 goals and 13 assists during his run that began Feb. 5 at Milwaukee. Poturalski’s previous eight-game streak happened over almost the exact same dates when he amassed 4 goals and 6 assists for the Charlotte Checkers Feb. 4-25, 2017.
But Poturalski isn’t the only Wolves player on a run. Rookie center Jack Drury scored a pair of goals to push his streak to a career-high 7 games (3G, 6A). Veteran forward Josh Leivo scored two goals Saturday, too, which extended his point streak to four games (4G, 3A). Right wing David Gust, who had two assists Saturday, has gotten on the scoresheet seven of the last eight games.
we are the wolves
For both of this weekend’s games, the Chicago Wolves are joining the Manitoba Moose in wearing helmet stickers dedicated to 3-year-old Gordie White.
Gordie, the son of Sarah and former NHL and AHL center Ryan White, was diagnosed Feb. 18 with a brain tumor known as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIRG) that is highly aggressive and difficult to treat.
Gordie and his parents were introduced to the crowd before Saturday’s game. Afterward, Gordie was honored as the game’s No. 1 Star.
As Gordie prepares for six weeks of radiation treatment, family friends have created a GoFundMe for the family (www.gofundme.com/f/support-for-sarah-whitey) that has raised more than $191,000 —including a $5,000 donation from Blues F Ryan Reilly.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Forwards Jack Drury and Josh Leivo scored two goals apiece as the Wolves raced to a 3-0 lead early in the second period and cruised to the win over the second-place Moose.
- Defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald opened the scoring while four Wolves notched two assists: Forwards David Gust and Andrew Poturalski and defensemen Josh Jacobs and Max Lajoie.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon rejected 25 shots to pick up his second straight win.
- The Wolves scored the game’s first five goals in the opening 28 minutes and cruised to a weekend sweep of the Wild at Allstate Arena.
- Forward Stefan Noesen delivered his league-leading 27th and 28th goals while forwards Andrew Poturalski and CJ Smith and defenseman Jesper Sellgren also scored.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon posted 24 saves to earn the win.
By the numbers
4: Saturday marked the fourth time this season two Wolves have scored multiple goals in the same game — and three have happened on the road. The fun began Dec. 9 at Texas when CJ Smith secured a hat trick and Josh Leivo added two goals. Three nights later, Jack Drury and Stefan Noesen scored two goals apiece at Texas. Noesen and Andrew Poturalski tallied twice each Jan. 8 versus Iowa, then Drury and Leivo each notched two Saturday against Manitoba.
8: Not only do the Wolves rank second among AHL teams in fewest goals allowed (2.55 per game), they’ve done it while using a franchise-record eight goaltenders this season. Pyotr Kochetkov became No. 8 when he won his North American last Saturday — joining Alex Lyon (23 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). The Wolves lead the AHL in most goaltenders utilized this season — one ahead of the Charlotte Checkers. Last year, the Toronto Marlies needed eight goaltenders to get through the 42-game season that was adversely affected by COVID-19. No AHL team has needed more than eight goaltenders since 2013-14, when the Charlotte Checkers and Oklahoma City Barons each required nine to survive the regular season.
10.0: The Wolves are gunning to become the first AHL team since the 2007-08 Providence Bruins to lead the league in Shots For (35.21) and Shots Against (25.21) in the same season. Their shots differential per game (10.0) 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.
28: Forward Stefan Noesen saw his career-high-tying point streak (7 games) and goal streak (4 games) come to a close Saturday, but he remains the AHL’s leader in goals with 28. He owns a one-goal lead over Abbotsford’s Sheldon Dries and finds himself on pace for 47 goals this season, which would be the most in the AHL since Alexandre Giroux’s 50 for Hershey in 2009-10. Noesen also leads the AHL with 8 game-winning goals, two more than Stockton’s Matthew Phillips and Jakob Pelletier.
66: Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski has a chance become the first AHL player to win back-to-back scoring titles since Philadelphia’s Peter White in 1996-97 and 1997-98. The 28-year-old Williamsville, New York, native owns 66 points (22G, 44A) in 44 games, which puts him on track to score 109 points and become the first AHL player to eclipse the 100-point barrier since 2010. The only player in the same area code is former Wolves standout T.J. Tynan. The Orland Park native enjoyed a four-point night Saturday to move to 62 points (11G, 51A). Poturalski, by the way, is a pretty good bellwether of how things will go for the Wolves in a given game. He owns 53 points (18G, 35A) in 27 wins, but 13 points (4G, 9A) in 17 losses.
418: Since the Wolves played their first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 721 players have suited up for Chicago. Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov became No. 721 when he made his North American debut last Saturday, while rookie goaltender Jack LaFontaine became the 418th player to compete for the Wolves and in the greatest league in the world when he made his Wolves debut on Jan. 26. Put another way, 58.0 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|Wednesday, March 2||vs. Texas||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV|
|Saturday, March 5||vs. Texas||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Sunday, March 6||vs. Iowa||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Wednesday, March 9||at Grand Rapids||6 p.m.||Van Andel Arena||AHLTV|
|Saturday, March 12||at Milwaukee||6 p.m.||Panther Arena||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.