No place like home ice for Golden Knights and Chicago Wolves

Updated February 1, 2018 - 4:49 pm

Before the recent flu epidemic hit the U.S., a different bug hit the NHL: the “Vegas Flu.”

Rosemont, Illinois may not have the same bright lights, grand casinos and nightclubs, but the Golden Knights’ affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, are also making their home ice a sickly sort of environment for opponents.

The Wolves and the the city are both new for much of the team’s roster, but it’s clearly becoming a comfortable home. The team set a new a franchise home win streak at 10 games on Jan. 21 – the previous record was set in 2003 – and it’s currently the best run in the AHL.

“This is home,” head coach Rocky Thompson said. “I always knew as a visitor, coach, and even as a player, the atmosphere is great. They do such a great job and our fans are so good.”

Chicago has provided plenty of offense during the streak. The Wolves have outscored opponents 44-20 in 10 games; in three of those, they scored six goals. Only one of the victories since Dec. 6 has been a one-goal game.

Average attendance has reached 8,071 during the past 10 games at Allstate Arena, including two crowds that surpassed 12,000 fans.

“In my opinion, you’re playing in the best city in the world, with some amazing people,” forward Brandon Pirri said. “It shouldn’t matter what the crowd is like, but when there’s that many people in the crowd, it gives you that extra boost.”

Tynan scores with Central stars

When Brandon Pirri’s wife gave birth two weeks ago, Tomas Hyka was set to represent Chicago in the All-Star Classic. Hyka found himself unable to attend after he was injured. On Saturday morning, one day before the All-Star festivities were set to begin, TJ Tynan stepped in.

He played three games representing the Central Division on Monday, and though the team didn’t advance to the championship round, Tynan helped lead his squad with three points: one goal and two assists.

His ability to make plays on the All-Star stage comes as no shock: Tynan currently leads Chicago in assists with 25, and had four in one game on Jan. 20. He is tied for overall points leader at 34 with Pirri.

“Just get open when he’s got the puck,” Pirri said of Tynan. “He’s got crazy patience and he protects the puck so well, so you just get out of his way and get ready to shoot.”

Playoff race heats up

The Wolves find themselves in the thick of the playoff race coming out of the All-Star break.

Though Manitoba has run away with the Central Division’s top spot, the middle is up for grabs. Iowa, Chicago and Rockford are all within one point of each other, which makes the central the tightest division in the league. Four teams make the AHL playoffs, but Grand Rapids is not far behind. There’s still only a three-point gap between it and fourth-place Rockford.

Chicago was at the bottom of the division standings earlier in the season. Down the stretch, the Wolves play 25 of their last 31 games against division opponents.

“We know that if we want to be there in the end, we have to compete every night and keep winning some games, getting those points,” defenseman Jake Bischoff said. “Every game is a battle and we have to be prepared for it.”

Contact Emily Polglaze at enpolglaze@gmail.com. Follow @enpolglaze on Twitter.

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