Once again, the identity of the Illinois Lottery Cup champion wasn’t determined until the final seconds of the final game between the Chicago Wolves and Rockford IceHogs. And, once again, the Wolves emerged victorious to keep the Cup in Chicago.
The Wolves scored three goals late in the third period Sunday afternoon at Rockford to claim a 5-2 victory in the 12th and final regular-season game between the American Hockey League rivals. That enabled the Wolves to split those games at six wins apiece.
The 6-6 split triggered the first Illinois Lottery Cup tiebreaker: total points in the series. The Wolves earned two extra points for overtime losses while the IceHogs earned only one, which enabled Chicago to claim the Cup for the third year in row. The Wolves have hoisted the Cup four times in the competition’s eight-year history. The IceHogs have won the Cup three times while the Peoria Rivermen earned it one time before leaving the AHL.
“Each year, the battles between the Wolves and the IceHogs become more intense,” said Wolves president Mike Gordon. “The Illinois Lottery Cup adds an important dimension to this natural geographical rivalry. We look forward to defending the Cup next season.”
First, the Wolves have plenty left to achieve during their 25th anniversary season. With Sunday’s win, head coach Rocky Thompson’s team clinched home ice for the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs. The Wolves also increased their Central Division lead to six points over the Grand Rapids Griffins. With six regular-season home games remaining, the Wolves’ magic number to clinch their third straight Central Division title stands at six.
The Wolves continue their pursuit of the division crown on Friday at Milwaukee before returning to Allstate Arena at 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday against the Colorado Eagles.