The Chicago Wolves reeled off four goals in the opening 11 minutes to trigger a 6-2 triumph over the Springfield Thunderbirds in Game 2 of the Calder Cup Finals Monday night at Allstate Arena.
Josh Leivo scored two goals while forwards Richard Panik, Spencer Smallman and Andrew Poturalski and defenseman Joey Keane also produced goals for the Wolves (11-4), who evened the series after Springfield posted a 5-4 overtime win Sunday.
Stefan Noesen notched a postseason franchise-record-tying four assists and Poturalski added a postseason franchise-record-tying four points for the Wolves, who head to Massachusetts for the next three games — starting with Game 3 at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
“We were just working harder,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “Played harder. Played within our structure more. More details to our game. Our power play got clicking again and obviously that’s important. Definitely a better start and a more consistent game, for sure.”
For the ninth game in a row, the Wolves opened the scoring. Noesen wristed a shot from the right half-wall that goaltender Joel Hofer rejected directly to the left circle for Panik, who deposited it into the open net for a 1-0 lead at 1:42.
Just 29 seconds later, rookie forward Ivan Lodnia carried the puck into the offensive zone and dished to Smallman coming up the middle. Smallman fired a wrister going against the grain and Hofer couldn’t get enough of the shot to prevent it from giving the Wolves a 2-0 lead at 2:11.
The Wolves pushed the lead to 3-0 at 8:15 of the first on Keane’s first goal of the playoffs. Poturalski won a faceoff in the offensive zone and Noesen steered it back to Keane at the point. The Homer Glen native shimmied his way into open space in the right circle and snapped a wrister through traffic.
Chicago continued the onslaught when Springfield provided a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity. Poturalski faked a slap shot from the high slot and dished to Leivo in the left circle for a one-timer into an open net that made it 4-0 at 10:12.
The Wolves boosted their advantage to 5-0 when Noesen swiped a clearing pass, spied Poturalski headed to the far post and fed him for a tap-in at 5:18 of the second.
With that helper, Noesen became the first Wolves player since Darren Haydar on May 4, 2007, to register 4 assists in a postseason game and the first since Jason Krog on June 10, 2008, to post 4 points in a playoff game. He also became the first AHL player to notch 4 assists in a Finals game since Norfolk’s Cory Conacher in 2012.
Springfield finally got on the board when it received a 5-on-3 power-play chance and defenseman Calle Rosen took advantage at 13:54 of the second. Will Bitten made it 5-2 at 16:23.
Leivo earned his own spot in the Wolves record book when he slammed home a Jack Drury feed for a power-play goal at 9:15 of the third. His 13th marker of the postseason broke the record he shared with Scott Pearson (1998), Steve Larouche (2001), Steve Maltais (2002), Jason Krog (2008) and Darren Haydar (2008).
Pyotr Kochetkov (3-1) posted 22 saves to earn the win while Hofer (6-3) stopped 35 of 41 shots in the battle of rookie goaltenders.
After the Thunderbirds host Games 3 through 5 at MassMutual Center, the Wolves are slated to host Game 6 on Tuesday, June 28, and Game 7 on Wednesday, June 29, if necessary. To receive the best ticket deals, visit ChicagoWolves.com/Playoffs or contact a team representative at WolvesTix@ChicagoWolves.com.