The Chicago Wolves downed the Rockford IceHogs 3-0 in a key Central Division showdown Saturday night at Allstate Arena.
The defending Calder Cup champion Wolves got a goal and an assist from Anttoni Honka, scores from Josh Melnick and Griffin Mendel and a 19-save shutout from goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov to win their third game in a row. Chicago also equaled a franchise record by not allowing Rockford a shot on goal in the opening period.
“We just came out hard and from the start we really took it to them,” Melnick said. “We didn’t sit back and right from puck drop we got on them and that propelled us through the game.”
The win gave the Wolves points in four consecutive games and pulled them to within four points of the IceHogs for the fifth and final Central Division postseason berth with a game in hand.
The Wolves cashed in on an early power play to get on the board first. Vasily Ponomarev cruised into the IceHogs zone, fed Melnick and the forward buried a shot from in close past Rockford goaltender Jaxson Stauber to the stick side. Ponomarev and Honka earned assists on Melnick’s 15th goal of the season.
“It was a great play by ‘Pono,’ ” Melnick said. “It happened pretty quick. I just threw it on net and it hit the back of the net.”
A short time later, Honka made it 2-0 when his slapper from the point found its way through traffic and beat Stauber blocker side. On Honka’s fifth goal of the season, Jamieson Rees and Zach Senyshyn were awarded assists.
The Wolves held Rockford without a shot on goal during the opening period, marking the third time in franchise history—and first since Jan. 9, 2022 against Cleveland—Chicago held a team shotless in a period
The Wolves kept coming in the second and extended their lead to 3-0 when Mendel took a pretty feed from Malte Stromwall and banged home his seventh goal of the season from just outside the left post. Mackenzie MacEachern also picked up an assist on the play.
Rockford picked up its first shot on goal 2 minutes, 59 seconds into the second and the Wolves held a 27-8 advantage after two periods.
Kochetkov’s second shutout of the season helped him improve to 14-5-2-1 on the campaign while Stauber (35 saves) suffered the loss for the IceHogs.
The Wolves upped their record to 29-28-4-3 on the season and Rockford dropped to 30-26-5-4.
Up next: The Wolves host the Milwaukee Admirals on Sunday at Allstate Arena (3 p.m.; My50 Chicago, NHL Network, AHLTV).
For information on Wolves ticket plans for the 2022-23 season — everything from single-game tickets to Flex Packs to group outings — visit ChicagoWolves.com or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.