Stefan Noesen’s short-handed goal midway through the third period snapped the game’s fourth tie and clinched the Central Division title as the Chicago Wolves earned a 6-4 win over the Texas Stars Saturday night at H-E-B Center.
In addition to Noesen’s league-leading 42nd and 43rd goals, defensemen Joey Keane and Max Lajoie and forwards Richard Panik and Josh Leivo scored for the Wolves (47-14-5-5) as they claimed the Central Division for the fifth time in six years.
Noesen finished with 3 points — including a franchise-record 11th game-winning goal — while captain Andrew Poturalski added 3 assists to pull into a tie for the AHL scoring lead with 91 points.
Texas (28-28-6-6) opened the scoring on NHL first-round draft pick Ty Dellandrea’s rebound goal 4:22 into the night.
The Wolves answered just 67 seconds later as rookie Vasily Ponomarev battled a Stars defenseman to get the puck back to Keane at the right point. Keane drove down the right wing, turned toward the net, dipped below the goal line and banked a shot off goaltender Adam Scheel to make it 1-1 at 5:29.
Less than two minutes later, Panik produced his first goal since joining the Wolves March 28 at the trade deadline. Panik’s initial shot was blocked toward the back wall, but Noesen and Poturalski worked to get the puck back in front of the net. Poturalski dropped it for Panik in the slot and he shoveled it home to give the Wolves a 2-1 lead at 7:20 of the first.
Texas’ Anthony Louis, a native of west suburban Winfield, pulled the Stars even with a power-play goal at 15:44 of the first. Louis then knocked home a rebound 52 seconds into the second period to stake the Stars to a 3-2 lead.
After the Stars received the game’s first four power-play chances, the Wolves finally got their first at 10:02 of the second period and they needed just 12 seconds to take advantage. Keane fed a pass back to Leivo at the point and he threaded a shot through traffic to forge a 3-3 tie at 10:14.
Texas regained the lead on defenseman Jerad Rosburg’s wrister from the top of the left circle that whizzed through traffic and pinged off the post to give the Stars a 4-3 edge with 2:19 left in the second.
The Wolves delivered the game’s fourth tie after a feverish stretch in the offensive zone. In the end, Kyle Marino fired a shot from the high slot that banged off the end board to Lajoie, who dove toward the puck and swatted it home to make the score 4-4 at 5:01 of the third.
Noesen generated the game’s defining play 9:28 into the third. With Texas on the power play in the Chicago zone, Noesen broke up a pass from the point, outraced two defenders down the ice and went top-shelf for a short-handed breakaway as the Wolves took a 5-4 lead.
Texas pulled Scheel with two minutes left in search of the equalizer, but Noesen zipped home an empty-netter with 1:46 to go to clinch matters.
Wolves goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov (13-1-1) posted 25 saves to pick up the win while Scheel (11-10-7) finished with 30 stops.
The Wolves return to Allstate Arena at 7 p.m. Tuesday to host the Rockford IceHogs on Craft Beer Night. To find the best tickets for the final four regular-season games or the Calder Cup Playoffs, contact a team representative at WolvesTix@ChicagoWolves.com.