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Wolves sweep week’s games, including buzzer beater from Josh Leivo

The Wolves could clinch a playoff spot on Tuesday.

Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

Game 58: Wolves 3, Stars 1

The Wolves took on the Texas Stars for the seventh time this season and recorded their sixth win in the series. Chicago dominated play for the first two periods, with Joey Keane scoring on a first period power play to open things up. The Wolves maintained possession for nearly the entire sequence, resulting in some tired Stars defenders who were unable to get back into position to stop Keane.

David Gust and Stefan Noesen scored on consecutive shifts, their goals coming just 13 seconds apart in the second period. Gust was the beneficiary of some persistent work from Keane, Noesen, and Poturalski, who all combined to execute a strong sequence of puck movement before ultimately finding Gust. That line stayed out on the ice for the next shift and was immediately rewarded with Noesen’s goal.

The Stars scored midway through the third period, with Illinois native Anthony Louis connecting on a two-on-one. The Stars struggled in the standings early in the season but have been fighting hard recently, hoping to climb up into a playoff position. The Stars have won six of their last ten games.

Scoring: Stefan Noesen, 1 G, 2 A; David Gust, 1 G, 1 A; Joey Keane, 1 G; Andrew Poturalski, 3 A

In net: Pyotr Kochetkov, saved 23 of 24, 0.958 sv%

Game 59: Wolves 4, Moose 3

While the Wolves have at time struggled against the Manitoba Moose this season, they put on a performance that had a feel very similar to a playoff game. With the standings as they are right now, the Wolves and Moose could potentially meet in the Central Division Finals, so this could be a preview of what’s to come for the two teams.

The game had a high intensity in pace and physicality from puck drop, but it was the Wolves who got on board first thanks to Josh Leivo. Leivo collected a puck behind the goal line and banked it in off of the Moose goalie for his 15th goal of the season.

Andrew Poturalski recorded his 100th career AHL goal a few minutes after on the power play. He’d sent a pass across intending to hit Stefan Noesen, but a Moose defenseman’s stick got in the way, redirecting the puck into the net, ensuring that Poturalski got credit for the goal.

The Moose turned in three straight goals through the first and second periods to give them a 3-2 lead. The second period was especially physical and borderline out of control, with activity after nearly every whistle and calls missed on both sides. Stefan Noesen, upset at a particular call, was given a 10 minute misconduct penalty for abuse of officials, presumably for objecting a bit too vehemently at a call.

Poturalski had a chance to even things up late in the second period, when he was granted a penalty shot after being hooked from behind. The usually reliable Poturalski had a few too many stickhandles on his attempt, however, and lost control of the puck before he could truly get a shot off.

An early third period goal from Jamieson Rees tied the game. Rees had several attempts at stuffing the puck in himself before he finally found success. Play went back and forth through the period, with both goaltenders making excellent saves. Alex Lyon didn’t face too many shots overall, he stood tall and made several game-saving stops.

A fast paced overtime featured strong chances on each side, with Jack Drury having a shot stopped on a pad save by Evan Cormier. (Forward to 2:45 in the Moose’s highlight package below.)

The Moose dominated overtime, outshooting the Wolves 7-3, but the hero of the game was none other than Josh Leivo. With time ticking down, you would have been right to assume that the game was headed to a shoot-out, but Leivo had other plans. Leivo’s initial one-time shot was blocked by moose forward Jeff Malott. The puck bounced back out to Leivo, whose rocket of a shot found the back of the net this time, with just 2.2 seconds left on the clock.

This is the second time this season Leivo has scored in the final seconds of the game; in December, Leivo scored with 1.1 seconds left — once again against the Moose — to give the Wolves a win. From Leivo’s perspective, the play was simple: pucks on net. “I knew there was no time left so I was just shooting the one-timer and it’s fortunate to come right back to me,” he said. “Obviously, the buzzer still didn’t go, so just shoot it again and get it by the guy. Made a good block but was fortunate for the second chance.”

Leivo credited the team’s penalty kill with helping give them the momentum in this game. “They had a couple 5-on-3’s there where we could have been in trouble. Lyon stood on his head. You know what, coming in the room [after the second period, you’re] a little looser than you think. But once we got out of that and they didn’t score, we were happy in that room.”

Warsofsky agreed that the game had a playoff-like feeling to it. “We won the game, that’s very important, but we experienced something that was even more important tonight,” Warsofsky said. “We experienced an emotional game, a call that didn’t go our way. We were 5-on-3 short, we were down a goal going in the third period. We experienced a lot that we need to go into the playoffs to get that feel for it.”

Warsofsky frequently talks about wanting to get the right response from his team when they’re down, and isn’t shy about disclosing when he didn’t think the response was good enough. He was please with the team’s start to the third period, including the goal from Rees. “Big goal by Jamieson, just off a good forecheck. That’s what we were looking to do.”

On Rees’s performance lately, Warsofsky acknowledged the young forward’s progress as a professional. “He’s gotten better. It’s a step in the right direction. He’s still got a ways to go but he’s learning, he’s experiencing things which is really important. And now for him to get rewarded with the points is really important. So hopefully it gives him confidence to go down here in this last stretch here to kind of roll into the playoffs feeling good about himself and his game.”

Scoring: Josh Leivo, 2 G, 1 A; Jamieson Rees, 1 G, 1 A; Andrew Poturalski, 1 G; Eric Williams, 1 A; Jack Drury, 1 A; Joey Keane, 1 A; Ryan Suzuki, 1 A; Max Lajoie, 1 A

In net: Alex Lyon, saved 27 of 30, 0.900 sv%

Game 60: Wolves 5, Wild 2

For the eighth time this season, the Iowa Wild tried to dictate the style of play against the Wolves, playing another physical, penalty-filled game. And for the eighth time this season, the Wolves were content to win the game based on skill rather than getting pulled into the type of game the Wild would prefer.

While the collective 30 penalty minutes between the two teams certainly wasn’ the most the teams had racked up against one another this season, the Wild did have a parade to the penalty box, particularly in the first period where they took three nearly consecutive penalties.

This game featured scoring plays from several players who have been on a roll recently.

Andrew Poturalski’s opening goal came on the power play thanks to a pass across the slot from Josh Leivo. This marks the second consecutive game where Poturalski has scored on the man advantage.

Jamieson Rees gave the Wolves a 2-0 lead early in the second period. This was his second game in a row with a goal, as well. After a 13-game streak earlier this period where Rees failed to record a point, his hard work has paid off recently. He has five points in his last ten games and has found himself more frequently involved in the play.

The Wolves and Wild traded goals throughout the rest of the game, with the Wild scoring less than a minute after Rees’s goal. Maxim Letunov opened scoring in the third period, tipping in a shot from Jesper Sellgren on the power play. The Wild cashed in on a power play of their own a few minutes later, but Letunov restored the two goal lead with his second goal of the game. This was Letunov’s first two-goal game since April 14, 2021.

Jack Drury capped off scoring in the final minute of play with an empty net goal, a play in which goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov picked up an assist, his second such point since joining the team.

After this win and the rest of the weekend action in the AHL, the Wolves’ magic number sits at two. Per the AHL’s handy definition, “a team’s magic number is reduced when it earns standings points, or when the team with the highest possible percentage outside the playoff picture fails to earn standings points.” Currently, the Wolves can clinch a playoff spot with a win against Cleveland on Tuesday.

Scoring: Maxim Letunov, 2 G; Andrew Poturalski, 1 G; Jamieson Rees, 1 G; Jack Drury, 1 G; Joey Keane, 2 A; Ryan Suzuki, 1 A’; Josh Leivo, 1 A; David Gust, 1 A; Jesper Sellgren, 1 A; Daniel Brickley, 1 A

In net: Pyotr Kochetkov, saved 25 of 27, 0.926 sv%