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First and last 10 games for Chicago Wolves show eerie similarities

And yet the team’s better now than they were during game one. Curious!

Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

This week’s Wolves report is a familiar story to anyone who’s been checking in on the team this season. Strong wins featuring tight overall team efforts get followed up by embarrassing performances, only to have the ship slowly right itself over the next series of games. They’re hallmarks of a team that is still learning and growing, and the Wolves are no exception.

While the Wolves are overall a better team now than they were in September and October, their record doesn’t always indicate it. In fact, their stats through their first 10 and last 10 games are so similar that it’s practically uncanny:

Wolves First and Last 10

Category First 10 Games Last 10 Games Kochetkov's Last 10 Games
Category First 10 Games Last 10 Games Kochetkov's Last 10 Games
Goals For 31 32 35
Goals Against 35 34 22
Power Plays Received 37 27 34
Power Play Goals Scored 4 (10.8%) 4 (14.8%) 9 (26.5%)
Penalties Taken 36 33 37
Penalty Kill Goals Allowed 6 (83.3%) 6 (81.8%) 3 (91.9%)
Record 4-5-1-0 4-4-1-1 8-1-0-1
Shots For 282 309 291
Shots Against 313 295 274

The small changes have been significant, though. The Wolves are taking more shots, and limiting their opponents more. The power play, while scoring the same number of goals, is more efficient — the Wolves are drawing fewer penalties, but capitalizing on more of their opportunities.

I thought that the numbers were eerily similar enough that I also looked at the last 10 games that Pyotr Kochetkov played for the Wolves. The amount of goals scored doesn’t differ significantly, but the goals against, both at even strength and on the penalty kill, drop dramatically. And while Kochetkov isn’t the one limiting an opponent’s shots, it’s notable that the team appears to play better in front of him: the power play was significantly better during that span, and the shots against dropped as well, going from allowing an average of nearly 30 shots per game to allowing just over 27.

The Wolves have 10 games remaining in the regular season, which means just 10 more games for some of the young players to shine. Several players have been signed to amateur try-out agreements after their college seasons concluded, including Dominick Mersch (no points in two games) and Neil Shea (two points in six games). Goaltender Jacob Kucharski had a less auspicious start to his professional career, allowing four goals on eight shots and being pulled after just 13 minutes of action.

The Wolves have also welcomed back Tuukka Tieksola, who had been loaned back to Kärpät in the Finnish Liiga in February. With Kärpät’s season wrapping up, Tieksola returned to the Wolves. Where he scored two goals in his first game back. He added an assist in the next game, for three points over two games since his return. Ville Koivunen, a 19-year old forward and 2021 Hurricanes draft pick, also joined the team at the conclusion of Kärpät’s season. He has no points in two games.

Game 57: Chicago Wolves 6, Milwaukee Admirals 2

Scoring: Malte Stromwall, 2 G ,1 A; Nathan Sucese, 1 G, 1 A; Jamieson Rees, 1 G; Griffin Mendel, 1 G; Joey LaBate, 1 G; Mackenzie MacEachern, 3 A; Vasily Ponomarev, 2 A; William Lagesson, 1 A; Ryan Suzuki, 1 A; Max Lajoie, 1 A

In net: Zach Sawchenko, saved 25 of 27, 0.926 sv%

Game 58: Chicago Wolves 1, Manitoba Moose 6

Scoring: Josh Melnick, 1 G; Neil Shea, 1 A; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 A

In net: Jacob Kucharski, saved 4 of 8, 0.500 sv%; Zach Sawchenko, saved 16 of 18, 0.889 sv%

Game 59: Chicago Wolves 3, Manitoba Moose 4 (SO)

Scoring: Zach Senyshyn, 1 G; Josh Melnick, 1 G; Vasily Ponomarev, 1 G; Alex Green, 2 A; Griffin Mendel, 1 A; Jack Dugan, 1 A

In net: Zach Sawchenko, saved 32 of 35, 0.914 sv%

Game 60: Chicago Wolves 3, Grand Rapids Griffins 6

The less said about this epic collapse, the better.

Scoring: Malte Stromwall, 1 G, 1 A; Max Lajoie, 1 G; Jamieson Rees, 1 G; Mackenzie MacEachern, 2 A; Ronan Seely, 1 A; William Lagesson, 1 A; Ryan Suzuki, 1 A

In net: Zach Sawchenko, saved 20 of 25, 0.800 sv%

Game 61: Chicago Wolves 3, Texas Stars 4 (OT)

Scoring: Tuukka Tieksola, 2 G; Mackenzie MacEachern, 1 G; Max Lajoie, 1 A; Ryan Dzingel, 1 A; Joseph LaBate, 1 A; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 A; Ronan Seeley, 1 A; Vasily Ponomarev, 1 A

In net: Zach Sawchenko, saved 26 of 30, 0.867 sv%

Game 62: Chicago Wolves 3, Texas Stars 2

Scoring: Ryan Suzuki, 1 G; Vasily Ponomarev, 1 G; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 G; Nathan Sucese, 1 A; Ronan Seeley, 1 A; Tuukka Tieksola, 1 A; Max Lajoie, 1 A; Jack Dugan, 1 A; Anttoni Honka, 1 A

In net: Zach Sawchenko, saved 30 of 32, 0.938 sv%