ROSEMONT, Ill.—The Chicago Wolves continued their push for a Central Division postseason berth by trouncing the Grand Rapids Griffins 4-1 on Saturday night at Allstate Arena.
Mackenzie MacEachern, Malte Stromwall and Max Lajoie each had a goal and an assist and Josh Melnick also scored to propel the Wolves to their second consecutive victory and remain in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs with one game remaining.
“It was a huge win,” Lajoie said. “We came out really strong and the power play was cooking so that was nice. We gave ourselves a chance and we have to come (Sunday against Manitoba) and play our best game.”
Tuukka Tieksola added two assists in the second contest of the defending Calder Cup champion Wolves’ stretch of three games in three days to conclude the regular season.
MacEachern started the Wolves’ offensive onslaught midway through the first period with his team on the power play when the veteran banged a rebound of a Stromwall one-timer past Griffins goaltender John Lethemon. The goal, which came off assists from Stromwall and Tieksola, was MacEachern’s 10th of the season—sixth with the Wolves holding a man advantage. Stromwall extended his points streak to eight games with the helper.
Later in the first, Stromwall’s 18th goal of the season—also with the Wolves on the power play—extended Chicago’s lead to 2-0. The winger took a feed from Tieksola and fired a one-timer from the slot that beat Lethemon to the stick side. Tieksola and Lajoie were awarded assists on the score.
The Wolves kept coming and Melnick made it 3-0 just 26 seconds later when he redirected a long shot from Joseph LaBate. In addition to LaBate, Ryan Dzingel assisted on Melnick’s 16th goal of the season.
Another power play resulted in another Wolves goal. This time, Lajoie launched a shot from just inside the blueline that found its way through traffic and past Lethemon for the Wolves captain’s 11th goal of the season. MacEachern and Ryan Suzuki were given assists on the goal that ended Lethemon’s night as Ryan Bednard replaced him in net. It marked the third time this season the Wolves scored three power-play goals in a contest.
“It was a nice faceoff win by Suzuki and I kind of just saw the big screen in front of the net so I shot the puck and it went in,” Lajoie said. “We have one game left so we want to make sure the power play is going.”
Grand Rapids went on the power play early in the second and Joel L’Esperance cashed in to pull the Griffins to within 4-1.
Neither team found the back of the net in the third.
Zachary Sawchenko (29 saves) earned the win in goal for the Wolves while Lethemon (seven saves) suffered the loss for the Griffins.
The Wolves improved to 34-29-5-3 on the season and Grand Rapids fell to 28-36-4-4.
Here are the Wolves’ postseason clinching scenarios:
Wolves clinch a playoff berth on Sunday with:
–a win vs. Manitoba AND an Iowa loss (reg/OT/SO) at Texas, OR
–a win vs. Manitoba AND a Rockford loss (reg/OT/SO) at Milwaukee, OR
–an OTL/SOL vs. Manitoba AND an Iowa regulation loss at Texas, OR
–an OTL/SOL vs. Manitoba AND a Rockford regulation loss at Milwaukee
Up next: The Wolves host the Manitoba Moose on Sunday (3 p.m.; My50 Chicago, AHLTV) in the regular-season finale.
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.