Stefan Noesen scored his 47th and 48th goals and Andrew Poturalski became the first AHL player in 12 seasons to reach the 100-point mark as the Chicago Wolves earned a 3-2 victory at Rockford in Saturday’s regular-season finale.
Forward Stelio Mattheos also scored for the Wolves (50-16-5-5), who fired a season-high 54 shots while achieving a variety of milestones and sending a message to the team that could be their opponent in the Central Division Semifinals of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Wolves finished with a franchise-record .724 points percentage and claimed the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy that goes the AHL’s team with the best record. That also means the Wolves will have home-ice advantage for every series during the postseason.
With his pair of goals, Noesen clinched the Willie Marshall Award that goes the AHL’s leading goal-scorer. His 48 markers are the most in the league since 2009-10 as he finished eight goals ahead of Ontario’s Martin Frk.
Poturalski, the Wolves captain, handed out two assists to finish the season with 101 points. He became the 100th player in AHL history — and the first since 2009-10 — to eclipse the 100-point mark and secured the John B. Sollenberger Trophy that goes to the league’s top point-producer. Poturalski becomes the first player since Philadelphia’s Peter White in 1998 to pace the AHL in scoring in back-to-back seasons.
Goaltender Alex Lyon (18-7-3) stopped 23 of 25 shots to ensure the Wolves finished as the AHL champion in fewest goals allowed at 2.55 per game. It’s the first time in the organization’s 28-season history that the Wolves have won the GAA title.
The Wolves also reached the 50-win mark for the fourth time in franchise annals. Each of the previous three times — 1997-98, 1999-2000 and 2007-08 — the Wolves went on to capture the league championship.
Poturalski reached the 100-point milestone when he set up Noesen’s opening goal 10:51 into the game. CJ Smith winged a pass from the left half-wall that Noesen tipped toward Poturalski at the top of the right circle. Poturalski spun and steered a pass toward Noesen breaking to the top of the crease and Noesen redirected it home for his league-leading 47th goal. As soon as Noesen saw the puck in the net, he rushed to grab it and present it to Poturalski as they hugged in the slot with their teammates.
The Wolves increased their lead to 2-0 at 13:03 of the first as Kyle Marino forced a turnover on the forecheck deep in the Rockford zone. Jamieson Rees put a shot on net and Mattheos cleaned up the rebound.
Chicago outshot Rockford 23-4 in the opening period and continued to pile up the shots in the second period, but the IceHogs (37-30-4-1) pulled within 2-1 at 15:21 of the second as defenseman Isaak Phillips finished Lukas Reichel’s centering pass.
The Wolves reclaimed a two-goal lead at 1:41 of the third as Poturalski helped set up Noesen’s 48th of the year. With Chicago enjoying a power-play opportunity, Poturalski spun a backhand down to Jack Drury in the left faceoff circle. Drury spied Noesen just outside the crease and whistled a pass that Noesen chipped home for the 3-1 lead.
Rockford pulled goaltender Cale Morris (2-4-0) in the final 90 seconds to bring on an extra attacker. That enabled the IceHogs to cut the lead to 3-2 on Michel Teply’s goal with 53 seconds to go. Morris finished with 51 saves.
The Wolves own a first-round bye in the Calder Cup Playoffs and they’ll face the winner of the best-of-3 series between the fourth-seeded IceHogs and fifth-seeded Texas Stars. Rockford will host all three games on May 4, 6 and 7 (if necessary).
Then the Wolves will have home-ice advantage for the Central Division Semifinals and have one confirmed home date for that best-of-5 series: 7 p.m., Saturday, May 14 at Allstate Arena. To ensure your Calder Cup Playoffs tickets, visit ChicagoWolves.com/Playoffs or contact a Wolves representative at [email protected].