CHICAGO WOLVES (38-10-5-5)
AT IOWA WILD (24-25-4-4)
“AN EMOTIONAL GAME”
There was something incredibly satisfying about the Chicago Wolves’ 4-3 overtime victory over the Manitoba Moose — and only a small portion of it was the fact that Josh Leivo’s goal with 2.2 seconds left in extra time gave the Wolves the extra point.
From start to finish, both teams fed off a charged-up crowd and turned an important game into something that felt worthy of a Western Conference Finals or a Calder Cup Finals series. There were wild momentum swings, wild emotional outbursts, remarkable saves, plenty of physical play — and more than 7,000 fans who recognized the stakes and paid the combatants their proper due.
And when Leivo scored the game-winner, the Wolves rushed on the ice to celebrate as if they’d just done more than pad their Central Division lead over the Moose to 14 points.
“If you’re a fan, this is a really good hockey game to watch,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “It was a good game to coach and be a part of. It’s going to be like that down the stretch.
“I look at it as we won the game — that’s very important — but we experienced something that was even more important tonight: We experienced an emotional game. (We had) a call that didn’t go our way. We were 5-on-3 short(handed). We were down a goal going into the third period.
“We experienced a lot that we need to go into the playoffs, to get that feel for it. That situation’s going to pop up again.”
TIM BRESLIN UNSUNG HERO AWARD
Voting closes at noon Monday for one of the Chicago Wolves’ most prestigious honors: The Tim Breslin Unsung Hero award that goes to the current Wolves player who comes closest to emulating Breslin’s on-ice spirit and team-first attitude. Breslin, one of the first three players to sign with the team after it was formed in 1994, played five seasons for the Wolves and helped the team win its first league championship.
Breslin passed away on Feb. 9, 2005, due to appendiceal cancer. Shortly thereafter, the Wolves created the Unsung Hero award in his honor and also started a scholarship fund that provides a $7,500 stipend toward college tuition.
The candidates for this year’s Unsung Hero Award are, in alphabetical order: Forward David Gust (14 goals, 18 assists, +13 plus/minus rating), defenseman Josh Jacobs (4 goals, 9 assists, +12 plus/minus rating), defenseman Max Lajoie (3 goals, 27 assists) and center Maxim Letunov (11 goals, 10 assists).
To vote, please click here. The winner will receive his award prior to the Sunday, April 10, game versus Cleveland.
we are the wolves
When the Wolves swept the Iowa Wild during a weekend set Feb. 19-20 at Allstate Arena, it triggered an 11-1-1-2 stretch (.833) for the Central Division leaders.
Not only has this run given the Wolves the second-best points percentage in the AHL — their .729 effort trails only the Stockton Heat’s .750 — they’re dangerously close to posting the best regular-season record in Wolves history.
In 1999-2000, head coach John Anderson’s Wolves posted 53 wins, 21 losses and 8 shootout losses to register 114 points and forge a .695 points percentage. Because this year’s Wolves play six fewer games, they need just 106 points to break the record. That means earning 20 points over their last 17 games.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Forward Josh Leivo wristed home a shot from the high slot with 2.2 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Wolves the hard-fought victory in a battle between the Central Division’s top teams.
- Leivo recorded two goals and one assist while forwards Andrew Poturalski and Jamieson Rees also scored. For Poturalski, it was his 100th goal as a professional.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon posted 27 saves in the win, including seven stops in overtime.
- 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.
By the numbers
2.53: The Wolves stand atop the American Hockey League with 2.53 goals allowed per game. The Stockton Heat, the only team with a better overall record than the Wolves, ranks second at 2.65. 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.
5: 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). The Wolves need two of these three things to happen in order to clinch: A combination of 5 points won by the Wolves and lost by the Iowa Wild; a combination of 4 points won by the Wolves and lost by the Texas Stars; a combination of 5 points won by the Wolves and lost by the Grand Rapids Griffins. Only one of these is a possibility today, though, so the Wolves can’t clinch until Tuesday’s game at Cleveland at the earliest. The team’s magic number to clinch a first-round bye sits at 10 and the magic number to win their fifth Central Division title in six years rests at 20.
8.83: The Wolves are gunning to become the first AHL team since the 2007-08 Providence Bruins to lead the league in Shots For (34.64) and Shots Against (25.81) in the same season. Their shots differential per game (8.83) 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 54 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.
100: Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski registered his 100th professional goal during the first period of Friday’s 4-3 overtime win over Manitoba. It took several minutes for it to become Poturalski’s 100th goal. At the time, it appeared Poturalski’s pinpoint power-play pass from the left circle into the crease went off Stefan Noesen’s tape into the net — so Noesen was credited with his league-leading 36th goal. Upon further review during first intermission, slow-motion replay showed a Manitoba defender redirected the puck past the goaltender — therefore becoming Poturalski’s goal. Fortunately, Noesen had the presence of mind to pick up that puck and bring to the bench as a keepsake for Poturalski.
419: Since Since the Wolves played their first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 721 players have suited up for Chicago. 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
|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|
|Wednesday, April 6||vs. Texas||11 a.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.