Victor Ejdsell delivered the game-winning goal with 2:38 to play in the third overtime to lift the Rockford IceHogs over the Chicago Wolves 4-3 Thursday night at Allstate Arena. With the Game 3 loss, the Wolves’ 2018 Calder Cup run came to an end in the best-of-five Central Division Semifinals.
Ejdsell’s power-play blast from the right circle came at 12:08 a.m. — one minute shy of a five-hour contest. Not only was it the longest game in Wolves history, it clocked in as the eighth-longest contest in American Hockey League annals.
“Obviously not what we hoped for, but we take pride that we battled tonight and we battled to the end,” said Wolves captain Paul Thompson. “Tight-checking game and guys were getting tired. Usually it ends on a mistake, but not tonight. There weren’t too many chances and ‘Maxie’ (Lagace) played amazing.”
Wolves goaltender Max Lagace, making his first appearance of the postseason, shattered the Wolves franchise record with 72 saves — 14 more than the previous record set by Pasi Nurminen in 2004. Rockford set a Wolves franchise record with 76 shots against while both teams broke the franchise mark for combined shots with 131. The weary Lagace took his time packing his pair of equipment bags and cleaning out his locker stall — needing an extra moment to steady himself as he threw away two handfuls of water bottles and Gatorade cups.
“My hips are pretty sore right now, but it was all worth it,” Lagace said. “I just wish we had won. This really hurts.”
Chicago took a 2-0 lead through the first 29 minutes of the game before Rockford (3-0) scored three unanswered goals in a 4-minute, 4-second stretch. However, early in the third period, Wade Megan tied the game to force overtime.
The Wolves netted the game’s first goal 8:48 into the contest. After accepting the pass from Tobias Lindberg, Philip Holm motored from near the left wall to the same-side point and fired a shot that found twine for the 1-0 lead.
Just over eight minutes into the second session, Chicago extended its lead to 2-0. Following a penalty kill, Griffin Reinhart jumped back on the ice and chased the puck into the Rockford zone. From the right corner, he pushed the puck out to Keegan Kolesar trailing the play. Kolesar threaded a shot past Collin Delia (3-0).
Less than two minutes later — on the power play — the IceHogs cut the Wolves’ lead to 2-1 when Cody Franson sniped a shot from the left circle at 9:50.
At the 13-minute mark, Rockford tied the game, 2-2, when Chris DiDomenico beat Lagace (0-1) top-shelf.
DiDemenico factored on the 3-2 go-ahead goal 54 seconds later when he set up the play that Ejdsell finished with a backhand chip over Lagace while in behind the Wolves defenders.
Chicago scored the 3-3 equalizer just 3:11 into the third period when Megan corralled his own rebound and stuffed the puck in on the wraparound attempt.
In the third overtime, Stefan Matteau was whistled for high-sticking and Ejdsell scored with eight seconds left in the advantage for Rockford’s seventh power-play goal of the series and to sendthe IceHogs to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Delia stopped 52 shots to earn the win.