ROSEMONT, Ill. – Andrew Agozzino netted his second overtime goal of the season to give the Chicago Wolves a 4-3 victory and the Central Division title in the regular-season finale against the Charlotte Checkers Saturday night at Allstate Arena.
The Wolves (44-19-8-5), who rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the final seven minutes of regulation, earned their fourth division title in eight years. Additionally, they will face the Checkers (39-29-7-1) in the Central Division Semifinals of the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs that begin on Thursday, April 20.
“We battled back,” said Wolves head coach Craig Berube. “We’re excited. Any time you can get home-ice advantage, it’s important and our record at home (27-7-3-1) speaks for itself. We’re a good hockey team, but so is the team we’re going to play. You’ve got to execute. The team that executes the best will probably win.”
The Checkers opened scoring 1:31 into the first frame when Patrick Dwyer corralled a puck in Charlotte’s defensive end and skated up the right wing through the neutral zone. At the blue line, he cut to the slot and snapped a chance through a crowd for the 1-0 lead.
Just 2:15 later – following a delay-of-game penalty against the Wolves – defenseman Jake Chelios ripped a shot from the center point to put the Checkers up by a pair of goals.
Past the midway point of the same period, Agozzino led the rush, skating up the left wing. From the same-side hashmarks, he saucered a pass to Wade Megan waiting just inside the right circle for a one-time chance that cut Charlotte’s lead in half. Megan’s 33rd goal of the season gave him the AHL’s goal-scoring title.
After a scoreless second session, the Checkers pushed their lead back to two goals, 3-1, at 7:26 of the third period. Phil Di Giuseppe capitalized on a Wolves defensive zone turnover in the slot.
The Wolves pulled back within a goal at 13:28 when Samuel Blais carried the puck into the right offensive corner. Up on the play, Dunn knocked down a defender, and Blais wired a pass to Chris Butler at the left point. Butler walked the blue line before lasering a chance through a crowd. The puck pinballed to Jordan Caron standing at the right side of the net, and he stuffed it behind Tom McCollum (12-2-4).
Blais then evened the game 3-3 under two minutes later. Defenseman Jake Walman fed Blais a short pass near the right wall in the neutral zone, and Blais streaked through three Charlotte players, going backhand-to-forehand for the equalizing tally.
During the 3-on-3 extra session, Patrick Brown took a interference call at 2:22. Skating 4-on-3, the Wolves cycled the puck and at 3:41, Agozzino snapped in the game-winning goal from the top of the left circle.
Jordan Binnington (16-7-8) made 31 saves to finish the season with 16 victories while McCollum turned aside 23 shots in the loss.
The Wolves will begin 2017 Calder Cup Playoff action against the Charlotte Checkers on Thursday, April 20, at Bojangles’ Coliseum. The Wolves’ first contest at home will be Game 3 at 2 p.m on Sunday, April 23. Visit ChicagoWolves.com for information regarding the series schedule and tickets.