The Chicago Wolves produced three first-period goals and rolled to a 4-1 victory over the Rockford IceHogs Friday night at the MetroCentre.
Forwards Andrew Poturalski, Stefan Noesen and Maxim Letunov and defenseman Eric Gelinas scored for the Central Division-leading Wolves (7-2-0-0) while rookie goaltender Eetu Makiniemi posted 18 saves to pick up the win.
Poturalski needed just 49 seconds to put the Wolves on top. After each team was assessed a tripping penalty in the first 28 seconds, there was more open space on the ice and Stefan Noesen sent a perfect backhand to an uncovered Poturalski just outside the crease. The captain’s stickhandling mesmerized goaltender Arivd Soderblom and he jammed home a forehand just as a defenseman crunched him from behind.
Noesen earned his goal at the 11:00 mark of the first as the Wolves set up shop on the power play. C.J. Smith dug the puck out of the corner and spun it back to defenseman Max Lajoie at the point. Lajoie whistled a wrister from the high slot and it deflected off Noesen, who was set up in front of Soderblom, to make it 2-0.
Gelinas pushed the Wolves’ lead to 3-0 at 17:05 of the first. Rookie center Jack Drury skated a lap around the perimeter of the offensive zone and found Gelinas open at the left point. The veteran defenseman threaded a rising wrist shot through traffic for his second goal of the year.
Meanwhile, the Wolves didn’t allow Rockford’s first shot on goal until nearly 13 minutes elapsed. Chicago finished the first period with a 16-1 lead in shots. That marked the fewest shots allowed in a period by the Wolves since Oct. 11, 2014, versus the Charlotte Checkers.
Rockford (3-6-1-0) ruined Makiniemi’s bid for his second shutout of the year with 3:29 left in regulation when Brett Connolly scored on the power play with a 6-on-4 advantage. The Wolves answered with Maxim Letunov’s empty-net goal from the defensive blue line with 2:12 to go.
Makiniemi (5-1-0) pulled into a share of the AHL lead for victories by rookie netminders while Soderblom (2-3-0) stopped 30 of 33 shots for the IceHogs.
The Wolves welcome the Toronto Marlies to Allstate Arena at 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday for Military Appreciation Weekend. To get the best deals on tickets, contact a Wolves representative HERE or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.