Welcome to Wolves Insider, presented by Rivers Casino: the weekly report that gives you the latest Chicago Wolves news as the organization battles for its fifth division title in the last six years and its fifth league championship overall.
THE MAGIC NUMBER IS 2
After sweeping three games last week, the Chicago Wolves are just one win away from clinching a postseason berth for the 21st time in franchise history. The Wolves can wrap it up with a victory Tuesday night at Cleveland, which would set up the team’s first postseason adventure since the 2018-19 squad rolled all the way to the Calder Cup Finals. (As everyone knows, the AHL did not hold a Calder Cup competition in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). As soon as the Wolves clinch their spot,
Not only are the Wolves headed to the postseason, they have a strong possibility of setting the franchise record for the best regular-season points percentage. The 1999-2000 squad coached by John Anderson finished with a .695 points percentage (114 games in 82 games) on their way to the 2000 Turner Cup championship. This year’s squad owns a .733 points percentage with their 39-11-5-5 record, so they need to earn 18 points in their last 16 games in order to break the record.
Virtually every statistical category explains why head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s squad has climbed to such heights. The Wolves lead the AHL in fewest goals allowed (2.52 per game), most shots taken (34.7 per game), fewest shots allowed (25.83 per game) and most power-play opportunities earned (267).
Veteran forward Stefan Noesen leads the league in goals (35) while captain and linemate Andrew Poturalski shares the AHL lead in points (81). Noesen is on pace to become the first Wolves player to reach the 40-goal mark since 2007 — when Brett Sterling and Darren Haydar achieved it — while Poturalski is on pace to become the first player in the AHL to reach the 100-point mark since the 2009-10 season.
Never one to rest on such superlatives, Wolves general manager Wendell Young orchestrated three moves Monday to make the team deeper and better. To address an injury-plagued blue line, the Wolves acquired Hartford defenseman Tarmo Reunanen for center Maxim Letunov (a deal fostered by their NHL partners, the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers) and traded for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defenseman Chris Bigras in exchange for future considerations.
To add even more firepower up front, the Wolves acquired Richard Panik on loan from the New York Islanders. Panik owns 88 goals in 521 NHL games, including a career-high 22 goals for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2016-17.
The Wolves host the Milwaukee Admirals at 7 p.m. Saturday and the Texas Stars at 3 p.m. Sunday — and there are great reasons for everyone to come out to Allstate Arena to enjoy these games.
Saturday’s events include Salute to Military Families Night (presented by Kia) and the Year-End Merchandise Sale. The following afternoon features Papa Johns Family Sunday as well as Skates Mates Kids Club Slapshot Sunday, presented by Raising Cane’s.
The Wolves also host two games the following weekend, so here’s a sneak peek: On Saturday, April 9, be in line to get the Wolves Goalie Mask Bank, courtesy of My50 Chicago. On Sunday, April 10, the Wolves are hosting Wizards Day — which is partly a celebration of the new Fantastic Beasts movie being released on April 15.
BLOOD DRIVE APRIL 23
Wolves fans donated enough blood on Dec. 18 to save 402 lives. Incredibly, there’s even more of a demand for blood today than there was over the holidays — so the Wolves and Vitalant are partnering for another blood drive from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 23.
All donors receive two tickets to a 2022 Calder Cup Playoff game of their choice, a limited-edition T-shirt, a Wolves hat and have a chance to win an autographed Wolves jersey. To make an appointment, visit Vitalant.org/Wolves and use Code ORD0RS20 or call 877-258-4825.
With 2.2 seconds left in overtime Friday night, Leivo scored to give the Wolves a 4-3 home victory against Manitoba. It was more than a little reminiscent of Leivo’s goal with 1.1 seconds left in regulation on Dec. 16 that gave the Wolves a 4-3 home victory against Manitoba. He rolled up 2 goals and 2 assists in 3 games last week to boost him to 35 points this year.
The captain stacked up 3 assists Tuesday against Texas, then scored 1 goal Friday and another Sunday to maintain a share of the AHL’s points lead with 81 (24G, 57A) in 57 games. Poturalski has produced at least one point in nine of the last 10 games (2G, 13A) and has produced six 3-assist games this season. He has set career-highs for goals, assists and points.
The 22-year-old goaltender from Penza, Russia, has been with the Wolves for less than six weeks (and playing on North American-sized rinks for the same sliver of time), but he already has proved he belongs. The Carolina Hurricanes’ 2019 second-round pick won twice last week to improve his record to 7-0-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
SUNDAY, MARCH 27: CHICAGO 5, (AT) IOWA 2
- Forward Maxim Letunov scored twice in a four-minute stretch of the third period to help the Wolves claim the win and drop their magic number to 2 to clinch a playoff berth.
- Forwards Andrew Poturalski, Jamieson Rees and Jack Drury also scored goals while defenseman Joey Keane handed out two assists.
- Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov notched 25 saves and added an assist to improve to 7-0-1.
FRIDAY, MARCH 25: (AT) CHICAGO 4, MANITOBA 3 (OT)
- 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.
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.
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.