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Wolves can’t hang with Stars

Texas 5 | Chicago 3
Wolves outshoot Stars 37-19, but can't hang on to early lead

Suburban Chicago native Anthony Louis scored two goals to spark the Texas Stars to a 5-3 victory over the Chicago Wolves on Saturday night at H-E-B Center.

Forwards Nicolas Roy and Keegan Kolesar scored power-play goals and center Jake Leschyshyn added an even-strength tally for the Wolves (21-19-3-2), who enter the All-Star Break one point ahead of Texas and Grand Rapids for third place in the AHL’s Central Division.

The Wolves outshot the Stars 37-19 for the night and seized an early lead. Roy gave the Wolves the jump with his power-play tally at 7:06. After defenseman Brayden Pachal’s shot was stopped by traffic short of the net, Kolesar collected the puck in the slot and backhanded a short, nifty pass to set up Roy’s precise flick past goaltender Landon Bow.

The Stars (21-19-2-2) answered quickly with a power-play goal at 9:16, which snapped the Wolves’ streak of 21 consecutive penalty kills that stretched for 369 minutes, 4 seconds. Louis, who was born in west suburban Winfield, snapped a shot from the right faceoff circle over goaltender Garret Sparks’ blocker to make it 1-1.

Texas grabbed a 2-1 lead just 24 seconds later as right wing Brad McClure swiped the puck from a Wolves player in the defensive zone, spun to face the net and fired it home.

The Wolves produced a 2-2 tie at 12:30 of the first as Roy repaid Kolesar for his earlier setup. Pachal zipped a pass from the left faceoff circle to the right faceoff circle for Roy, who spied Kolesar open at the far post and fed him for a redirect.

Texas regained a one-goal lead at 15:49 when defenseman Joel Hanley blasted a one-timer from the top of the right circle that tipped off forward Tanner Kero, banked off the far post and went in the net. The Stars made it 4-2 at 17:16 on Louis’ snapper from the right circle.

The Wolves pulled within 4-3 on Leschyshyn’s quick strike from just outside the crease at 6:03 of the third. Curtis McKenzie collected the puck in the corner, forced his way toward the net despite the Texas defender draped all over him and slid a quick pass to Leschyshyn for a redirect.

Texas responded moments after a power play ended as forward Michael Mersch set up wide-open Jason Robertson for a blast from the left circle to make it 5-3 at 10:04.

Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson pulled Sparks with just over four minutes to go to try to carve into the two-goal deficit, but Bow stood up to Chicago’s late charge.

Bow (11-8-2) finished with 34 saves in the win while Sparks (5-13-3) posted 14 saves.

After the AHL hosts its All-Star Skills Competition on Sunday night and All-Star Challenge on Monday night – both available on NHL Network and AHLTV – the Wolves return home Friday, Jan. 31, to face the Milwaukee Admirals on Craft Beer Night.