The Chicago Wolves moved within one game of a Central Division Semifinals sweep with a 4-1 Game 2 victory over the Rockford IceHogs Saturday night at Allstate Arena.
Forwards Josh Leivo, CJ Smith and Vasili Ponomarev and defenseman Max Lajoie scored goals for the Wolves (2-0), who can wrap up the best-of-5 series Sunday at Rockford.
Winnetka native Jack Drury notched two assists and goaltender Alex Lyon (2-0) posted 15 saves as the Wolves outshot the IceHogs 49-16. Chicago set the tempo from the opening puck drop as they fired the game’s first 14 shots.
“Credit to our guys: They’ve showed up both nights,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “Our starts are crucial and it will be crucial again tomorrow. This is the playoffs. I don’t think you can come off the gas at all. I think there are still parts of our game that need to get better.”
The Wolves enjoyed 1 minute, 35 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play seven minutes into the game, but couldn’t convert as Rockford goaltender Arvid Soderblom robbed two one-timers with sliding saves and Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski ripped a shot off the post.
Chicago fired the game’s first 14 shots — and that didn’t include Poturalski’s blast off the post as well as David Gust’s pair of shots that clanged off the iron. Rockford finally earned its first shot when Andrei Altybarmakian nudged one into Lyon’s pads 14:01 into the game.
The Wolves finally cashed in on their 19th shot of the first period. Drury won a faceoff at the left dot and Leivo rushed in to claim the puck and fire it. Soderblom rejected his first try, but Leivo pounced on the rebound and knocked it home for a 1-0 lead.
Chicago didn’t waste any time adding to the margin as its next shot hit the back of the net as well. Poturalski swept into the offensive zone and dished it back to defenseman Josh Jacobs as the late man. Jacobs served a backhand pass from the left circle to the slot to set up Smith’s one-timer for a 2-0 lead at 18:42.
The Wolves finished the first period with the two-goal lead as well as a 20-1 advantage in shots — setting the franchise postseason record for fewest shots allowed in a period.
The game leveled out in the second period, but Chicago pumped its lead to 3-0 on Lajoie’s wrister from the high slot at 11:51. For the second time in the game, a Drury faceoff win led directly to a goal as Lajoie claimed the puck at the point, walked in and zipped a shot through traffic.
Rockford (2-2) cut the margin to 3-1 on defenseman Alec Regula’s power-play goal at 13:19. He collected the puck at his own goal line and slalomed down the ice for his first goal of the playoffs.
The Wolves earned an insurance goal at 13:58 of the third when Ponomarev whistled a pass from the right corner intended for Jamieson Rees at the far post, but a Rockford defenseman’s skate deflected the puck home.
Soderblom (2-2) finished with 45 saves in the loss.
The Wolves travel to Rockford for Game 3 at 4 p.m. Sunday and, if necessary, Game 4 at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Chicago hosts Game 5, if necessary, at 7 p.m. Thursday. To get the best deals on playoff tickets, visit ChicagoWolves.com/Playoffs or contact a team representative at [email protected].