It’s an overused saying but there really is no better time of the year for hockey fans. You could make a case for opening night as every team still has a positive outlook on the season, but in terms of play, there is nothing better than the playoffs. The same goes for teams in the AHL. In some ways the season may be more of a grind as there’s always a handful of call ups along with the constant bus travel. The Chicago Wolves started out the year cold but finished regular season play as one of the better teams in the league. Our affiliate just up north clinched the Central Division Title.
Offensively the Wolves were very consistent as Kenny Agostino topped the league in total points with 83 while Wade Megan lead the league in goals with 33. But it wasn't just the minor pro vets who stood out this year as the youth on this Wolves roster more than played their part. The much talked about defenseman Vince Dunn had himself a productive season with 45 points in 72 games. That total put Dunn at ninth overall in the AHL, not bad for his first year as a professional. Another rookie worth mentioning is FInnish goalie Ville Husso who after spending a short stint in the ECHL, the 22 year old finished the season with the Wolves. Husso played 22 games with a save percentage of .920 and a goals against average of 2.37. Easily the biggest surprise this season was the play of Samuel Blais. The French Canadian finished the year just behind Megan in goals with 26 while also chipping in with 17 assists. It’s not that the offense from Blais was unexpected as he did rack up 178 points in three years of hockey in the QMJHL. So the ability to find the net was there but not many were predicting the 20 year old to be a first line forward and that's exactly what he is with the Wolves. Blais will be one to watch this coming fall at the Blues training camp and preseason.
But that’s enough talk about the regular season, who are the Wolves playing in the opening round? Well the first test in the battle for the Calder Cup is the Charlotte Checkers, the Carolina Hurricanes AHL affiliate. The Wolves are the higher seed and elected to have home ice the final three games of the series. For those unaware the opening rounds of the American league playoffs is a best of five series. Therefore the first two games will be in Charlotte.
The two sides did face each other eight times this year, the Wolves took six of those battles. Though as anyone will tell you, nothing is guaranteed in the playoffs. This will be a major test for our “Baby Blues” as for a good chunk of the lineup, the next week of games will be the biggest of their careers to this point.
Game one is Thursday night at 6pm with the second fixture taking place the following night at 6:15. So if you don't have enough hockey in your life currently make sure to keep an eye on the Chicago Wolves.