Hours after being named to the AHL’s First All-Star Team, Andrew Poturalski and Stefan Noesen both scored during a four-goal third period as the Chicago Wolves earned a 6-3 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins Thursday night at Allstate Arena in their regular-season home finale.
Rookie center Jack Drury scored twice and forwards David Cotton and Josh Leivo added goals for the Wolves (49-16-5-5), who finished their regular-season home schedule with a .737 points percentage and stayed in the chase for the AHL’s best record and home-ice advantage throughout the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Wolves face Rockford in their finale Saturday night while the Stockton Heat play Bakersfield the same night. If the Wolves earn one more point than the Heat, then they’ll take the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy that goes to the AHL team with the best points percentage.
“We didn’t play to our identity in the first two periods,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “We had a little chat at the end of the second period and we were way better in the third, but there are some things that still need to be fixed come Saturday and into the playoffs.”
Drury gave the Wolves a 1-0 lead just 1:37 into the game. Cavan Fitzgerald collected the puck in the defensive zone and threaded the needle with a pass to Josh Leivo entering the offensive zone. Leivo raced to the top of the left faceoff circle, stopped on a dime and zipped a pass to Drury rushing to the top of the right circle. Drury snapped a shot past goaltender Victor Brattstrom for his 19th of the year.
Grand Rapids (32-35-6-2) pulled even on Riley Barber’s 25th goal of the season. The Griffins won a faceoff in the offensive zone, then Jonatan Berggren zipped a perfect centering pass to Barber crashing the crease for a redirect that made it 1-1 at 14:58 of the first. The Griffins took a 2-1 lead on Dominik Shine’s unassisted short-handed goal at 16:26.
The Wolves forged a 2-2 tie at 15:47 of the second when defenseman Jalen Chatfield steered a shot from the right point that Brattstrom blocked. But Cotton, stationed on the edge of the crease, used his reach to swat home the rebound.
Poturalski gave the Wolves the 3-2 lead at 3:59 of the third with his 28th goal and 98th point of the year. The captain won a faceoff in the left circle, then Richard Panik spun the puck to Noesen behind the net. Noesen spied Poturalski surging past a defenseman toward the net and fed him for a quick chip into the top right corner.
Drury came through with his 20th goal to make it 4-2 at 9:49. Chatfield took a pass from Tarmo Reunanen at his own goal line and raced down the right wing to the opposite goal line, then dished to Drury in the slot for a tough redirect.
The Griffins cut the deficit to 4-3 when rookie center Samuel Dove-McFalls scored his first professional goal with 4:17 remaining in regulation.
Grand Rapids pulled Brattstrom for an extra attacker, but Leivo made the Griffins pay with an empty-net goal from in front of the Wolves bench with 1:13 left.
Brattstrom returned to the net and Noesen banked a shot off him from below the goal line at 19:43 to earn his league-leading 46th goal. Poturalski picked up the primary assist for his league-leading 99th point — 1 ahead of former Wolves center T.J. Tynan.
Wolves goaltender Jack LaFontaine (4-3-4) stopped 22 shots to pick up the win while Brattstrom (10-16-3) posted 31 saves.
The Wolves travel to face Rockford at 6 p.m. Saturday in both teams’ regular-season finale. The Central Division champions have earned a first-round bye, so they’ll start the Calder Cup Playoffs in the second week of May. To reserve your playoff tickets, visit ChicagoWolves.com/Playoffs or contact a team representative at [email protected].