Welcome to Wolves Insider, presented by Are You Really Winning?: The weekly report that gives you an inside look at the latest Chicago Wolves news and happenings. Look for a new edition of Wolves Insider every Tuesday.
NO SHORTAGE OF SHORTHANDED SUCCESS
With victories in 10 of their last 15 games, the Wolves are doing a lot of things right—but nothing has been better than their penalty killing.
The defending Calder Cup champions lead the American Hockey League with an overall penalty killing record of 85.2 percent. Through Tuesday, the Wolves have yielded 31 power-play goals in 209 times shorthanded. They are second in the league killing penalties at home (86.2 percent) and sixth on the road (84.0).
For the past four seasons, assistant coach Patrick Dwyer has been in charge of the team’s penalty kill and said the key to its current play has been “everyone is on the same page now.
“First and foremost, you have to outwork teams’ power-play units,” Dwyer continued. “At the end of the day, it’s doing the intangibles like blocking shots, getting sticks in the lanes, bodies in lanes, congesting the slot, taking away their options and forcing then into the shot we want them to take.”
In addition to the goaltenders, the penalty kill units are led by all six Wolves defensemen—most notably Max Lajoie and Cavan Fitzgerald—in the lineup each game as well as forwards Jack Drury, Josh Melnick, Joseph LaBate and Vasily Ponomarev.
“Our ‘D’ has been the backbone of it and those four guys up front that have been really good for us,” Dwyer said. “It’s a buy-in and a mentality from those guys.
“It’s a special teams game,” he continued “If your power play is not going and your penalty killing isn’t going, you’re going to have a hard time winning games. So many goals are off the rush and on special teams so if you can dial down those two things it definitely helps.”
Killing penalties isn’t the most glamorous assignment, but Dwyer said it can be the difference in whether a player makes the next step to the NHL.
“It’s a great way for guys to get their foot in the door,” Dwyer said. “It’s something in the toolbox that you can have to make yourself valuable to the team and find your niche up there.”
NEW GUY ALERT
The Wolves had a new face in the lineup during Sunday’s game against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Forward Jack Dugan was acquired via a trade with Utica on Friday in exchange for defenseman Zack Hayes.
Dugan, selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the fifth round (142nd overall) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, had 11 goals, 16 assists and 27 penalty minutes in 51 games with the Comets. The Pittsburgh native previously played for Henderson and has 27 goals, 51 assists and 84 penalty minutes in 124 career AHL games.
Before attending Providence College, Dugan played for the Chicago Steel of the USHL during the 2017-18 season.
“I played junior in Chicago and I love the city so I’m excited to be here,” Dugan 24, said. “When you get traded it means the team that traded for you wanted you. We definitely have a team that can make the playoffs and I just want to help any way I can.”
WELCOME BACK, RYAN DZINGEL
During Sunday’s game against the Griffins, Ryan Dzingel made his return to the Wolves lineup for the first time since Nov. 20 after recovering from a back injury. The veteran forward didn’t waste time before making an impact, scoring his first goal of the season in the second period of Grand Rapids’ 3-1 victory.
“It was nice to have ‘Zinger’ back,” Wolves coach Brock Sheahan said. “It’s been a long time for him. If he’s healthy, his game is going to keep getting better and he’ll help us.”
IMPACT PLAY OF THE WEEK
The Wolves signed forward Neil Shea out of Sacred Heart University to an ATO (Amateur Tryout Contract) on March 7 and the 23-year-old not only made his American Hockey League debut against Rockford on Saturday, but he scored his first professional goal to help Chicago to a 5-1 thrashing of its Central Division rival.
Weekly rewind (1-1-0-0)
SATURDAY, MARCH 11
Wolves 5, IceHogs 1: Zach Senyshyn had two goals and an assist, Max Lajoie a goal and an assist and Neil Shea and Joseph LaBate also scored to give the defending Calder Cup champion Wolves their 10th win in their last 14 games.
SUNDAY, MARCH 12
Griffins 3, Wolves 1: Ryan Dzingel scored but it wasn’t enough as the Wolves fell. Tanner Hirose had a goal and an assist for Grand Rapids, which was playing for the third time in three days.
First Star of the Week
ST. PATRICK’S DAY CELEBRATION
The Wolves are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in style when they host the Manitoba Moose this weekend at Allstate Arena.
Highlights of the weekend include Wolves players wearing commemorative St. Patrick’s Day jerseys, presented by Jewel-Osco, to raise money for Easterseals that will then be auctioned for charity, Irish dancers, music, beverages, food and more!
To make things even more special, the first 2,000 fans entering the arena on Saturday night will receive a limited-edition Mackenzie MacEachern bobblehead, presented by C.D.E. Collision Centers.
For more information and to purchase special ticket packages, go here.
Where we stand
25-26-3-2, sixth in the Central Division.
|Friday, March 17||at Milwaukee||7 p.m.||BMO Center||AHLTV|
|Saturday, March 18||vs. Manitoba||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV/My50 Chicago|
|Sunday, March 19||vs. Manitoba||3 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV/My50 Chicago|
|Wednesday, March 22||at Grand Rapids||6 p.m.||Van Andel Arena||AHLTV|
|Saturday, March 25||at Texas||7 p.m.||H-E-B Center||AHLTV|
For information on Wolves ticket plans for the 2022-23 season — everything from single-game tickets to Flex Packs to group outings — visit ChicagoWolves.com or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.