Welcome to Wolves Insider, presented by Rivers Casino: the weekly report that gives you the latest Chicago Wolves news as the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy winners head into the postseason and prepare to battle for the organization’s fifth league championship.
LET THE CALDER CUP CHASE BEGIN!
For the first time since joining the American Hockey League in June 2001, the Chicago Wolves have captured the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy that goes to the team with the best regular-season record. The Wolves’ franchise-record .724 points percentage (50-16-5-5) has earned Chicago the home-ice advantage throughout the Calder Cup Playoffs that open tonight.
The Wolves, who also claimed the Central Division title for the fifth time in the last six years, received a first-round bye in the playoffs. They will spend this week practicing at the Wolves Training Facility in Hoffman Estates while keeping an eye on their prospective opponents in the Central Division Semifinals: The fourth-seeded Rockford IceHogs vs. the fifth-seeded Texas Stars in a best-of-3 series that begins Wednesday in Rockford. The Wolves meet the winner in a best-of-5 set that starts in the second week of May.
While there are never any guarantees when it comes to postseason hockey, there are many reasons why the Wolves are optimistic about their chances to bring their fifth league championship to Chicago.
1) The league’s best record is backed up by sturdy metrics that convey Chicago’s level of consistent dominance. The Wolves posted a league-high +67 goal differential in their 76 games while the Pacific Division-winning Stockton Heat finished second at +57. The Wolves led the league in power-play chances per game (4.22) and ranked third in fewest power-play chances allowed (3.37).
2) Captain Andrew Poturalski and alternate captain Stefan Noesen — both of whom were voted to the AHL’s First All-Star Team — delivered offensive production not seen in the AHL since 2009-10. Poturalski’s career-high 101 points and Noesen’s 48 goals were the AHL’s highest totals in 12 years. “They’re arguably the two best players in the whole league and I think every coach who has seen them play would say that,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “They can dominate the game. They set the tone on how we play. It’s that simple.”
— AHL Communications (@AHLPR) May 1, 2022
3) While the Wolves finished fourth in the AHL in goals per game (3.43), they led the league in fewest goals allowed (2.55). The credit goes to a strong group of goaltenders — led by Alex Lyon, Pyotr Kochetkov and Eetu Makiniemi — as well as a stout defensive corps and a group of forwards who play just as hard in the defensive zone as the offensive zone.
Chicago's Alex Lyon is the recipient of the AHL's Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial Award for the 2021-22 season. #AHLAwards
— AHL Communications (@AHLPR) May 1, 2022
4) The team’s depth is just as impressive as the aforementioned stars and high-profile NHL veterans such as Josh Leivo and Richard Panik. Twelve Wolves earned NHL time this season and there are several recent top NHL draft picks who are on their way. Chicago’s roster also features crucial glue guys such as Orland Park native David Gust, who has delivered 16 goals and 20 assists, and forward Spencer Smallman, who has earned a +27 plus/minus rating on the strength of fierce two-way play.
GET YOUR PLAYOFF TICKETS
The Wolves have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs — starting with the best-of-5 Central Division Semifinals that begin next week. Regardless of whether they’re facing Rockford or Texas, the Wolves know they’re hosting a home game at 7 p.m., Saturday, May 14. To get tickets for that date, click here.
Otherwise, fans should visit the Wolves Playoff Page for the latest information and the chance to win two tickets for each home game.
LAFONTAINE GOES TO CAROLINA
A few hours before the Carolina Hurricanes open the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Boston Bruins, the Hurricanes announced they have recalled rookie goaltender Jack LaFontaine from loan to the Wolves.
Since turning pro in January, LaFontaine has posted a 4-3-4 record, 2.89 goals-against average and .885 save percentage in 13 games for the Wolves. The 24-year-old also has appeared in games for the Hurricanes and the ECHL’s Norfolk Admirals.
The Hurricanes earned the Metropolitan Division title and claimed the top seed in their quadrant of the 16-team Stanley Cup bracket. The Bruins secured the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The 29-year-old Plano, Texas, native became the fifth player in Wolves history to earn the Willie Marshall Award that goes to the AHL’s top goal-scorer. Noesen finished his remarkable year with 48 goals — six more than any other AHL player in the last 12 years. Noesen’s franchise-record 13 game-winning goals also paced the AHL while his +35 plus/minus rating ranked second.
The Wolves captain earned an assist on Stefan Noesen’s goal 10:51 into Saturday’s win at Rockford to become the first AHL player since 2010 (and the 100th player in AHL history) to score 100 points in one season. He finished with 101 points (28G, 73A) to become the fifth man in the AHL’s 86-year history to win the John B. Sollenberger Trophy (which goes to the league’s top point-producer) in back-to-back years.
This 29-year-old from Baudette, Minnesota, was honored Sunday as the winner of the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award that goes to goaltenders who played at least 25 games for the team that led the AHL in goals-against average. Lyon was the only Wolves goaltender who qualified as he delivered an 18-7-3 record and 2.16 GAA in 30 games.
- The Wolves fired 54 shots — the team’s highest regular-season total since Dec. 2, 2006 — as they wrapped up the schedule with a win that clinched the AHL’s best regular-season record.
- Captain Andrew Poturalski set up forward Stefan Noesen twice as Poturalski finished as the AHL leader in points (101) and Noesen led the AHL in goals (48). Forward Stelio Mattheos also scored.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon posted 23 saves as the Wolves clinched the AHL’s best goals-against average.
- Rookie center Jack Drury scored twice, including the game-winner as part of a four-goal third period, as the Wolves stayed in contention for the AHL’s best regular-season record.
- Forwards Andrew Poturalski and Stefan Noesen, named to the AHL’s First All-Star Team earlier in the day, posted 1 goal and 1 assist apiece while forwards David Cotton and Josh Leivo also scored.
- Goaltender Jake LaFontaine posted 22 saves to pick up his second straight win.
GUARANTEED HOME PLAYOFF DATE
|Saturday, May 14||vs. Rockford or Texas||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||TBA|
The Wolves will host as many as three games in the best-of-5 Central Division Semifinals that begin next week, but May 14 is the only date that’s guaranteed regardless of opponent.
All games are streamed on AHLTV.