In a showdown between the Central Division’s top two teams, Josh Leivo scored a highlight-reel goal with 1.1 seconds left to give the Chicago Wolves a 4-3 victory over the Manitoba Moose during School-Day Game action Thursday afternoon at Allstate Arena.
Defenseman Artyom Serikov and forwards Maxim Letunov and David Cotton also scored for the Central Division-leading Wolves (18-4-1-1), who extended their winning streak to 10 games despite playing without three of their top four scorers.
AHL points leader Andrew Poturalski, veteran right wing Stefan Noesen and rookie center Jack Drury were recalled from loan by the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes shortly before the game.
The Wolves never led until Leivo’s incredible drive to the net in the final moments. He collected Jamieson Rees’ chipped pass at the blue line, used a dramatic toe drag to escape two Manitoba defensemen and flipped a backhand past goaltender Mikhail Berdin to set off a wild celebration.
“It just goes to show how deep we are,” said Leivo, who posted one goal and two assists after moving to the Wolves’ top line. “And how great our team really is.”
“Resilient,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “I think we just grinded this one out today. I think that line of (Spencer) Smallman, (C.J.) Smith and Leivo really helped us a lot. They led the way in how we needed to play.”
Manitoba (15-8-1-0), the Central Division’s second-place team, led most of the way despite playing without its top two scorers.
The Moose broke on top 59 seconds into the game as Wolves goaltender Alex Lyon stuffed two great chances, but Manitoba’s Jeff Malott knocked home a rebound for a 1-0 lead.
The Wolves answered at 13:01 of the first when Smallman won an offensive-zone faceoff and spun it back to defenseman Josh Jacobs at the right point. He sent a diagonal pass toward the left circle for Leivo, who tapped it back to Serikov for a rising wrister from the left point that soared over Berdin’s shouder.
Manitoba took a 2-1 lead 3:10 into the second as defenseman Johnathan Kovacevic collected the puck in the right corner and centered it above the crease. The puck bounced off a Wolves forward’s stick and skate and ricocheted into the open net.
The Moose boosted their lead to 3-1 with Todd Burgess’ goal at 9:54. Burgess swept home a blocked shot from the slot one second after Manitoba’s first power play expired.
The Wolves pulled within a goal just 8.3 seconds before the second intermission. Joey Keane found Jamieson Rees at the right point, then Rees whistled a centering pass that Letunov redirected from just outside the crease to make it 3-2.
Chicago caught up at 9:17 of the third on Cotton’s power-play goal. Leivo whistled a pass from the left circle to the right circle for Smith, who blasted a shot that clanged off the post. Cotton, waiting right on the doorstep, swatted home the rebound for a 3-3 knot.
Lyon (8-1-1) extended his winning streak to five games with 33 saves. Berdin (9-7-0) finished with 25 saves as Chicago was outshot for the first time in 17 games.
The Wolves travel to Milwaukee Friday before returning to Allstate Arena for a 7 p.m. Saturday rematch with the Admirals. It’s Superhero Night and the first 5,000 fans receive a superhero-themed Wolves 2022 Calendar courtesy of Rose Pest Solutions. To get the best tickets, contact a Wolves representative here or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.