The Chicago Wolves clinched the franchise’s 20th playoff berth in 25 seasons, holding off a furious rally to topple the Grand Rapids Griffins 4-3 on Friday night at Van Andel Arena.
Goaltender Oscar Dansk (24-9-4) saved 29 of 32 shots in the victory that increased the Wolves’ Central Division lead over Grand Rapids to four points with seven regular-season games remaining.
Carter Camper, Chase Pearson and Wade Megan scored for Grand Rapids (38-20-6-4). Goaltender Harri Sateri started for the Griffins and saved 3 of 4 shots before leaving the game at the 3:27 mark of the first period, giving way to Patrik Rybar (16-10-5) who ended the night with 15 saves.
McKenzie got the Wolves started early, scoring just 1:44 into the contest to extend his point streak to six games. The Griffins tried to clear out the rebound off a shot from Wolves defenseman Griffin Reinhart but sent the puck right to McKenzie, who knocked it in for his 100th career AHL goal and a 1-0 Wolves lead.
Hyka tallied back-to-back power-play goals to give the Wolves a 3-0 advantage after the first 20 minutes. Hyka’s first tally came at 10:40 after Coghlan stretched to keep the puck in the Griffins zone. Hyka and forward Keegan Kolesar traded quick passes before Hyka sent a shot through Rybar’s legs.
Hyka struck again at 12:51 on the next Wolves man-advantage, receiving a no-look cross-ice pass from Tynan and one-timing it past Rybar’s blocker for his second of the night.
McKenzie kept things going right away in the second period, scoring the third power-play goal of the night for Chicago just 28 seconds into the frame. Tynan’s pass across the ice redirected toward the net instead and McKenzie was in the right spot to put it past Rybar.
Camper got Grand Rapids on the board late in the second period, putting away a centering pass at the 17:46 mark.
Pearson, the son of former Wolves great Scott Pearson, scored his first professional goal at the 7:59 point of the third period, getting the Griffins within two goals with a shot that banked off two Wolves and left Dansk no chance to make the score 4-2.
Megan made it a one-goal game at 9:52 when he struck on the man-advantage, but the Wolves held off the Griffins’ charge to earn the 4-3 win.
The Wolves return to Allstate Arena at 7 p.m. Saturday to face the Milwaukee Admirals on Salute to Military Families Night.