Welcome to Wolves Insider, presented by Rivers Casino: the weekly report that gives you the latest Chicago Wolves news as the Central Division champs prepare to battle for the organization’s fifth league championship.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE DIVISION CHAMPS?
The Chicago Wolves wrapped up their fifth Central Division title in six years with Saturday’s 6-4 victory at Texas. It’s also the organization’s 10th division crown since joining the American Hockey League 21 years ago.
But the Wolves still have six regular-season games remaining — starting with the Rockford IceHogs’ visit to Allstate Arena at 7 p.m. Tuesday for Craft Beer Night. What will be their focus?
For starters, head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s crew boasts a 50 percent chance to clinch home-ice advantage throughout the Calder Cup Playoffs. The Pacific Division-leading Stockton Heat own a better points percentage than the Wolves by the slimmest of margins (.73015 to .72857), but the Wolves have one more game left than the Heat. If Chicago wins all six of its games — at least two of them in regulation — there’s no way for Stockton to prevent the Wolves from being the top seed.
“I think it matters,” Warsofsky said. “You have the (last) line change and you’d obviously rather be at home. But it’s not something that we’re really focused on.”
Considering the Wolves have the same number of wins on the road and at home (23), the team has proven it’s comfortable on any ice. But with the potential to have 16 healthy forwards and 10 healthy defensemen for the postseason, he wants every skater over the last six regular-season games to have the chance to prove they belong in the lineup when the playoffs begin.
There are also some players vying for some individual honors. Forward Stefan Noesen’s 43 goals give him a four-goal lead over Ontario’s Martin Frk in his bid to join Steve Maltais, Brett Sterling, Jason Krog and Wade Megan as the only Wolves to lead the league in goals.
Similarly, captain Andrew Poturalski is in position to join Maltais, Krog, Rob Brown, Steve Larouche, Darren Haydar and Kenny Agostino as a league champion in points. Poturalski trails former Wolves assists king T.J. Tynan by 1 point (92 to 91), but the Wolves have two more games remaining than Tynan’s Ontario Reign.
The Wolves host their final Saturday night and Sunday afternoon regular-season games this weekend and there’s plenty to enjoy! Saturday is First Responders Night presented by Turtle Wax, which features Touch-A-Truck from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in Allstate Arena’s South Parking Lot. Learn the ins and outs of police, fire and EMS vehicles. It’s also the final Adopt-A-Dog Night of the season, presented by Premier Veterinary Group.
Sunday is a Papa Johns Family Sunday — featuring several fun activities on the main concourse — and the first 5,000 fans to enter the arena receive 2021-22 Wolves Trading Cards courtesy of Vienna Beef.
DONATE BLOOD SATURDAY
Don’t forget to set your appointment for the Wolves/Vitalant blood drive on Saturday at Allstate Arena’s Skyline Room. Wolves fans made a huge difference in 402 people’s lives during the last blood drive on Dec. 18, so don’t miss this chance to be a lifesaver again.
Everyone who donates between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday receives 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.
$2 BEER NIGHT
What’s better than drinking an ice-cold beer while watching the Wolves win? Drinking one that costs only two bucks! So many Wolves fans enjoyed our inaugural $2 Beer Night on March 25 that we’re bringing it back for the regular-season home finale against Rockford on Thursday, April 28.
$2 beers will be available at specific concession stands in each Allstate Arena lobby through the end of the first intermission. For tickets, click here.
ON THE MOVE
The Carolina Hurricanes recalled goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov from loan Sunday afternoon. On Sunday night, the Wolves recalled goaltender Dylan Wells from loan to the Norfolk Admirals (ECHL) and followed the next morning by recalling defenseman Artyom Serikov from loan to Norfolk.
Serikov played four games in five days for the Admirals and helped them earn seven of a possible eight points in their final games of the season. Wells, who made his lone appearance for the Wolves in a 4-3 overtime loss Jan. 22 at Manitoba, posted an 18-21-2 record this season for Norfolk with a 3.59 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage.
With his 42nd and 43rd goals during the third period of Saturday’s division-clinching win at Texas, Noesen became the first AHL player since 2010 to score 43 goals in one season. The 29-year-old Texas native also set the Wolves’ single-season record for most game-winning goals (11) and tied Steve Maltais for the most goals against one team in a season (12 vs. Texas).
The team captain had a week he’ll never forget. On Tuesday, a few hours after the team arrived in Texas, Poturalski flew back to Chicago to be with his wife, Haley, when their first child, Morrison, was born Wednesday morning. With his wife and son happy and healthy, he rejoined the Wolves and handed out 3 assists Saturday to give him 91 points for the year — 1 off the AHL lead.
This 20-year-old rookie center from Russia has gotten off to a hot start in his first two weeks as a pro in North America. The Carolina Hurricanes’ 2020 second-round pick recorded an assist in his North American pro debut April 6 and hasn’t stopped. Ponomarev owns 6 assists in six games, which included a pair of helpers in Friday’s win at Texas.
SATURDAY, APRIL 16: CHICAGO 6, (AT) TEXAS 4
- Forward Stefan Noesen’s short-handed goal at 9:28 of the third period snapped the game’s fourth and final tie and wound up the game-winner as the Wolves clinched the Central Division title.
- In addition to Noesen’s 42nd and 43rd goals of the year, the Wolves received goals from defensemen Joey Keane and Max Lajoie and forwards Richard Panik and Josh Leivo.
- Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov stopped 25 shots for the win.
FRIDAY, APRIL 15: CHICAGO 4, (AT) TEXAS 3
- Forward Spencer Smallman scored with 5:28 remaining to wrap up the Wolves’ rally from a 2-0 deficit and drop their magic number to 1 for the Central Division title.
- Rookie forward Ivan Lodnia produced his first two-goal game as a pro, defenseman Chris Bigras scored his first Wolves goal and forwards Vasily Ponomarev and Jamieson Rees added 2 assists.
- Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov entered for the injured Alex Lyon and posted 12 saves for the win.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13: (AT) TEXAS 3, CHICAGO 2
- The Stars broke to a 2-0 lead in the opening 8:02 and the Wolves never caught up despite Stefan Noesen’s league-leading 41st goal.
- Center Ryan Suzuki scored the Wolves’ other goal while Jack Drury, Joey Keane, Jesper Sellgren and David Gust picked up assists.
- Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov notched 19 saves.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|Tuesday, April 19||vs. Rockford||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Friday, April 22||at Grand Rapids||6 p.m.||Van Andel Arena||AHLTV|
|Saturday, April 23||vs. Milwaukee||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Sunday, April 24||vs. Grand Rapids||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50|
|Thursday, April 28||vs. Grand Rapids||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.