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Wolves one win from Cup

Springfield 2 | Chicago 4
Chicago seizes 3-1 series lead and can clinch fifth league championship Saturday

Rookie center Jack Drury and veteran forward Richard Panik scored first-period power-play goals to spark the Chicago Wolves to a 4-2 victory over the Springfield Thunderbirds Friday night in Game 4 of the Calder Cup Finals at sold-out MassMutual Center.

Captain Andrew Poturalski and Josh Leivo also scored and Stefan Noesen added two assists for the Wolves (13-4), who can clinch their fifth league championship in Game 5 at 6 p.m. Saturday on Springfield’s home ice.

Rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov (5-1) stopped 39 of 41 shots as the Wolves killed eight of nine Springfield power-play opportunities.

“I thought it was another good road win,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “I liked our start. The penalty kill was good again in the second (period) when we needed it to be and Kochetkov was outstanding again — making big saves and you need that this time of year.

“It’s a good win. We’ll take it and move on. (At) 12:01, it’s a new day. We’ll try to finish the job.”

Panik had the chance to score the opening goal for the third game in a row when Chicago was awarded a penalty shot 10:51 into the game, but Springfield rookie goaltender Joel Hofer blocked Panik’s backhand try.

Instead, Panik had to settle for the second goal as Drury earned the first of two Chicago power-play tallies in the first period. Poturalski won a faceoff and sent it toward the right point for Leivo, who rimmed the puck behind the net. Noesen tapped it to Drury, who found open space to Hofer’s left and flicked a shot that trickled through for a 1-0 lead at 17:25.

After Chicago scored the opening goal for the 11th consecutive playoff game, Panik gave the Wolves a 2-0 lead for the third straight game. Noesen again gave up his body behind the net to tap the puck to a teammate, then Poturalski collected it by the back wall and spied Panik alone in the slot. He flicked a backhand to Panik, who roofed a one-timer over Hofer’s glove for a power-play goal at 19:47.

Poturalski pushed Chicago’s lead to 3-0 at 6:20 of the second period. The captain swiped the puck from NHL veteran James Neal just outside the offensive zone, raced down the right wing and snapped a short-side shot that tipped off Hofer’s glove and into the net.

The Wolves killed Springfield’s first six power-play chances, but the Thunderbirds finally took advantage on Klim Kostin’s power-play tally at 16:53 of the second that cut Chicago’s lead to 3-1.

After several tense minutes in the third period, Springfield (11-6) removed Hofer with just over three minutes left in favor of an extra attacker. The Wolves took advantage as Leivo swatted a tender backhand from the defensive slot that needed six seconds to slide down the ice and across the goal line for a 4-1 lead with 2:46 to play.

Leivo’s 14th goal of the postseason became more valuable when Neal scored with 1:47 left to cut Chicago’s margin to 4-2.

Kochetkov won for the third time in four nights for Chicago while Hofer (6-4) posted 28 saves in the loss.

The Wolves and Thunderbirds return to the MassMutual Center ice for Game 5 at 6 p.m. Saturday. If Chicago does not wrap up the series Saturday, 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].