CHICAGO WOLVES (35-10-5-5)
AT TORONTO MARLIES (27-20-3-1)
HEY, WE’RE IN ONTARIO!
For the first time since April 1, 2015, the Chicago Wolves have made the trip to Toronto to face the Marlies. Because it has been so long, let’s take a look at the Wolves’ lineup for their 2-1 victory on that April Fool’s Wednesday night:
Goaltender Jordan Binnington, officially an AHL rookie, stopped 27 of 28 shots to earn the win. Defenseman Colton Parayko played his eighth pro game as part of his brief AHL stay before joining the NHL’s St. Louis Blues. Petteri Lindbohm, recent winner of the 2022 Olympics gold medal with Finland that led to a contract with the NHL’s Florida Panthers, also served on the Wolves’ blue line.
Now let’s take a look at the Marlies’ lineup that night. Ah, would you look at this? A 21-year-old forward named Josh Leivo wore No. 14 and fired a game-high 5 shots.
“I remember ‘Binner.’ He’s a good friend of mine, but I don’t remember that game,” Leivo said. “But I remember we got the Wolves in the playoff series the year before. I think we swept them.”
Indeed, the Marlies swept the Wolves in the 2014 Western Conference Semifinal, but we’re not here to relive that. We’re here to discuss what Leivo means to this Wolves group that owns a 13-point lead in the Central Division and stands on pace to post the best regular-season points percentage (.727) in the franchise’s 28-year history.
The 28-year-old from Innisfil, Ontario, owns 13 goals and 16 assists in 35 games for the Wolves (along with 1 goal and 2 assists in 7 games for the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes). Leivo has days where he’s a stom unto himself. He produced 2 goals on a game-high 8 shots in Wednesday’s win over Milwaukee. During a five-game stretch in December, he racked up 4 goals, 10 assists and a +8 plus/minus rating on his way to being named the AHL’s Player of the Month.
“He and I talked (Tuesday) morning,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “When he’s skating and he’s engaged and he’s moving his feet, he can dominate the game. His skill set will come out and he’ll get offensive opportunities. He knows it. He agrees with it. We sat down and watched some video and for him to be an older guy and want to do that, that shows the type of person he is and what type of player he wants to be.”
“I’ve got a good leadership role,” Leivo said. “I’m happy. We’ve got a good group in here that’s winning a lot. When you’re winning, everything’s fun. We’ve just got to keep doing that.”
Leivo is one of six Ontario natives on the Wolves roster. For the other five — goaltender Jack LaFontaine, forward Kyle Marino, forward Jamieson Rees, center Ryan Suzuki and defenseman Eric Williams — this trip marks their first chance to play in their home province in the AHL.
we are the wolves
With the Wolves making a rare trip to Ontario this weekend, it inspired an idea to select an all-time lineup using only Ontario natives based on how they fared during their Wolves tenure.
Twenty of the organization’s 70 goaltenders have hailed from Ontario, but let’s go with Jordan Binnington (59-40-17, 6 shutouts, 2.62 GAA) over Norm Maracle (43-38-10, 5 shutouts, 2.89).
On defense, two-time Turner Cup champ Tom Tilley (17G, 141A) and 2002 Calder Cup champ Kurtis Foster (32G, 55A) earn the nod over Glen Featherstone, Mike Weaver, Joe DiPenta, Kevin McDonald, Nic Hague and Mark Popovic.
At forward, there are many great players (Scott Pearson, Brandon Pirri, Al Secord, Dan Snyder, Karl Stewart and Brian Wiseman among them) who couldn’t quite match the Wolves exploits of Rob Brown (157G, 326A), AHL Hall of Famer Darren Haydar (128G, 240A) and Derek MacKenzie (83G, 101A).
LAST TWO GAMES
- Rookie defenseman Jesper Sellgren scored 23 seconds into the game — the Wolves’ fastest opening goal of the season — to set the tone at Allstate Arena.
- Sellgren notched two goals for the first time in his pro career and added an assist while forward Josh Leivo contributed two goals and rookie forward Ivan Lodnia scored the other.
- Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov posted 27 saves to improve to 5-0-1.
SUNDAY, MARCH 13: GRAND RAPIDS 2, (AT) CHICAGO 1 (OT)
- Grand Rapids’ Turner Elson scored 20 seconds into overtime to snap the Wolves’ nine-game winning streak against the Griffins dating back to May 12, 2021.
- Forward Stefan Noesen recorded his 32nd goal to regain sole possession of the AHL’s goal-scoring lead. Andrew Poturalski earned the assist to set a personal season-high with 71 points.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon rejected 26 shots.
By the numbers
2.53: The Wolves lead the American Hockey League with 2.53 goals allowed per game as they’ve opened up a relatively large lead over the second-place Hershey Bears (2.69). If the Wolves can maintain this status, it would mark the first time in franchise history they led their league in fewest goals allowed. The closest Chicago has come was a third-place finish in 2018-19 with 2.62 goals allowed per game. That’s not to be confused with the team record for fewest goals allowed per game. That 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: Rookie defenseman Jesper Sellgren enjoyed his first two-goal performance as a professional during Wednesday night’s 5-2 win over Milwaukee — and he scored them in the opening 12:45. That gave him a chance to join Joel Kwiatkowski (Dec. 28, 2007, at Milwaukee) and Paul Postma (Feb. 21, 2010, vs. San Antonio) as the only defensemen with hat tricks in Wolves history.
8.91: The Wolves are gunning to become the first AHL team since the 2007-08 Providence Bruins to lead the league in Shots For (34.76) and Shots Against (25.85) in the same season. Their shots differential per game (8.91) ranks as the AHL’s biggest positive margin since the 2001-02 Saint John Flames managed a 11.51 shots advantage. The Wolves have a chance to break the single-season franchise records for Shots For (34.69) and Shots Against (27.93).
14: This is the Wolves’ magic number to clinch their 21st playoff berth in 26 seasons (which ignores the last two years when COVID-19 did not allow anyone to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs). Any combination of 14 points won by the Wolves and lost by the Iowa Wild AND 14 points won by the Wolves and lost by the Texas Stars will ensure a playoff berth. The Wolves can clinch their spot as soon as March 25. The team’s magic number to clinch a first-round bye sits at 20 and the division clincher is 31.
32: Wolves forward Stefan Noesen leads the AHL with 32 goals. He also leads everyone in game-winning goals (9) and first goals (7). With his next GWG, he’ll tie the organization’s single-season record shared by Chris Marinucci (1998-99), Brett Sterling (2007-08), Mark Mancari (2011-12) and Shane Harper (2014-15). With his 32 goals in 50 games, the 29-year-old from Plano, Texas, is on pace to produce 45 goals. Only three Wolves (Sterling, Steve Maltais and Rob Brown) have scored more than 41 in a single season.
200: Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski handed out two assists Wednesday night to reach the 200 mark for his career. The 28-year-old from Williamsville, New York, owns a career-high 51 assists and 73 points this season in 52 games, which has pushed his career totals to 200 assists and 299 points in 351 games for Chicago, Charlotte and San Diego. Poturalski ranks second in the league in assists and points this season. He’s just 2 points behind Ontario’s T.J. Tynan as he chases his second consecutive AHL scoring title.
419: 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. Defenseman Brayden Pachal became the 419th to play in the NHL when he made his debut with the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday night. Put another way, 58.1 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|Sunday, March 20||at Toronto||3 p.m.||Coca-Cola Coliseum||AHLTV|
|Tuesday, March 22||vs. Texas||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Friday, March 25||vs. Manitoba||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Sunday, March 27||at Iowa||3 p.m.||Wells Fargo Arena||AHLTV|
|Tuesday, March 29||at Cleveland||6 p.m.||Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.