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Wolves’ valiant rally falls short

Rockford 5 | Chicago 4
Wolves score 3 in the final 22 minutes, but need one more

The Chicago Wolves doubled the Rockford IceHogs’ shot total Friday night, but wound up on the short end of a 5-4 decision in a fierce Central Division clash.

Forwards David Gust, Andrew Poturalski and Jamieson Rees and defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald scored for the Wolves (27-9-4-2), who rallied valiantly from a 5-1 deficit. Chicago maintained its seven-point lead in the Central Division.

The IceHogs (18-16-3-1) took a 2-0 lead in the first period as Michal Teply scored twice in a 65-second span. Teply was credited with his first goal at 15:43 after goaltender Alex Lyon stopped his close-range shot, but the rebound bounced off a Wolves forward and skidded across the goal line.

Teply added his second at 16:49 as he knocked home a rebound on the power play — snapping the Wolves’ franchise-record streak of 35 consecutive penalty kills that lasted 777 minutes and 59 seconds.

The Wolves proceeded to outshoot the IceHogs 20-6 in the second period, but Rockford found ways to extend its lead to 5-2.

Rockford’s Isaak Phillips banked in a rebound for a 3-0 lead at 7:49 before Gust got the Wolves on the board at 9:21. Jack Drury centered a pass toward the top of the crease for David Cotton, whose shot was blocked by IceHogs goaltender Collin Delia. Gust pounced on the rebound and roofed it home for his 11th goal of the year.

The IceHogs’ Mike Hardman and Ian Mitchell answered for the hosts, then Poturalski registered his 21st of the year at 18:16 to cut the deficit to 5-2. Fitzgerald earned the assist on the play.

Poturalski repaid the favor at 6:13 of the third as he whistled a pass to Fitzgerald as he sneaked behind a defender. Fitzgerald stickhandled through the slot and rifled a shot that made it 5-3.

Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky pulled the goaltender in the waning moments to get an extra attacker on the ice, which paid off as Rees swatted home a rebound with 14 seconds in regulation. Chicago won the subsequent faceoff and punched two shots toward the net, but couldn’t find the equalizer.

Lyon (12-4-2) stopped 11 of 16 shots before giving way to backup Jack LaFontaine with 6:09 left in the second. LaFontaine stopped all 7 shots he faced. Delia (7-6-2) recorded a season-high 43 saves to pick up the win.

The Wolves launch a four-game homestand at 7 p.m. Saturday when the IceHogs visit Allstate Arena for Star Wars Night. Chicago also hosts the Milwaukee Admirals at 11 a.m. Tuesday, then the Iowa Wild at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19, and 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 20. For the best ticket specials, email a Wolves representative at [email protected].