With a 5-1 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals on Saturday night at Allstate Arena, the Chicago Wolves clinched the franchise’s 19th postseason berth in 24 years.
“It’s obviously a special thing for this group from where they came from to where they are,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson, referencing the team’s rise from last in the league to first in the Central Division over four months. “Our guys came to work today extremely hard and I’m really proud of their effort and how they played as a team.”
Forwards Wade Megan, Brett Sterling and Scooter Vaughan as well as defensemen Jake Bischoff and Jason Garrison scored for Chicago (39-22-7-4). Oscar Dansk (11-2-4) made 25 saves in the victory.
The Wolves opened scoring just 3:27 into the first period. In his professional debut, 19-year-old defenseman Nicolas Hague cycled the puck in the neutral zone over to the left-side boards for Keegan Kolesar streaking into the Milwaukee zone. Kolesar tossed the puck to Vaughan in the slot and he chipped it in for the 1-0 lead.
With Yakov Trenin in the penalty box for slashing, the Admirals (37-30-4-1) scored the equalizing goal at 10:56. Dansk attempted to help the puck along the boards behind the net but, before he could get back to the crease, the puck sputtered out to Frederick Gaudreau in the left faceoff circle and he shot it into a wide-open net for the short-handed score.
Chicago went ahead 2-1 with 1:22 to play in the first session as Bischoff — trailing on the rush — flipped the puck past Anders Lindback (31-20-4) through a screen of players.
On their second power play of the game, the Wolves pushed their lead to 3-1. Charging up the left boards, Garrison one-timed a blast from the far-side hashmarks and the puck snuck behind Lindback at 8:28 of the second.
Sterling netted his 249th career AHL goal — he leads all active scorers in career markers — at 11:20 of the final frame to push Chicago’s lead to 4-1.
While Lindback was on the bench, Megan took control of the puck and shot a laser almost the full length of the ice for his league-leading fifth empty-net goal.
The Wolves and Admirals wrap up their 12-game season series on Tuesday, April 10, at the UWM Panther Arena in Milwaukee. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m., and the game will stream on AHLLive.com.