IOWA WILD (22-22-3-3)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (32-10-4-4)
KEEPING IT 100
Today marks the 100th consecutive day the Chicago Wolves have awakened as the leaders of the American Hockey League’s Central Division. The Wolves seized the lead from the Iowa Wild on the night of Nov. 26 thanks to the biggest regulation rally in franchise history — scoring five goals in the third period at Grand Rapids to transform a 3-0 deficit into a 5-3 triumph — and haven’t given it back.
Overall, the Wolves have owned at least a piece of the division lead for 123 of a possible 141 days since the 2021-22 season began as the organization chases its fifth Central Division crown in the last six years — and its fifth league championship. And here’s the best part:
“I think we have a whole another level we can get to,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “I think when we put pucks behind the defense and play from below the goal line, that’s when we have a lot of success. When we’re direct, when we’re simple. When we get cute and try to make cute plays at certain times in the game is when we struggle. It’s something we need to improve on.”
Heading into today’s game against Iowa, the Wolves hold an 11-point lead over the second-place Manitoba Moose. And while the division title is the goal, the AHL’s new postseason format means there are multiple accomplishments to shoot for between now and the season finale on April 30.
The new Calder Cup Playoffs plan allows all but two teams from each division to qualify for the postseason. That means five of the Central’s seven squads will advance. The Wolves’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 28 points — and the number drops each time the Wolves earn points and teams closer to the bottom of the Central miss out on points.
When the playoffs begin, the Central’s fourth- and fifth-place teams open with a best-of-three series while the top three teams get to rest — a nice reward. The Wolves’ magic number to clinch a first-round bye sits at 31. Then, of course, there’s the chance to capture another division title. The Wolves’ magic number for that sits at 41 and plummets each time they earn points and Manitoba misses out on points. Fans who want to track the whole league can follow along at theahl.com/22playoffprimer.
NOESEN HITS THE BIG 3-0
Forward Stefan Noesen became the 23rd player in Wolves history to score at least 30 goals in a season when he delivered the game-winner at 10:01 of the third period in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Texas. He needed just 45 games to do it, which is the fastest for a Wolves player since Brett Sterling needed 29 games on his way to scoring 55 goals and earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2006-07.
Noesen also owns a league-high 9 game-winning goals — 3 more than any other AHL player this year — and needs just one more to tie the Wolves’ single-season record shared by Chris Marinucci (1998-99), Sterling (2007-08), Mark Mancari (2011-12) and Shane Harper (2014-15).
we are the wolves
The Wolves debut their exclusive St. Patrick’s Day jerseys, presented by Jewel-Osco, for today’s game. Designed by Troy Mueller, the team’s Creative Services Manager, the Wolves are auctioning and raffling the jerseys to benefit Easterseals and autism awareness in addition to Chicago Wolves Charities, driven by Kia.
The Golden Ticket Raffle for one of Stefan Noesen’s game-worn jerseys is sold out, but fans can still winvia the team’s Blind Auction and Silent Auction. The Blind Auction — featuring jerseys from Jack Drury, Max Lajoie, Josh Jacobs, Alex Lyon, Eetu Makiniemi and Pyotr Kochetkov — closes at noon Monday, March 14. The Silent Auction in Allstate Arena closes at the end of next Sunday’s second intermission.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Forward Stefan Noesen redirected a Spencer Smallman shot at 10:01 of the third period to give the Wolves their fifth win in their last six games.
Forward David Gust scored in the second period to knot the score while rookie center Jack Drury extended his point streak to a team-high 10 games with an assist on Noesen’s GWG.
Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov stopped 30 of 31 shots to improve to 3-0 in North America.
- After Texas set a Wolves opponent’s record by scoring eight seconds into the night, five Wolves scored goals and seven others earned assists as Chicago rallied for the home win.
- Forwards Stefan Noesen, CJ Smith, Ryan Suzuki, Jack Drury and Maxim Letunov scored goals — with Drury’s shorthanded goal at 10:24 of the third holding up as the game-winner.
- Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov rejected 31 shots to pick up his second straight win.
By the numbers
2.56: The Wolves lead the American Hockey League with 2.56 goals allowed per game. If they can maintain this status, it would mark the first time in franchise history that they pace their league in fewest goals allowed. The closest Chicago has come was a third-place finish in 2018-19 with 2.62 per game. The team record for fewest goals allowed per game was set in 2013-14, when AHL Goaltender of the Year Jake Allen and primary backup Matt Climie led the team to a 2.51 per game mark.
3: After earning a win over Texas on Wednesday night, rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov was supposed to have Saturday off. Veteran Alex Lyon was ticketed to start while Jack LaFontaine was slated to handle backup duties. But when the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes sent word midday that Lyon needed to be recalled on an emergency basis, Kochetkov was given the nod. He responded by rejecting 30 of 31 shots to improve to 3-0-0 since coming to North America. The 2019 NHL second-round draft pick earned multiple ovations with his best Wolves performance to date. “Unbelievable,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “You can tell he’s getting more comfortable. He’s catching up to the speed of the game. There’s a lot more traffic here than in the KHL. There’s a lot less time. Shots are coming from different angles. I thought he was outstanding. I know he did some things that Stan (Dubicki, the Wolves goaltending coach) and Jason (Muzzatti, Carolina’s goaltending coach) talked to him about, so that’s a positive that he’s a quick learner.”
9.1: The Wolves are gunning to become the first AHL team since the 2007-08 Providence Bruins to lead the league in Shots For (34.8) and Shots Against (25.7) in the same season. Their shots differential per game (9.1) ranks as the AHL’s biggest positive margin since the 2001-02 Saint John Flames managed a 11.51 shots advantage. If the Wolves maintain these averages the rest of the season, they will break the single-season franchise records for Shots For (34.69) and Shots Against (27.93). However, the Wolves have not outshot their opponent in any of the last four games — and finished with a season-low 22 shots Saturday against Texas.
10: One of the more obscure categories in the Wolves record book is most goals in a single season against one team. Wolves legend Steve Maltais set the mark in the team’s inaugural 1994-95 season with 10 against the Cleveland Barons. Chris Marinucci (1999-2000 vs. Utah), Brett Sterling (2007-08 vs. Peoria), Joe Motzko (2008-09 vs. Rockford) and Daniel Carr (2018-19 vs. Milwaukee) have tied the mark, but forward Stefan Noesen has a chance to break it. When he scored five goals in two games against Iowa two weekends ago, he got to 9 versus the Wild. He has today’s game and the March 27 finale to go for the history books.
100: Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski is sitting on 99 goals for his professional career. The 28-year-old from Williamsville, New York, owns 99 goals and 193 assists in 346 AHL contests and 2 assists in 4 NHL appearances. Twenty-two of those goals have happened this season, so his next one also will tie his single-season high set with Charlotte in 2018-19.
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 with a win over Iowa on Feb. 19, 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 9||at Grand Rapids||6 p.m.||Van Andel Arena||AHLTV|
|Saturday, March 12||at Milwaukee||6 p.m.||Panther Arena||AHLTV|
|Sunday, March 13||vs. Grand Rapids||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Wednesday, March 16||vs. Milwaukee||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Saturday, March 19||at Toronto||3 p.m.||Coca-Cola Coliseum||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.