MANITOBA MOOSE (33-18-3-2)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (37-10-5-5)
NOESEN’s CRAZY PACE
Let’s get it straight from the start. It’s not like Chicago Wolves forward Stefan Noesen fared poorly during the first quarter of this season. From Oct. 16 through Dec. 4 — the Wolves’ first 19 games — Noesen contributed 5 goals, 11 assists and a +4 plus/minus rating as Chicago bolted to a 13-4-1-1 start and claimed a Central Division lead that it hasn’t relinquished.
But when the Wolves visited Iowa on Dec. 5, Noesen planted himself in front of Wild goaltender Dereck Baribeau and tipped home a Cavan Fitzgerald shot from the point 51 seconds into the second period. Noesen’s sixth goal of the year gave the Wolves a 3-0 lead in the game — and launched a wild rampage across the AHL.
From Dec. 5 through Tuesday’s home win over Texas — a stretch of 34 appearances that doesn’t include twice interruptions with NHL recalls by Carolina — Noesen has piled up 30 goals, 18 assists and a +23 plus/minus rating. The Wolves scored 121 goals during those 34 games, so the 29-year-old from Plano, Texas, had a hand in 39.7 percent of the team’s tallies.
There’s only one Wolves foe that has yet to feel the Noesen effect — and that’s the second-place Manitoba Moose. Noesen did not play in three of the teams’ first six meetings because he was with the Hurricanes. As for the other three games (Nov. 6 at home and Feb. 26-27 in Winnipeg), Noesen did not get on the scoresheet.
Since that Feb. 27 shootout loss (which featured a Josh Leivo goal in overtime that was reversed without benefit of a video replay), Noesen has embarked on a career-high 10-game point streak. He owns 7 goals and 7 assists over the last 10 games, which includes one goal in each of the last three.
FINDING THAT WING
Here’s a crazy stat: The Chicago Wolves’ top two point-producers — captain Andrew Poturalski and Stefan Noesen — have teamed up for 143 points this season. Manitoba’s top five point-producers — Cole Maier, Mikey Eyssimont, Jeff Malott, Leon Gawanke and Declan Chisholm — have combined for 141 points.
After splitting up Poturalski (22G, 57A) and Noesen (35G, 29A) for part of this month, Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky has decided they have their greatest effect when playing together. Now it’s a matter of finding the wing who fits best. David Gust has been that man for the last four games and provided 1 goal and 3 assists.
“ ‘Gusty’ and ‘Potsy’ are kind of similar players,” Warsofsky said. “They want to hold on to pucks. ‘Nase’ creates a lot of space for them to make plays. They found it in the second period (Tuesday against Texas when their line combined for two goals in 13 seconds). Hopefully we can keep it going.”
we are the wolves
The Wolves carry a .724 points percentage into tonight’s showdown between the top two teams in the Central Division. That ranks second among all AHL teams this season — trailing only Pacific Division leader Stockton’s .745 pace — but also gives this squad a good chance to set the single-season franchise record. The 1999-2000 team finished with a .695 points percentage (114 points in 82 games), so this year’s Wolves need to grab 22 points in their final 18 games.
The Wolves hold a 13-point lead over the Moose as they push to clinch the organization’s fifth Central Division title in the last six years.
The previous four division crowns were won by a total of 20 points. The largest margin happened in 2018-19, when the eventual Western Conference champs finished with 98 points compared to Grand Rapids’ 88.
LAST TWO GAMES
TUESDAY, MARCH 22: (AT) CHICAGO 3, TEXAS 1
- Forwards David Gust and Stefan Noesen scored 13 seconds apart early in the second period to stake the Wolves to a 3-0 lead on their way to the win at Allstate Arena.
- Defenseman Joey Keane opened the scoring with a power-play goal 2:31 into the night while Noesen and captain Andrew Poturalski posted three points apiece.
- Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov stopped 23 shots to improve to 6-0-1.
- 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.
By the numbers
2.52: The Wolves stand atop the American Hockey League with 2.52 goals allowed per game and hold a reasonable lead over the second-place Stockton Heat (2.68), 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. Prio to this, the closest Chicago came 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.
6: There are six players in the Wolves’ lineup who have amassed more points than Manitoba’s leading scorer: Andrew Poturalski (79 points), Stefan Noesen (64), CJ Smith (51), Jack Drury (37), David Gust (32) and Josh Leivo (31). Manitoba’s leading point-producers are Cole Maier and Mikey Eyssimont with 29 points apiece.
7: This is the Wolves’ magic number to clinch their 21st playoff berth in 26 seasons (ignoring the last two years when COVID-19 did not allow anyone to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs). Any combination of 7 points won by the Wolves and lost by the Iowa Wild AND 6 points won by the Wolves and lost by the Texas Stars ensures the playoff berth. The Wolves can clinch their spot as soon as Sunday’s game at Iowa The team’s magic number to clinch a first-round bye sits at 15 and the magic number to win their fifth Central Division title in six years rests at 25.
9:02: 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 (25.74) in the same season. Their shots differential per game (9.02) 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).
35: Wolves forward Stefan Noesen leads the AHL with 35 goals, two ahead of Ontario’s Martin Frk. He also paces the AHL in game-winning goals (9) and shares the lead with Frk in 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 35 goals in 53 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: The Wolves are far and away the AHL leader in power-play chance differential with 76 more opportunities than their opponents. Colorado ranks second at +32. The Wolves pace the AHL with 259 power-play chances (Colorado stands second with 245) and they rank second in fewest power plays allowed with 183. Utica leads this category with 178.
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
|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|
|Sunday, April 3||vs. Texas||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.