Forward Curtis McKenzie tallied a hat trick to pull the Chicago Wolves within one win of the Western Conference Finals as the Wolves earned a 7-4 win over the Iowa Wild in Game 5 of the Central Division Finals on Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena.
Forwards Tobias Lindberg, Stefan Matteau, Daniel Carr and Gage Quinney also scored for the Wolves (6-4) as they took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Chicago, which scored its first three power-play goals of the series, hosts Game 6 Monday night at Allstate Arena.
“I really liked how our power play stepped up tonight,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “We were able to score some big goals. (Iowa) kept coming and made it close again in the third, but our guys persevered. And when we got chances, we capitalized.”
Ryan Donato scored twice while Kyle Rau and Matt Bartkowski each added a goal for Iowa (5-5). Netminder Andrew Hammond (5-5) recorded 22 saves.
Lindberg tallied the opening goal just 3:09 into the first period, tipping a shot from defenseman Kevin Lough past Hammond after battling for space in front of the net with the Wild defense.
Donato evened up the game with an unassisted goal at 15:02, but Matteau gave Chicago the lead going into the first intermission with his shorthanded goal at 18:15. Matteau broke up a pass in the Wolves defensive zone, swung into the corner to grab the loose puck and skated coast-to-coast around the Wild players to deposit a backhand shot between Hammond’s pads.
“That was huge,” McKenzie said. “ ‘Lindy’ with the first one, too. That’s what our team needed. We hadn’t been getting to the net or scoring goals. That was big for our confidence.”
Carr widened the lead at the 3:24 mark of the second on the power play, slamming home the rebound of a Zach Whitecloud shot. McKenzie scored his first of the night at 5:10 to make it 4-1 Wolves when he hit Tye McGinn’s rebound out of mid-air on his backhand past Hammond.
Rau cut into the lead at 16:05, scoring a power-play goal for the Wild, but McKenzie struck again in the final minute of the period to make it a 5-2 game. With Carson Soucy in the penalty box for holding, McKenzie was unmarked in front of the net to collect a rebound and pop a shot over Hammond.
Bartkowski scored 1:52 into the third period when he sent a shot through traffic to make it 5-3, but the Wolves responded with a pair of goals in the final half of the third period.
Quinney scored during 4-on-4 action, tapping in a backhand centering pass from Carr at 10:14 before McKenzie completed his hat trick at 16:42 when he pushed a loose puck under Hammond.
Donato tallied his second in the final minute, scoring at 19:20, but the Wolves secured the 7-4 victory. Goaltender Oscar Dansk (5-3) stopped 24 shots.
The Wolves return to Allstate Arena to host Game 6 on Monday, May 13, at 7 p.m. and, if necessary, Game 7 on Wednesday, May 15.