Goaltender Alex Lyon rejected 29 of 30 shots as the Chicago Wolves swept the Central Division Semifinals with a 4-1 Game 3 victory over the Rockford IceHogs Sunday afternoon.
Forwards Ivan Lodnia, CJ Smith, Jack Drury and Andrew Poturalski scored for the Wolves (3-0), who’ll face the third-seeded Milwaukee Admirals in the best-of-5 Central Division Finals. Chicago hosts Game 1 on Saturday, May 21, and Game 2 on Sunday, May 22, at Allstate Arena.
Lyon rejected 62 of 66 shots while handling all 180 minutes in goal for the Wolves during the sweep. Rockford scored the series’ first goal, but Chicago never trailed again after scoring two goals in the final minute of Game 1’s first period.
“He was outstanding tonight,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “You could tell he was locked in early. He made some big saves, including a breakaway on (Lukas) Reichel. You can just tell he’s a pro. He’s got a plan of how he wants to attack it and he executes it. Big, big kudos to him.”
The Wolves jumped on top 2:27 into Game 3 as center Spencer Smallman collected the puck in the right corner, scissored his way toward the slot and spied Lodnia near the bottom of the left circle. Lodnia, who drew into the lineup for the first time this series, accepted the pass and flicked a backhand past goaltender Arvid Soderblom for the 1-0 lead.
Lyon and the Wolves’ penalty-kill units snuffed four Rockford power plays in a 12-minute stretch bridging the first and second periods, then the Wolves made the IceHogs pay on their first power play of the second period.
Just as the IceHogs’ Ryan Stanton departed the penalty box after serving his two minutes, the Wolves’ David Gust took a big hit in the right corner while winning the puck and sending it to Smith near the top of the left circle. Smith dished to Richard Panik at the goal line, then circled toward the slot as Panik found him for the give-and-go pass that Smith buried into the right corner of the net. That gave the Wolves a 2-0 lead with 3:03 left in the second.
Rockford’s Evan Barratt took a tripping penalty in the opening minute of the third period — and the Wolves promptly added their first official power-play goal of the game. Poturalski steered a pass from the left corner to Joey Keane at the left point, then Keane ripped a shot into traffic that Drury redirected past Soderblom for the 3-0 lead at 1:12 of the third.
Rockford finally got on the board when defenseman Ian Mitchell posted a power-play goal with 7:02 remaining in regulation.
The IceHogs took a pair of penalties shortly thereafter to set up a Wolves 5-on-3 power-play opportunity. Rockford killed off half of it, but Poturalski collected a Leivo pass on the goal line, moved to the top of the crease and roofed the puck over Soderblom for a 4-1 lead with 3:11 to go.
Soderblom (2-3) posted 36 saves for Rockford, which dropped three games in four days after sweeping the best-of-3 preliminary series against the Texas Stars the previous week.
After the Wolves host Games 1 and 2 next weekend, the Milwaukee Admirals host Game 3 on Wednesday, May 25 and, if necessary, Game 4 on Friday, May 27. If the series goes the distance, the Wolves host Game 5 on Sunday, May 29.
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