Wolves win fifth in a row, shut out Roadrunners

Lucas Elvenes, Reid Duke and Tye McGinn score, and Garret Sparks makes 32 saves.

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Lucas Elvenes

Chicago Wolves

When the Wolves and the NHL’s Golden Knights signed their partnership agreement in May 2017, they wrote into the contract their shared goal of winning American Hockey League championships.

From the Wolves’ perspective, it’s crucial to be competitive every year and make legitimate runs at adding to their four league titles. From the Golden Knights’ perspective, players who learn what it takes to win at the AHL level are better positioned to win at the top level.

As an example, four players who helped the Wolves reach the 2019 Calder Cup finals — center Cody Glass, defensemen Nic Hague and Jake Bischoff and goaltender Oscar Dansk — already have earned time with Vegas this season. So has center Nicolas Roy, who played a leading role on the Charlotte Checkers’ squad that topped the Wolves in the finals.

Winning begets winning, and the Wolves (6-3-1-0) pushed their streak to five games with a 3-0 victory against the Tucson Roadrunners on Wednesday night at the Tucson Convention Center Arena.

Garret Sparks stopped all 32 shots, and rookie right wing Lucas Elvenes, Reid Duke and Tye McGinn scored for the Wolves.

With several Wolves from the 2019 Western Conference champions having moved on to Vegas — and others deciding to sign with other NHL organizations during the offseason — a number of spots became available for new prospects to work their way through the pipeline.

Several are taking advantage of that opportunity, but none has seized it quite like Elvenes, 20. The Angelholm, Sweden, native is the AHL’s scoring leader with 15 points.

A fifth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft — part of Vegas’ original draft class headlined by Glass, Senators defenseman Erik Brannstrom and Canadiens center Nick Suzuki — Elvenes didn’t demand to be noticed immediately.

Wolves coach Rocky Thompson said Elvenes didn’t stand out during Vegas’ 2018 training camp. After spending last season playing a lesser role in Sweden’s top professional league (he had three goals and 17 assists in 42 games), Elvenes joined the Calder Cup-bound Wolves on May 1 and served as a black ace.

Basically, he was a member of the scout team to help the Wolves prep.

“I didn’t see a single game [of his in Sweden],” Thompson said. “And when he came here at the end of the year, we were focusing on other things.”

But when Thompson saw Elvenes stand out in camp this year, he and the brass determined he deserved a chance to play on the Wolves’ top line alongside center Gage Quinney and McGinn.

“They just kind of developed a chemistry with one another,” Thompson said. “I think [McGinn] does a lot of the heavy lifting on that line. Gage is an engine. He makes players around him better. He and Lucas are doing a really good job on that. He’s doing a really good job on the power play, as well. And he’s confident in his abilities, I think, and he’s getting an opportunity to showcase those.”

Elvenes had four points in the Wolves’ opener against the Grand Rapids Griffins on Oct. 5 and has failed to put up a point in only one game. The only issue so far? He chipped a front tooth playing against the Rockford IceHogs two weeks ago that required a dental visit.

“We knew he had the ability,” Thompson said.

“You don’t get that many points in the Swedish Elite League, which is very good, unless you have ability.”

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