Forward C.J. Smith produced his second career hat trick and Josh Leivo posted a career-high five points as the Chicago Wolves raced to an 8-4 victory over the Texas Stars Thursday night at H-E-B Center.
Leivo recorded two goals while forwards Andrew Poturalski and Jack Drury and defenseman Joey Keane also scored for the Wolves (15-4-1-1), who racked up a season-high in goals against three-time Vezina Award finalist Ben Bishop.
Bishop was playing for the first time since August 2020 as the 35-year-old Dallas Stars goaltender started a conditioning stint with Texas (7-9-2-1). He faced the Wolves for the first time since Feb. 4, 2012, when he was a top prospect of the St. Louis Blues.
Poturalski contributed four points (G, 3A) to seize the AHL’s scoring lead while Keane and Smith added three points apiece in a contest that was helter-skelter from the start.
The teams split four goals in the opening 3 minutes, 36 seconds, as the Wolves started the frenzy with Smith’s first goal just 33 seconds into the night. Chicago started a counterattack that wound up with defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald leading a 2-on-1 rush down the right wing. He spied Smith open on the left and fed him for a quick blast.
Texas evened the score with Josh Melnick’s short-handed breakaway at the 2:47 mark, but the Wolves responded with Poturalski’s team-leading 10th goal of the season just 18 seconds later. With Chicago still on the power play, Keane set up the captain at the top of the right circle and he whipped a rising wrister past Bishop.
The Stars rallied again thanks to a 2-on-0 opportunity that ended with Riley Damiani scoring from close range to make it 2-2 at 3:36.
Once again, the Wolves answered to regain the lead. Leivo whistled a shot that Bishop saved, but Jamieson Rees battled a Stars defenseman in the crease to keep the puck free. Drury swooped in and poked it over Bishop’s right shoulder to give the Wolves a 3-2 edge at 6:16.
After a comparative lull, Texas pulled even at 16:47 of the first when Winfield native Anthony Louis flicked a one-timer from the bottom of the left circle for a power-play goal to make it 3-3.
Smith waited just 24 seconds to score in the second period. He traded passes with Stefan Noesen, then slammed a one-timer from the left circle past Bishop on the short side to give the Wolves a 4-3 lead.
For the fourth consecutive time, Texas erased its one-goal deficit as Ty Dellandrea took advantage of a pass that went off a Stars forward’s skate and knocked home a power-play goal at 11:42 of the second.
The 4-4 tie lasted just 65 seconds as Poturalski set up Leivo’s power-play goal from the left circle to give the Wolves a 5-4 lead at 12:47. Chicago finally registered the game’s first two-goal lead as Keane snapped home a shot from the high slot at 14:37. Leivo picked up his third assist of the night on the play.
Smith completed his first hat trick since March 18, 2018, with the prettiest goal of the night. Dominik Bokk used his speed to fly down the right wing and transform a 2-on-3 rush into a great opportunity for Smith. His wraparound pass found Smith slicing through traffic in the slot, then the Des Moines native flicked a backhand into the net for the 7-4 lead with 1:28 left in the second period.
Leivo delivered his second goal of the night when Drury spotted him behind the defense and he raced in to beat Bishop with a snapper at 15:24 of the third.
Wolves goaltender Eetu Makiniemi (9-2-1) stopped 19 shots to pick up his fourth consecutive win. Bishop finished with 26 saves while playing all but the final 1:28 of the second period.
The Wolves stay in the Lone Star State to face Texas again at 7 p.m. Saturday. Chicago returns to Allstate Arena at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 16, to face the Manitoba Moose, then hosts the Milwaukee Admirals at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 18. To take advantage of great holiday specials on Wolves tickets and merchandise, visit ChicagoWolvesStore.com or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.