CHICAGO WOLVES (36-10-5-5)
AT TORONTO MARLIES (27-21-3-1)
A HAPPY HOMECOMING
The Chicago Wolves’ first trip to Toronto in seven years went about as well as possible — especially after the first seven minutes or so. The Marlies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening 7:39 before the Wolves gathered themselves and started methodically working their way to their 36th win of the year.
Even better, the Wolves’ Ontario natives played an important role as Chicago rallied for a 4-2 victory. London native Ryan Suzuki, playing professionally in his home province for the first time, scored the tying goal late in the first period in front of approximately 20 family members and friends (he expects more in attendance today).
Then veteran forward Josh Leivo — who was born in Innisfil, Ontario, grew up rooting for the Maple Leafs, was drafted by Toronto in 2011 and split the first seven-plus years of his pro career between the Maple Leafs and the Marlies — scored the game-winning goal on the power play with 7:13 to go.
THE NEXT MVP?
When Daniel Carr earned the AHL’s Most Valuable Player award in 2018-19, he produced 1.37 points per game (71 in 52 games) for a Central Division champion. When Kenny Agostino claimed the MVP in 2016-17, he produced 1.28 points per game (83 in 65 games) for a Central Division champion.
Going back a little farther, Jason Krog put up 1.4 points per game (112 in 80 games) on his way to the 2008 MVP award — and Darren Haydar stacked up 1.67 per game (122 in 73 games) on his way to the 2007 MVP. Their efforts have enabled the Wolves to claim four of the AHL’s last 15 MVP honors — more than any other team.
Why do we bring this up? Because Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski, with 3 more assists Saturday, now owns a league-high 76 points in 53 games (1.43 per game) for a squad that owns a 13-point lead in the Central Division. Those are definitely MVP-level credentials.
However, he’s not the only one on the squad who’s building a good case to be MVP. Stefan Noesen scored his league-leading 33rd goal during the final seconds Saturday, which means he owns 27 goals in his last 30 games. He also earned his 27th assist to move into third place on the AHL’s scoring list. Only Orland Park native T.J. Tynan, the reigning MVP who has 75 points this season, stands between Poturalski and Noesen.
One thing seems certain: The Wolves click better when Poturalski and Noesen play on the same line. Head coach Ryan Warsofsky split them for four games (March 6-13) in an effort to broaden the team’s offensive prowess, but put them back together for Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Milwaukee. “ ‘Nase’ and ‘Potsy’ are good together,” Warsofsky said. “Down the stretch going into the playoffs, we want to have some chemistry with our lines and get them gelled together.”
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
- Ontario native (and former Toronto Maple Leaf and Marlie) Josh Leivo scored the game-winning goal on a power play with 7:13 to go as the Wolves erased an early 2-0 deficit.
- Forward Stefan Noesen posted his league-leading 33rd goal while forwards CJ Smith and Ryan Suzuki also notched goals while Andrew Poturalski handed out three assists.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon registered 20 saves in the win.
- 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.
By the numbers
2.52: The Wolves lead the American Hockey League with 2.52 goals allowed per game as they’ve opened up their lead over the Pacific Division-leading Stockton Heat (2.71). If the Wolves can maintain their spot at the top, 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.
8.91: The Wolves gunning to become the first AHL team since the 2007-08 Providence Bruins to lead the league in Shots For (34.7) and Shots Against (25.79) 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).
10: 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 10 points won by the Wolves and lost by the Iowa Wild AND 10 points won by the Wolves and lost by the Texas Stars ensures the 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 18 and the division clincher is 29.
12: The Wolves enter today’s game riding a 12-game point streak (9-0-1-2), which marks the ninth time in franchise history there has been such a long streak pieced together. Earlier this season from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18, the Wolves fashioned a 13-game point streak (12-0-0-1) that was one off the team record. This year’s team and the 2007-08 squad that went on to win the Calder Cup are the only ones to put together two 12-game streaks in the same season.
33: Wolves forward Stefan Noesen leads the AHL with 33 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 33 goals in 51 appearances, the 29-year-old from Plano, Texas, is on pace to produce 45.9 goals. Only three Wolves (Sterling, Steve Maltais and Rob Brown) have scored more than 41 in a single season.
250: Wolves forward CJ Smith, who posted 1 goal and 1 assist Saturday, will play his 250th professional game today. The 27-year-old Des Moines native has racked up 19 goals and a career-high 32 assists in 50 games this season, so he needs just 7 points to set a career-high in that category. Smith owns 2 goals and 1 assist in 15 career NHL appearances along with 80 goals and 113 assists in 234 AHL games.
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
|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|
|Friday, April 1||at Milwaukee||7 p.m.||Panther Arena||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.