Stefan Noesen scored his AHL-leading 41st goal, but the Texas Stars claimed a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Wolves in a bruising affair Wednesday night at H-E-B Center.
Center Ryan Suzuki also scored for the Wolves (44-14-5-5), whose magic number to capture the Central Division crown remained at 3. They’ll have a chance to clinch the franchise’s fifth title in the last six years Friday night at Texas.
Chicago played without captain Andrew Poturalski, the AHL’s co-leader in points with 88. Poturalski and his wife, Haley, welcomed their first child, Morrison, into the world Wednesday morning.
Texas (28-26-6-6) broke on top with a Joel L’Esperance power-play goal 3:06 into the night, then pushed the lead to 2-0 at 8:02 of the first when Riley Damiani finished a perfect pass to the back door by Ryan Shea.
The Wolves jumped back into the fray on the power play with one minute left in the first. Joey Keane and Jack Drury worked the puck down to Noesen just outside the crease, where the Texas native used his quick hands and nifty footwork to solve Stars goaltender Matthew Murray in his professional debut.
Texas regained a two-goal lead 8:45 into the second when Wolves goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov made a tough stop, but Fredrik Karlstrom corralled the rebound and swept it home to make it 3-1.
The Wolves chopped their deficit again on Suzuki’s goal at 15:40 of the second. He won a faceoff in the offensive zone, which launched a quick attack by David Gust. The puck wound up along the left half-wall with defenseman Jesper Sellgren, who whipped a centering pass toward the slot for Suzuki. He angled his right skate toward the net and used his foot to redirect the puck past Murray.
Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky removed Kochetkov for most of the final two minutes to get an extra skater on the ice, but the visitors could only get one more shot on net as the Stars protected the house.
Murray (1-0-0), who just finished five seasons at NCAA power UMass-Amherst, stopped 20 shots to win his pro debut. Kochetkov (11-1-1) posted 19 saves as he suffered his first regulation loss since coming to North America Feb. 15.
The Wolves continue their three-game visit with the Texas Stars at 7 p.m. Friday. The team returns to Allstate Arena at 7 p.m. Tuesday to face the Rockford IceHogs on Craft Beer Night. To find the best deals on tickets, contact a team representative at [email protected].