CHICAGO – The Chicago Wolves are now 8-3-0-1, and are currently icing the best line in the American League Hockey. If you look at the AHL’s leaderboard, Gage Quinney, Brooks Macek and Daniel Carr are all over it.
This past weekend marked Chicago’s first trip of the season to Winnipeg. The Manitoba Moose were a thorn in Chicago’s side all last season going 6-1-1-0 against the Wolves in 2017-18, which was by far the worst record against any division rival for Rocky’s team.
Chicago’s power play clicked early in game one of the two-game series, with Quinney and Carr each potting one on the man advantage, but Manitoba scored two of its own between those two goals. Mason Appleton, who had one goal and six assists against the Wolves last season, gave the Moose the lead halfway through the first and Manitoba never looked back. Macek’s first goal of the weekend, and Nic Hague’s second goal of the season closed the gap to one goal, but Rocky’s team wasn’t able to steal a point after going down 5-2.
Oscar Dansk made just 15 saves in the 5-4 loss.
The Wolves needed to bounce back Saturday to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season, and the AHL’s leading scorer helped them do just that.
Macek potted his 11th and 12th goals of the season in just his 11th game of the season Saturday, powering the Wolves to a dominant 4-1 win. Chicago went 0-for-6 on the power play, but it didn’t need to produce with the two goals from Macek, plus one each from Stefan Matteau and Brandon Pirri, to split the weekend against the Moose.
Manitoba recorded 14 shots in the third, but Dansk got his own redemption in Winnipeg as he made 29 saves on 30 shots.
Saturday’s effort by Rocky Thompson’s team was a far cry from Friday’s less-than-stellar defensive play, and they looked to ride this momentum into Wednesday morning’s school day game in Milwaukee.
Though Macek shined in Winnipeg, it was his linemate Carr who had a game of his own against the Admirals, recording his first hat trick of the season, and then one to spare.
Updated with Carr’s four goals of the night. pic.twitter.com/ZZA3OlsCLz
— Sin Bin Wolves (@SinBinWolves) November 7, 2018
Macek had an assist on each of Carr’s four goals, and his hattie marked the third of the season for the Quinney-Carr-Macek line.
Carr opened the game’s scoring at 6:12 of the first with a power-play goal, and the left winger got his second 10 minutes later. Milwaukee spoiled his bid at a natural hat trick at 4:21 of the second, and potted a power-play goal of its own two minutes later to tie the game at three.
The Admirals took the next three penalties of the game, and the third time proved the charm for Carr as he got his third goal of the morning on the Wolves’ third-consecutive chance to send Chicago into intermission ahead 3-2.
Adding to the team’s highlight reel were Erik Brannstrom and Jake Bischoff, the latter of whom fed the former for a beautiful 4-on-4 goal to regain the lead for Chicago, who had allowed a second power-play goal earlier in the period.
Enjoy Brannstrom’s third goal of the season. pic.twitter.com/aEcEC6wzkG
— Sin Bin Wolves (@SinBinWolves) November 7, 2018
Rocky Thompson was extremely pleased with Brannstrom’s first goal of the season since opening night, saying,
“You don’t see many D to D passes go into the back of the net in the offensive zone. When you’re playing 4-on-4 you can be active and our defensemen do have a lot of offense in their game. That was a great rebound, for us to be able to go and do that and get us going again. Nice for Brannstrom. It was a big goal.”
Carr put the icing on the cake with his fourth goal of the night halfway through the third, and that was all she wrote as the Wolves schooled the Admirals 5-3.
Rocky is absolutely loving the Quinney-Carr-Macek line,
“Well, Carr has a history of being a goal-scorer. He can score goals. They had opportunities, Macek as well. They could have probably scored MORE goals with some of the opportunities that they had and some big saves by the other team’s goaltender came into play there as well. So, it is kind of funny that their roles were reversed but they’re both very talented and Quinney is a nice compliment to that line. There’s a lot of chemistry there. Any one of those three can score and they work hard. At the end of the day, the reason why is they’re the hardest working players on the ice every night.”
With Carr’s hat trick, that entire first line has recorded a hat trick at this point in the season (just 12 games in).
After the game, Carr jokingly credited the wife of his former teammate Troy Groesnick for his success against the netminder,
“I think Groesnick’s wife cooked me dinner last night. No, I went over to his house last night for dinner. We went to college together, so it was good to see him again. But, tonight, I think our line was really good. You know we – sometimes you just get good.”
With goaltender Max Lagace worse for wear, Dansk got his third start of the week, finishing 2-1. Rocky was extremely pleased with the netminder’s play, detailing,
“Max is dealing with a minor injury, and he should be coming back good. Oscar’s been given the opportunity to take the ball and run with it. We played good in front of him as well. I’ll tell you what. That third period, boy, they had some Grade A chances on their power play and he made some huge saves to keep us with the lead.”
Special Teams Highs and Lows
Chicago’s power play has been on a tear lately, and though it is just 18th in the AHL at 18.0%, Carr has five of the team’s 11 goals on the power play, including three this week. They appear to have found their groove, scoring at least one goal on the man advantage in two out of the team’s three games this past week.
However, the penalty kill leaves something to be desired at this point in the season. The Wolves have allowed 15 goals on 60 chances through 12 games. The 75% kill rate is 27th in the AHL, but Wolves fans have nothing to worry about yet.
“It’s a work in progress, for sure,” said Rocky. “Some nights, you do good and you give up one really good chance and they end up scoring. I think guys on our team – they haven’t been penalty killers, a lot of them, so they’re learning the position and it’s something that they’ve been challenged on. It’s a long season and so we’re on top of it. We know it’s something that needs to improve and the players know that as well, so we will remedy it.”
Brannstrom is one of the Chicago Wolves players who is a point-per-game or better. His three goals and seven assists in 10 games is number one on the team’s blue line, but he still needs to improve his responsibility without the puck.
Hague has two goals and four assists in 12 games, but he is also getting some time on the penalty kill and has been taking on an ever-increasing role on the team.
Dylan Coghlan missed three more games due to an undisclosed injury.
Team Stat Leaders
Brooks Macek leads the Chicago Wolves, and the American Hockey League, with 12 goals and 7 assists in just 12 games.
Daniel Carr is right behind him with 18 points (8 G, 10 A). His five power-play goals lead the AHL.
Brandon Pirri has provided a more silent threat from the second line, with a still-impressive 4 goals and 9 assists in 12 games.
Gage Quinney is also a point-per-game player, with 7 goals and 5 assists.
T.J. Tynan is Chicago’s fifth player who is a point-per-game or better (4G, 8A).