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Wolves still chasing Stockton for the top of the AHL standings

Plus: Stefan Noesen scores more goals and Andrew Poturalski closes in on 100

Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

Game 71: Wolves 3, IceHogs 4

Spencer Smallman notched two shorthanded goals in the third period, continuing his recent streak of strong play, but it wasn’t enough for the Wolves to beat their in-state rivals.

The Wolves found themselves in a 2-0 hole at the end of the first period. Lukas Reichel, recently returned to the IceHogs from the NHL, set up Isaak Phillips for Rockford’s first goal, which was just barely stuffed past Jack LaFontaine’s toe into the net. The second goal against seemed to catch LaFontaine unprepared for the shot from Mike Hardman.

The second period was largely a draw until the final few minutes. Vasili Ponomarev recorded his first North American professional goal on a play that went to a lengthy review to ensure that the puck crossed the line. Ponomarev sent a puck towards Jamieson Rees, who was initially credited with the goal. On review, it was determined that the puck never reached Rees and instead was deflected in by an IceHogs player, giving the goal to Ponomarev.

The Wolves were close to getting out of the second period only down one goal, but a buzzer beater from Andrei Atybarmakian on the power play restored the two-goal advantage for Rockford. This play too required review to ensure that the puck crossed the line before time expired in the period.

The third period was all Spencer Smallman, with his first shorthanded goal coming off of a rebound he collected, and his second coming on a solo breakaway to tie the game.

The game looked to be headed to overtime until the IceHogs took advantage of a dump-in with 46 seconds left in regulation.

The Wolves have one game remaining against the IceHogs, who they’ve struggled against this season. They’re 3-5-0-3 against Rockford this season, with four straight losses.

Scoring: Spencer Smallman, 2 G; Vasili Ponomarev, 1 G; Josh Jacobs, 2 A; Noel Gunler, 1 A; Max Lajoie, 1 A

In net: Jack LaFontaine, saved 24 of 28, 0.857 sv%

Game 72: Wolves 4, Griffins 2

In contrast to the Wolves’ struggles against the IceHogs this year, they’ve dominated the Grand Rapids Griffins, with just one overtime loss and ten regulation wins. This game was no different, with the Wolves largely outperforming the Griffins throughout the game.

After a slow, scoreless first period, defenseman Chris Bigras got the Wolves on the board early in the second, a period in which they outshot the Griffins 14-9. Bigras’ goal came off of a shot from Noel Gunler; the first attempt was blocked but Bigras picked up the rebound to get the Wolves on the board.

The Griffins scored a few minutes later on a play that was credited to Jonatan Berggren, but which was unfortunately deflected into the net by a Wolves defenseman. The Wolves got their lead back 70 seconds later thanks to Andrew Poturalski, who is still trying to hunt down 100 points on the season.

Richard Panik also scored to cap off an active second period, which saw all four goals occur within around seven minutes of playing time. While Riley Barber scored for the Griffins early in the third period, Noel Gunler restored the two-goal lead by chasing down a rebound for a stuff-in goal, his second AHL goal.

Jack LaFontaine put together a strong performance, stopping 27 of 29 shots and recording one of his best save percentages in full-game action this season.

Scoring: Richard Panik, 1 G, 1 A; Noel Gunler, 1 G, 1 A; Andrew Poturalski, 1 G, 1 A; Chris Bigras, 1 G; Josh Leivo, 3 A; Jalen Chatfield, 1 A; Jack Drury, 1 A

In net: Jack LaFontaine, saved 27 of 29, 0.931 sv%

Game 73: Wolves 1, Admirals 3

Goaltender Dylan Wells, called up from the ECHL to join the team after Alex Lyon’s injury and Pyotr Kochetkov’s callup, made his second start of the season for the Wolves.

Despite a strong start, including an early goal from Josh Leivo off of a faceoff, the Wolves surrendered three power play goals to the Admirals. Milwaukee is still fighting to secure the number three seed in the division, which would ensure them a first round bye in the playoffs.

Two of the Admirals three goals came in the third period while the Wolves were facing a major penalty issued to Richard Panik for boarding. This is the first time this season the Wolves surrendered three power play goals.

Stefan Noesen, the league’s leading goal-scorer, sat this game out in order to give him a rest in the middle of a three-in-three set.

Scoring: Josh Leivo, 1 G; Andrew Poturalski, 1 A

In net: Dylan Wells, saved 26 of 29, 0.897 sv%

Game 74: Wolves 6, Griffins 2

The Grand Rapids Griffins always serve as an excellent palate cleanser, and this game was no exception. Dylan Wells, making his second straight start, picked up his first AHL win of the season as the Wolves once again dominated the Griffins.

Noesen, returning to the lineup after a night off, picked up right where he left off, scoring twice, including opening scoring just over a minute into the first period.

Vasili Ponomarev recorded his second AHL goal off of a pass from Stelio Mattheos. Mattheos created a turnover in the neutral zone and came down the right wall before finding Ponomarev with the pass.

While the Griffins got on the board at the end of the third period, the rest of the game was all Wolves. Noesen and Ponomarev both scored again in the second period, as did Noel Gunler. Andrew Poturalski scored at the beginning of the third period, giving him three points on the night and 97 total for the season.

The Wolves have two games left for Poturalski to score three more points and reach 100 on the season. Given that one of those games is against Grand Rapids, and Poturalski has 24 points in 11 games against the Griffins this season, I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll reach the century mark.

Scoring: Vasili Ponomarev, 2 G, 1 A; Stefan Noesen, 2 G; Andrew Poturalski, 1 G, 2 A; Noel Gunler, 1 G; Stelio Mattheos, 2 A; Richard Panik, 2 A; Jack Drury, 1 A; Joey Keane, 1 A; David Cotton, 1 A; Jesper Sellgren, 1 A

In net: Dylan Wells, saved 26 of 28, 0.929 sv%