TEXAS STARS (22-23-6-5)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (36-10-5-5)
Tuesday, March 22 | 7 p.m. | Allstate Arena | My50 Chicago | Facebook Live
PASSING THE QUARTER POLE
With 57 games in the books and 19 to go, the Chicago Wolves officially have one quarter of the season to go as they prepare for Tuesday’s home date with the Texas Stars. If the past is any guidance, the Wolves figure to put together another consistent quarter between now and the regular-season finale on April 30 at Rockford.
First quarter: 13-4-1-1 (.737)
Second quarter: 12-3-3-1 (.737)
Third quarter: 11-4-1-3 (.684)
The Wolves’ points percentage for the season sits at .719, which is good for an 11-point lead over the Manitoba Moose in the chase for the organization’s fifth Central Division title in the last six years. It also ranks second overall in the AHL. Only the Pacific Division-leading Stockton Heat (.740), who are the only team to have clinched a playoff berth, owns a better percentage.
Head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s squad also has a chance to set the record for the best regular-season showing in Wolves history. John Anderson’s 1999-2000 team posted a .695 percentage on its way to the 2000 Turner Cup championship. In order to break that record, this year’s crew needs to amass 24 points in the final 19 games. So something, say, in the 11-4-2-2 range will be more than enough.
A QUIET DEADLINE DAY
While several teams in the Central Division used Monday’s NHL trade deadline to bolster their rosters for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs — either via trades or by having NHL prospects “papered” to them by the 2 p.m. deadline — the Chicago Wolves’ roster did not change.
The NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes made just one deal — acquiring center Max Domi from Columbus — and paid for him with 2021 third-round draft pick Aidan Hreschuk, a 19-year-old defenseman from Long Beach, California, who just wrapped up his freshman season at Boston College.
Actually, it was a three-team deal and the other part of the trade might net the Wolves a new player. The Canes acquired Barrington native Tyler Inamoto from Florida as part of the three-way deal. The 22-year-old defenseman was a fifth-round pick by the Panthers in the 2017 NHL Draft and just finished his fifth and final season at the University of Wisconsin, where he ranked fifth in the nation in blocked shots per game in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
The AHL’s official trade and loan deadline is Monday, March 28, but the Wolves’ biggest moves figure to be waiting on key players to get healthy. Center Jack Drury and forward Sam Miletic have missed the last four games while defenseman Josh Jacobs has sat out the last three.
we are the wolves
Over the years, the Wolves have welcomed a total of 34 Illinois natives on their roster.
Assistant coach Bob Nardella is far and away the all-time leading scorer among Illinoisans. The Melrose Park native racked up 59 goals and 239 assists (and three league championships) during his nine seasons in a Wolves uniform.
Only two Illinois natives have served as goaltenders for the Wolves, so Elmhurst’s Garret Sparks stands as the all-time winningest local. He posted an 8-14-4 record with a 2.75 goals-against average and .908 save percentage during the 2019-20 season.
LAST TWO GAMES
SUNDAY, MARCH 20: (AT) TORONTO 4, CHICAGO 2
- The Marlies answered the Wolves’ opening tally with three goals in a 3:04 stretch of the second period to earn a split of the weekend series at Coca-Cola Coliseum.
- Forward David Cotton scored the opening goal while forward Stefan Noesen added his league-leading 34th goal with a late power-play goal.
- Goaltender Jack LaFontaine posted 21 saves.
SATURDAY, MARCH 19: CHICAGO 4, (AT) TORONTO 2
- 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.
By the numbers
2.54: The Wolves stand atop the American Hockey League with 2.54 goals allowed per game and hold a reasonable lead over the second-place Stockton Heat (2.71), which is the only team with a better overall record than the Wolves. If the Wolves can maintain their spot at the top of the GAA charts, 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 (34.68) and Shots Against (25.77) 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 Texas Stars AND 9 points won by the Wolves and lost by the Iowa Wild ensures the playoff berth. The Wolves can clinch their spot as soon as Sunday. The team’s magic number to clinch a first-round bye sits at 17 and the division clincher is 29.
12: The Wolves have enjoyed two point streaks of 12 games or better this year, which makes the second team in organization history (joining the 2007-08 Calder Cup champions) to pull off such a double. Chicago posted a 12-0-0-1 record from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18, then a 9-0-1-2 mark from Feb. 19 to March 19. The franchise record is 14 games set by the 2007-08 squad.
34: Wolves forward Stefan Noesen leads the AHL with 34 goals, three ahead of Ontario’s Martin Frk and Abbotsford’s Sheldon Dries. He also paces the AHL 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 34 goals in 52 appearances, the 29-year-old from Plano, Texas, is on pace to score 46 goals. Only three Wolves (Sterling, Steve Maltais and Rob Brown) have scored more than 41 in a single season.
76: Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski handed out three assists Saturday at Toronto to regain possession of the AHL scoring lead with 76 points (22G, 54A). Poturalski remains on pace to produce 102 points this season, which would make him the first Wolves player to reach the 100-point mark since 2008 AHL MVP Jason Krog (112 points in 80 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 March 15. Put another way, 58.1 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|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|
|Saturday, April 2||vs. Milwaukee||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.