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Wolves end AHL season as top team in the league

Andrew Poturalski and Stefan Noesen picked up scoring honors

Dale Woltman/Chicago Wolves

Game 75: Wolves 6, Griffins 3

The Wolves ended their season series against the Grand Rapids Griffins in typically high spirited fashion, even if they did have to come from behind to secure the win.

Jack Drury opened scoring just 1:37 into the game, receiving a pass from Josh Leivo as they raced towards the net. The Griffins took the lead with two goals in under two minutes, one of which came shorthanded for Grand Rapids. The second period saw the Wolves tie the game thanks to David Cotton, who was well-placed to put home a rebound from a Jalen Chatfield shot.

Despite the tying goal, Ryan Warsofsky was still looking for a better response from his team, which has dominated the Griffins this season. He got that response very quickly in the third period, with both Andrew Poturalski and Drury scoring in the first 10 minutes.

Drury’s goal, his 20th of the season, made him the fifth player on the team to hit that mark this season. It’s the seventh time in franchise history that the team has had five players with at least 20 goals, and the first time since 2009-10.

While the Griffins picked up another goal to make the score 4-3, the Wolves shut the Griffins down for the rest of the game. In the final five minutes of the period, the Griffins only registered one shot, while Josh Leivo scored an empty netter and Stefan Noesen added another goal in the final 20 seconds of play.

Scoring: Jack Drury, 2 G; Josh Leivo, 1 G, 1 A; Andrew Poturalski, 1 G, 1 A; Stefan Noesen, 1 G, 1 A; David Cotton, 1 G; Jalen Chatfield, 2 A; Tarmo Reunanen, 2 A; Richard Panik, 1 A; Spencer Smallman, 1 A; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 A

In net: Jack LaFontaine, saved 22 of 25, 0.880 sv%

Game 76: Wolves 3, IceHogs 2

Good news for Wolves fans: Alex Lyon managed to return to action in the final game of the season, adding clarity to the Wolves goaltending situation going into the playoffs. In what could be a preview of the Wolves’ first playoff matchup, the team held on for a 3-2 win over the rival Rockford IceHogs.

The game was as feisty as any game between the two local teams, with Kyle Marino picking up a fighting penalty early in the second period, and Spencer Smallman getting a 10 minute misconduct call at the end of the third for continuing an altercation.

Through all of the fisticuffs and bad blood, the Wolves managed to pepper IceHogs goaltender Cale Morris with 54 shots, the first time all season the Wolves have topped the 50-shot mark. (Their previous high was 48 against the Griffins in November. In the first period alone, the Wolves outshot the IceHogs 23-4; the IceHogs finished the game with 25 shots total.

The Wolves jumped out to a lead in the first period, with Stefan Noesen recording his 47th of the season. Andrew Poturalski was initially credited with the goal but review showed that Noesen redirected the shot at the front of the net. That assist gave Poturalski his 100th point of the season.

The second goal, from Mattheos, came off of some hard work from Kyle Marino, whose determined play forced a Rockford turnover. Jamieson Rees received the puck and sent it to the net, and Mattheos scored on the rebound.

Rockford pulled within one towards the end of the second period, but Noesen turned in his astounding 48th goal of the season early in the third, scoring off of a pass from Jack Drury to restore the two-goal lead. Poturalski picked up an assist on the play, ending his season with 101 points.

While Rockford scored again in the final minute of play, they weren’t able to find the equalizer and the Wolves left Rockford with a win. The Wolves win, coupled with a Stockton loss, secured the honors for the Wolves as the best team in the league. Their .724 points percentage sets a new franchise record.

Scoring: Stefan Noesen, 2 G; Stelio Mattheos, 1 G; Andrew Poturalski, 2 A; Jack Drury, 1 A; CJ Smith, 1 A; Jamieson Rees, 1 A; Kyle Marino, 1 A

In net: Alex Lyon, saved 23 of 25, 0.920 sv%

Season Honors

The Wolves ended the season with several individual and team accolades:

  • First All-Star Team: Andrew Poturalski and Stefan Noesen
  • Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award: Alex Lyon — for goaltenders who played at least 25 games for the team that finishes with the lowest GAA.
  • Willie Marshall Award: Stefan Noesen — leading goal scorer with 48
  • John B. Sollenberger Trophy: Andrew Poturalski — leading point producer with 101. Poturalski is the fifth skater ever to win back-to-back scoring titles and is the first AHL player to score 100 points since the 2009-10 season.
  • Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy Champions: Awarded to the team with the best record in the league, giving the Wolves home-ice advantage for their entire playoff run.

The Wolves await the winner of the best-of-three series between the Rockford IceHogs and Texas Stars. Those games take place in Rockford on May 4, 6, and 7 (if necessary).