ROSEMONT, Ill. – In a winner-take-all Game 5, the Chicago Wolves scored two early power-play goals and held on for a 3-2 victory over the Charlotte Checkers in Calder Cup competition Wednesday night at Allstate Arena.
The Game 5 victory punched top-seeded Chicago’s ticket for a Central Division Finals showdown with Grand Rapids. The second-seeded Griffins wrapped up a three-game sweep of the Milwaukee Admirals Wednesday night with a 3-2 overtime victory in Milwaukee. The Wolves host Game 1 at 7 p.m on Wednesday, May 3.
Kenny Agostino and Andrew Agozzino scored the early power-play goals to give the Wolves a 2-0 lead just 4:28 into the game. Rookie center Adam Musil delivered the game-winning goal with a short-handed tally 4:01 into the second period while rookie goaltender Ville Husso turned aside 32 shots for the win.
“Our special teams were excellent tonight and won us the game,” said Wolves head coach Craig Berube. “Our guys expect to win, but it was a tough series. They’re a really good hockey team and they gave us everything they got.”
The Wolves (3-2) got an early man advantage when the Checkers earned a bench minor for having the incorrect starting lineup. After a delay to sort out the penalty, Agozzino cleanly won an offensive-zone draw back to Vince Dunn at the right point. Dunn moved the puck to the opposite point for Jake Walman, who skated near the same-side circle and slipped a cross-slot past to Agostino waiting in the right circle for a one-timer that found twine just 1:50 into the frame.
Just 2:38 later – again on the power play – Chicago extended its lead to 2-0 when Agostino, battling along the right wall, pushed a pass down to Agozzino in the corner. Agozzino walked out of the corner and stuffed the puck behind Tom McCollum (2-2) for his first career postseason goal.
“We put them on their heels,” Agozzino said. “That was a big boost for us.”
Charlotte (2-3) called timeout to regroup and brought in Michael Leighton (0-1) to replace McCollum, who gave up two goals on four shots.
In the second period – while killing a Tage Thompson tripping penalty – the Wolves netted their third goal at 4:01 when Jordan Caron and Musil corralled a neutral-zone turnover and rushed the other way. Musil elected to shoot and snuck a shot behind Leighton to make it 3-0.
Charlotte responded 1:08 later, after the expiration of the power play, when Connor Brickley skated into the top of the left circle and snapped a chance that beat Husso (3-1-1) on the glove side and clanged off the post to get the Checkers back within a pair of goals.
After over 13 minutes of scoreless play in the third session, Charlotte finally broke through when Phil Di Giuseppe rushed into the left offensive circle and lasered a chance through traffic to make it a 3-2 game. The Checkers pulled Leighton with 3:05 to play in an effort to earn the equalizer, but the Wolves held firm.
The Wolves and Griffins kick off Round 2 of the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs on Wednesday, May 3, at 7 p.m. at Allstate Arena. The Wolves also host Game 2 at 7 p.m on Friday, May 5. The best-of-seven series will follow a 2-2-1-1-1 format.
For ticket information or Calder Cup Playoffs updates, visit ChicagoWolves.com.