Cotton scored twice while Lajoie, Tanner Jeannot and Tommy Novak notched three points apiece as the Wolves (11-2-0-1) won their third game in a row and extended their Central Division. Lajoie, Jeannot, Dominik Bokk and Ryan Suzuki joined Cotton in the goals column.
“We thought we’d probably have to feel it out a little bit, just because we hadn’t played in a while,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “Credit to the guys. We only had two team practices before this game and a week off (before that), so for us to start like that was definitely a positive.”
Cotton swatted home a rebound of a Cavan Fitzgerald blast to give the Wolves the lead just 27 seconds into their first game since March 14 due to COVID-19 protocols.
The Wolves maintained their hunger as Novak set up defenseman Lajoie for a quick wrister from the left faceoff dot to make it 2-0 at the 0:44 mark.
Lajoie and Cotton teamed up for a power-play goal at 15:48 of the first. Lajoie launched a blast from the high slot that was blocked, but the rebound ricocheted to Cotton on the doorstep and he flipped it home for the 3-0 lead.
Bokk pushed the advantage to 4-0 just 51 seconds into the second period as Novak spied him open in the slot and Bokk steered home the power-play goal — his fourth in as many games.
Rockford (6-10-1-0) got on the board at 2:04 of the second when veteran defenseman Cody Franson launched a blast through traffic from the right point. Evan Barratt’s breakaway pulled the IceHogs within 4-2 at 15:15 of the second.
The Wolves restored their three-goal lead when Anthony Richard set up behind the net, saw Suzuki open at the bottom of the circle and fed him for a quick blast past Rockford goaltender Ivan Nalimov to make it 5-2 with 2:13 left in the second.
Novak earned his third assist of the night 51 seconds into the third as he worked a give-and-go with Jeannot to give the Wolves a 6-2 advantage.
Antoine Bibeau (2-1-1) posted 23 saves in the win while the 27-year-old Nalimov (0-0-1) stopped 31 shots in his North American debut.
The Wolves and IceHogs meet three more times in the next 11 days — starting with a 4 p.m. battle Sunday in Rockford. The teams return to Hoffman Estates at 2 p.m. Thursday.