Captain Andrew Poturalski piled up three goals and two assists as the Chicago Wolves collected their fifth win in a row with a 6-3 triumph Sunday afternoon at Van Andel Arena.
Poturalski, who registered his first professional hat trick, finished the game as the American Hockey League leader in points (14) and co-leader in assists (9) and power-play goals (3).
Forward C.J. Smith matched Poturalski’s point total with one goal and four assists while Homer Glen native Joey Keane and defenseman Jalen Chatfield added goals for the Wolves (5-1-0-0), who maintained their lead in the AHL’s Central Division while improving to 4-0-0 on the road.
For the sixth time in as many games, the Wolves drew first blood as Poturalski delivered his third goal of the young season at 17:45 of the first. Smith claimed the puck near the corner and fed Stefan Noesen at the right faceoff dot, then Noesen spun and found Poturalski wide open at the backdoor as he flicked the puck past rookie goaltender Victor Brattstrom.
Keane produced his first goal in a Wolves uniform during 4-on-4 action at 2:19 of the second period. The defenseman collected a pass at his own goal line, raced all the way down the right wing and whipped a tough-angle shot from the corner that eluded Brattstrom for a 2-0 lead.
Grand Rapids (2-4-0-1) cut the Wolves’ margin in half on Jonatan Berggren’s goal at 7:50 of the second. Berggren rang a shot off the post, then the rebound banked off a Wolves player’s leg as three players crammed into the crease.
Griffins forward Riley Barber knotted the game 2-2 with a power-play goal set up by a nifty Kyle Criscuolo pass at 17:00 of the second.
The Wolves regained the lead with 54 seconds left in the second period as Chatfield and Smith worked a give-and-go. Chatfield carried the puck nearly to the blue line, fed Smith on the left wing and then raced toward the crease to redirect Smith’s perfect return pass for a 3-2 edge.
Chicago carried that momentum into the third period and boosted its lead to 4-2 at 3:00 as Smith stopped a Grand Rapids clearing attempt at the blue line and passed to Noesen. He found Poturalski along the left wing, then the Wolves captain steered a perfect backhand pass toward the crease and Smith used his one-handed reach to redirect the puck past Brattstrom.
Poturalski added his second of the night as he teamed up with linemates Smith and Noesen for the third time in the game. Smith spun a pass below the goal line for Noesen, who spied Poturalski open in the high slot for a pull-and-drag at 7:12.
The 27-year-old Poturalski wrapped up his first hat trick as a pro when he whistled a shot from the top right circle that caught a piece of Brattstrom, then trickled across the goal line for a power-play goal and a 6-3 lead at 11:48 of the third.
Wolves goaltender Eetu Makiniemi (3-0-0) posted 24 saves to maintain his perfect start while Brattstrom (0-2-1) also stopped 24 shots.
The Wolves return to Allstate Arena for seven home games in November, which starts with a visit from the Manitoba Moose at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6. Saturday is Hockey Night in Chicago as the Wolves play at home on all four Saturdays in November. To get the best ticket deals, contact a Wolves representative here or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.