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Kochetkov, Wolves seize series lead

Springfield 0 | Chicago 4
Kochetkov blanks Thunderbirds while Panik triggers the offense again

Rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov rejected all 36 shots he faced to lead the Chicago Wolves to a 4-0 victory over the Springfield Thunderbirds Wednesday night in Game 3 of the Calder Cup Finals at sold-out MassMutual Center.

Forwards Richard Panik, Ivan Lodnia and Stefan Noesen and defenseman Jalen Chatfield scored goals for the Wolves (12-4), who claimed a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series heading into Game 4 at 6 p.m. Friday.

Josh Leivo earned two primary assists to push his AHL-leading point total to 26 in 16 games while Jack Drury also posted two assists and Chicago’s penalty-kill units defused five Springfield power plays.

“It was kind of a perfect playoff road win, in our opinion,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “We did all the little things right. That was something we had been preaching after Game 2. That was over and done with and we needed to move forward. Guys did a good job. I think we played exactly how we want to play, really.”

For the 10th game in a row, the Wolves delivered the opening goal as Panik produced his third goal in as many Finals games with a power-play tally at 14:50.

Drury battled in the left corner to win the puck and tap it behind the Springfield net to Leivo, who centered it to Panik in the slot. The pass banked off Panik’s skate, but bounced off a Springfield defenseman’s skate right back to Panik for a quick poke that gave goaltender Charlie Lindgren no time to make a play.

The Wolves pushed their advantage to 2-0 on Lodnia’s one-timer at 6:25 of the second. One minute after having his blistering slap shot robbed by Lindgren, Lodnia returned to the same spot near the left faceoff dot. Center Vasili Ponomarev slid a pass to Lodnia from the right circle and the rookie forward beat Lindgren’s glove for his fourth goal in nine postseason games.

Chatfield joined the scoring parade at 14:36 of the second. Leivo collected Max Lajoie’s breakout pass in the neutral zone and tried to feed it ahead to David Gust, but the pass was knocked back to him. Leivo spied Chatfield flying through the neutral zone and his pass caught the defenseman in stride. Chatfield found space between three Thunderbirds and fired a wrister into the top corner for a 3-0 lead.

Springfield (11-5) removed Lindgren with more than three minutes left in an effort to trigger a rally, but Noesen took advantage with an empty-net tally on the power play at 16:56 to make it 4-0.

Kochetkov improved his postseason record to 4-1 with a 1.59 goals-against average. Lindgren (5-2) posted 30 saves in the loss.

The Wolves and Thunderbirds return to the MassMutual Center ice for Game 4 at 6 p.m. Friday. If Chicago does not sweep the next two games, then the Wolves are slated to host Game 6 on Tuesday, June 28, and, if necessary, Game 7 on Wednesday, June 29. To find the best tickets, visit ChicagoWolves.com/Playoffs or contact a team representative at [email protected].