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Wolves clinch fifth Central Division title in six seasons with wins in Texas

Also, Stefan Noesen is unstoppable.

Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

Game 68: Wolves 2, Stars 3

The Wolves didn’t allow a goal on the first shot they faced, which has at times been a frustrating trend, but they did allow a goal on the second shot. You win some, you lose some. Stars forward Joel L’Esperance opened scoring on the power play with a perfectly placed shot.

The Stars’ second goal came when their players got in ahead of the Wolves defense, letting goal scorer Riley Damiani get in alone against Pyotr Kochetkov.

With a minute left in the first period, Stefan Noesen got the Wolves on the board. The Texas native planted himself in front of the goaltender and was perfectly positioned to put in a pass from Jack Drury.

The Stars regained their two-goal lead in the third period off of a rebound that Kochetkov wasn’t able to corral after making the first stop. Ryan Suzuki redirected in a puck from a Jesper Sellgren shot to pull the Wolves within one.

The game, which was rather low event overall — just 22 shots each for the Stars and Wolves — got tighter in the third period. The Wolves also found themselves having to defend three penalties, including a five-on-three early in the third for the Stars. Despite pulling Kochetkov early, the Wolves weren’t able to find the equalizer, handing Kochetkov his first regulation loss.

Captain Andrew Poturalski missed this game after returning to Chicago to be present for the birth of his first child. Congratulations to the captain!

Scoring: Ryan Suzuki, 1 G; Stefan Noesen, 1 G; David Gust, 1 A; Jesper Sellgren, 1 A; Jack Drury, 1 A; Joey Keane, 1 A

In net: Pyotr Kochetkov, saved 19 of 22, 0.864 sv%

Game 69: Wolves 4, Stars 3

For the second consecutive game, the Wolves found themselves facing a 2-0 deficit as the first period wound down. Joel L’Esperance and Tanner Kero both scored on power plays, about 45 seconds apart. L’Esperance’s goal came on a five-on-three, while Kero’s came at five-on-four.

Less than two minutes later, Chris Bigras scored his first goal in a Wolves uniform, sending a shot through traffic that eventually wound its way into the net.

The team came out motivated to start the second period and quickly took control of the game. Ivan Lodnia scored once at the top of the second period, and again at the top of the third to give the Wolves the lead. Lodnia’s first goal came off of a full-ice effort from Jamieson Rees, who went end-to-end to set up Lodnia.

Lodnia’s second goal came off of a rebound from a shot from Jesper Sellgren, after Lodnia himself had carried the puck behind the net to pass up to Sellgren. This was Lodnia’s first professional two-goal game.

While the Stars got one back midway through the second, Spencer Smallman recorded the game winner with just over five minutes left in regulation.

Alex Lyon started this game for the Wolves, playing just over 10 minutes before leaving with an apparent injury.

Scoring: Ivan Lodnia, 2 G; Spencer Smallman, 1 G, 1 A; Chris Bigras, 1 G; Jamieson Rees, 2 A; Vasily Ponomarev, 2 A

In net: Alex Lyon, saved 6 of 6, 1.000 sv%; Pyotr Kochetkov, saved 12 of 15, 0.800 sv%

Game 70: Wolves 6, Stars 4

The Wolves rounded out their road trip in Texas with a convincing win that helped seal the Central Division title for the team for the fifth time in six years.

Goals in the first period came fast and furious, with one Stars goal and two Wolves goals coming in in just around four minutes. Vasily Ponomarev recorded his sixth assist in as many games when he did the hard work of fighting off a Stars defenseman for the puck, which he passed to Joey Keane, who banked the shot off of the Stars goaltender to score.

Richard Panik also recorded his first goal for the Wolves. Stefan Noesen and Andrew Poturalski teamed up to get the puck to Panik in front of the net to give the Wolves the lead.

Illinois native Anthony Louis scored twice for the Stars, first on the power play at the end of the first period, and again just a minute into the second period to give the Stars the lead. That lead held until midway through the first period, when Josh Leivo recorded his 20th goal of the season. Leivo’s heavy shot from the point on the power play evaded traffic to get behind the goaltender.

Once again, however, the Wolves couldn’t keep the lead, with a shot from Stars defenseman Jerad Rosburg bouncing off the post and into the net.

The Wolves dominated the third period, however, en route to securing the win. Max Lajoie tied the game again early in the third period, collecting a loose puck that ricocheted off the end boards to him. Kyle Marino, known primarily for his frequent fisticuffs, picked up his first point of the season with his assist on that goal.

Marino was called for boarding midway through the second period. Given how the Wolves penalty kill had struggled against the Stars this trip, it was a nervous time for the team. But never fear — Stefan Noesen, born and raised in Texas, came to the rescue.

Noesen poked a puck away from Stars defenseman Ryan Shea at the blue line and sprinted down the ice on a breakaway, easily scoring his 42nd goal of the season.

And just for good measure, Noesen scored the empty net goal with just under two minutes left in the third period.

Noesen’s game-winner, his 11th of the season, sets a new franchise record. He’s opened up a considerable distance ahead of the second-place goal-scorer in the league. Martin Frk has 39 goals for the Ontario Reign, with just four games left in the season for his team (as opposed to six for the Wolves).

Scoring: Stefan Noesen, 2 G, 1 A; Joey Keane, 1 G, 1 A; Max Lajoie, 1 G; Josh Leivo, 1 G; Richard Panik, 1 G; Andrew Poturalski, 3 A; Jalen Chatfield, 1 A; David Cotton, 1 A; Kyle Marino, 1 A; Vasily Ponomarev, 1 A

In net: Pyotr Kochetkov, saved 25 of 29, 0.862 sv%