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.
HISTORY OF THE WOLVES-ICEHOGS RIVALRY
In the summer of 2007, the Rockford IceHogs moved from the United Hockey League to the American Hockey League — which meant the Chicago Wolves finally had a rival within an hour’s drive of Allstate Arena. When the Wolves and IceHogs met for the first time on Oct. 19, 2007, at Allstate Arena, it didn’t take long for things to simmer to a full boil.
It took just 2 minutes, 5 seconds for Rockford to commit a roughing penalty. And 4 minutes, 33 seconds into the game, the Wolves’ Andre Deveaux and IceHogs’ Evan Brophey engaged in the rivalry’s first fight. By the end of the first period, there were six goals on the scoreboard and 19 penalties on the scoresheet — including a fight between Chicago’s Nathan Oystrick and Rockford’s Colin Fraser.
When Jason Krog scored in overtime, the Wolves owned a hard-fought 5-4 victory and the rivalry was forged. Since that night, the Wolves and IceHogs have met 177 more times — including 10 Calder Cup contests — heading into this week’s best-of-5 Central Division Semifinals that open Thursday at Allstate Arena.
Over the course of these 15 seasons, there have been many classic moments. In the 2008 Calder Cup West Division Final, for example, the Wolves owned the top seed but the IceHogs won three straight games to claim a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6 at Rockford. The day before that game, Wolves forward Colin Stuart decided to shave his beard — leaving only a cheesy-looking mustache — and every player and coach decided to follow suit.
Rockford held a 1-0 lead after the first period, but then the “Power of the Stache” took over as the Wolves scored four unanswered power-play goals in the second period against IceHogs goaltender Corey Crawford to take the game 4-3 and then went on to go all the way to the Calder Cup championship.
Five years later on March 17, 2013, the “St. Patrick’s Day Massacre” occurred in the waning seconds of a relatively meaningless Wolves-IceHogs game. After the Wolves’ Guillaume Desbiens checked Ben Smith into an unlocked door to the Rockford bench with six seconds to go, nearly everyone on both teams went wild. After more than 40 seconds of multiple battles on the ice and the Rockford bench, the officials assessed 27 penalties and ESPN’s SportsCenter was among the many outlets to share the mayhem with the world.
Five years later on April 26, 2018, Chicago and Rockford engaged in the longest game in Wolves history as the teams needed nearly three full overtimes to settle Game 3 of the Central Division Semifinals. Goaltender Max Lagace shattered the Wolves franchise record with 72 saves over 117 minutes and 22 seconds. The teams played scoreless hockey for 74 minutes and 11 seconds of ice time — and three hours of real time — before Rockford’s Victor Ejdsell scored a power-play goal at 12:08 a.m. to give the IceHogs a 4-3 win in the last postseason game between the two teams — until this week.
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE WOLVES-ICEHOGS REGULAR-SEASON SERIES
- The Wolves outshot the IceHogs in 11 of the 12 games. Overall, the Wolves averaged 39.0 shots per game compared to Rockford’s 23.3.
- Four games needed to go to the shootout after 60 minutes of regulation and five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime. In Calder Cup play, though, teams continue to play 5-on-5 in overtime until someone scores a goal.
- The final five games between the teams (and seven for the series) were decided by one goal.
- The Wolves earned 14 more power-play chances than the IceHogs, but scored only one more goal. Chicago was 8 of 52 (15.4 percent) while Rockford was 7 of 38 (18.4 percent) with the extra man.
- The road team won eight of the 12 games, which suggests the Wolves’ home-ice advantage might not matter much.
CALDER CUP UPDATE
The winner of the Chicago-Rockford series plays the winner of the Manitoba-Milwaukee series in the best-of-5 Central Division Finals. Third-seeded Milwaukee built a 2-0 lead over second-seeded Manitoba with wins in Wisconsin Friday and Saturday, but now the Moose get to play on their home ice May 11, 13 and 15.
To keep track of the latest playoff news for the Wolves and around the AHL, visit the Wolves Playoff Page. You can enter to win two tickets for each Wolves home game.
CHICAGO PET HEALTH FAIR
Not only are the Wolves hosting Game 2 Saturday, but this year’s first Chicago Pet Health Fair will happen from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 5555 West Grand Avenue in Chicago’s 25th Police District. In conjunction with Hyde Park Animal Hospital, Chicago Community Policing, Rescue Pack Chicago and Cook County Animal Rabies Control, the Wolves will have a tractor-trailer on site to hand out pet food and — for the first time — food for people to help all Chicagoans who need aid.
As always, the Chicago Pet Health Fair team will be providing free vaccines and microchips for pets. People can start lining up at 10:30 a.m. and ticket distribution will begin at that time. Everyone is encouraged to bring water and chairs to prepare for a long wait.
The American Hockey League’s most prolific goal-scorer in the last 12 years did plenty of damage against Rockford during the regular season. The 29-year-old Plano, Texas, native scored a team-high seven of his 48 goals in 12 games against the IceHogs. He produced the game-winning goal in the 4-1 win on Nov. 12 and the 3-2 win on April 30 at Rockford.
The Wolves captain became the fifth player in the AHL’s 86-year history to lead the league in points in back-to-back years. Of his 101 points — the AHL’s most since 2009-10 — he registered a team-high 13 (3G, 10A) against Rockford. Fun Fact: The last time the AHL held the Calder Cup Playoffs, Poturalski won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy that goes to the postseason MVP.
This 29-year-old from Baudette, Minnesota, finished second in the AHL’s goals-against average rankings with his 2.16 GAA spread across 30 games. Lyon appeared in six of the Wolves’ 12 games against the IceHogs this season and produced a 3-2-1 record. That included his sterling performance in the regular-season finale that the Wolves won 3-2 at Rockford.
THE CENTRAL DIVISION SEMIFINALS SCHEDULE
|Game 1||Thursday, May 12||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Game 1|
|Game 2||Saturday, May 14||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Game 2|
|Game 3||Sunday, May 15||MetroCentre||4 p.m.|
|Game 4*||Tuesday, May 17||MetroCentre||7 p.m.|
|Game 5*||Thursday, May 19||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Game 5 (if necessary)|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.