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RETURN OF ‘FATHER FINN’

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 each week.

RAANTA LOOKS TO BE ‘DIFFERENCE MAKER’

Antti Raanta can think of better places to be during a hockey game than watching from the press box.

That’s why Raanta said he is happy to be back with the Wolves after the veteran goaltender was reassigned from the Carolina Hurricanes last Friday.

“We had four goalies in Carolina so you knew that something was going to happen,” Raanta said. “I’ve been there when I was sitting in the press box watching games and just skating here and there so I’d rather take this opportunity to be on a daily basis practicing and playing with this team.”

It marks Raanta’s second stint with the Wolves after spending 10 days with the team at the end of December. During that span, the Rauma, Finland, native went 1-0-1-0 with a 2.90 goals-against average and .875 save percentage in two appearances. With Carolina, the 34-year-old Raanta earned the nickname “Father Finn” and this season appeared in 24 games and went 12-7-0-2 with a 2.99 GAA and .872 save percentage.

With the Wolves in a dogfight for the final Central Division postseason berth, Raanta is relishing the chance to play in important games down the stretch.

“Straight away when I saw the standings I knew I wanted to be the guy who can help the team and make the saves when you need them,” Raanta said. “You just have to take the one-game-at-a-time mentality—you can’t just sprint through 18 games and make all the saves at one time.”

While the goal is to return to the NHL at some point, Raanta is focused on helping the Wolves down the stretch run of the season. He’s expected to see time in the crease during the Wolves’ upcoming three games in three days, beginning with Friday night’s game against the Manitoba Moose at Allstate Arena.

“You never know what happens in the future but right now it’s just about going through the daily stuff and getting ready for Friday,” Raanta said. “It’s going to be a good fight to get to the playoffs so these are meaningful games and this is a great group of guys. So, I’m obviously happy to be back here. Hopefully, I’ll be the difference maker.”

WISE DECISION

In the Charlotte Checkers’ dressing room, a video screen displays the lineup for that night’s game. When a player is for some reason taken off the roster, the screen goes dark.

Having seen his name on the screen upon arriving at the arena for a game against the Hershey Bears on March 8, Jake Wise didn’t think much when the lineup suddenly disappeared from the video monitor while he was taping his stick.

Then the 24-year-old forward got the tap on the shoulder to tell him he had been traded to the Wolves in exchange for defenseman Mitch Vande Sompel.

“I thought there was zero chance I was getting traded,” Wise said. “There was no talk of it or anything so it just came out of the blue. I was kind of shocked but when they said it was to Chicago, I was excited.”

Wise, who was a third-round selection (69th overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, said his familiarity with the Chicago area helped ease the shock of the sudden move.

In 38 games with the Checkers, the Naples, Fla., native had seven goals—three on the power play—and 13 assists. Upon joining the Wolves, Wise was immediately placed on the top line by head coach Bob Nardella and has seen time with a man advantage. The forward had an assist during the Wolves’ 7-4 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals on Sunday at Allstate Arena.

“The coaches have kind of let me do my thing and given me some opportunities, which is all you can ask for as a player,” Wise said. “My job is to run with it.”

Just what is Wise’s “thing?”

“I’m an offensive player,” he said. “I like to hold onto the puck but I try to be as responsible as possible in the D zone and try not to turn pucks over. I love scoring and I love making plays.”

Wise, who grew up in Boston after moving from Florida, idolized Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins when he was young. During his career, he has crossed paths with several of his new Wolves teammates, including Domenick Fensore, Adam Scheel, Cory Conacher and Dominic Franco.

“I know the area and a couple of guys on the team so this is a good place for me,” Wise said. “Now, I’m settling in and starting to feel really good.”

IMPACT PLAY OF THE WEEK

Forward Max Comtois came up with this gem in the shootout to give the Wolves a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Griffins on Friday night in Grand Rapids.

REPUBLIC BANK SAVE OF THE WEEK

Goaltender Adam Scheel sealed the win over the Griffins by stopping all three shootout attempts, including the final one by Grand Rapids center Austin Czarnik.

C.D.E. COLLISION CENTERS’ COLLISION OF THE WEEK

During Saturday night’s game against Rockford, Wolves forward Dominic Franco delivered this crunching open-ice check on the IceHogs’ Nolan Allan.

Weekly rewind (2-1-0)

FRIDAY, MARCH 8

Wolves 2, Griffins 1 (SO): Max Comtois notched the winner in the shootout, Tory Dello scored in regulation and Adam Scheel was brilliant in goal with 34 saves to help the Wolves finish their road trip 2-1-0-0.

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

IceHogs 4, Wolves 1: Josh Melnick scored for the Wolves but it wasn’t enough as the IceHogs raced to a big first-period lead behind two goals and an assist from Jackson Cates and went on to post their season-high sixth win in a row.

SUNDAY, MARCH 10

Wolves 7, Admirals 4: Cavan Fitzgerald and Nathan Sucese each scored twice, Cole Schneider and Hudson Elynuik each had a goal and an assist and Dominic Franco also scored to help the Wolves defeat the Central Division-leading Admirals in front of a sold-out crowd at Allstate Arena.

First Star of the Week

HUDSON ELYNUIK, F

The 26-year-old from Calgary had a goal and an assist to help the Wolves erase an early two-goal deficit and defeated the Admirals 7-4 on Sunday at Allstate Arena.

For the season, Elynuik, a third-round selection (No. 74 overall) by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, has two goals, six assists and 26 penalty minutes in 28 games.

 

Where we stand

21-28-3-2, sixth in the Central Division.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE

Friday, March 15 Manitoba 7 p.m. Allstate Arena AHLTV/My50 Chicago
Saturday, March 16 Manitoba 7 p.m. Allstate Arena AHLTV/My50 Chicago
Sunday, March 17 Iowa 3 p.m. Allstate Arena AHLTV/My50 Chicago
Wednesday, March 20 at Rockford 7 p.m. BMO Center AHLTV
Friday, March 22 at Iowa 7 p.m. Wells Fargo Arena AHLTV