ROCKFORD, IL – The Chicago Wolves escaped a late push by the Cleveland Monsters to string together their third consecutive win 5-3 Wednesday at the Allstate Arena. Five different goal scorers contributed to the win, and ten players finished with at least a point
Chicago would strike early once again. This time, it was Tomas Hyka’s tip off the wrister from Jake Walman which beat Cleveland goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks at just 1:18 of the first period. Walman had grabbed the clearing attempt by a Monsters defender and threw it right on net.
The Wolves were gifted a 5-on-3 power play by the Monsters two minutes later, and Beau Bennett proved the hero as his goal gave Chicago the 2-0 lead. Though two goals were all Chicago would manage in the opening frame, the Wolves outshot the Monsters 14-2. Two shots allowed in a period is a season-low for the team.
T.J. Tynan would chase Kivlenieks from the crease just 47 seconds into the second period as his wrister from the top of the circle beat the goaltender blocker-side post for his eighth goal of the season. Hyka notched his third point (1G, 2A) of the night on Hyka’s goal. Ivan Kulbakov took over in goal for Cleveland as his team started down a 3-0 deficit.
Terry Broadhurst spoiled Maxime Lagace’s shutout bid at 3:55 of the second as his point-blank shot went in to begin closing his team’s scoring deficit. The league’s 29-ranked power play was able to further help this comeback bid, with Zac Dalpe converting at 15:24. The period ended with a score of 3-2 in favor of the home team.
Sam Kurker tied the game for the visitors just 2:24 into the third as he beat a diving Lagace. Bryce Gervais regained the lead for his team 2:34 later, recording his first goal of the year on a backhand wraparound.
“It felt good to finally get that first one out of the way. I was in a little bit of a slump there, and then not having played for five weeks, so it just felt good to get the first one,” said Gervais.
His goal would go on to stand as the game-winner, and Tobias Lindberg scored an insurance goal. Cleveland pulled Kulbakov with a few minutes remaining, but two Monsters players took slashing penalties which allowed Chicago to ride out the game on the power play.
Lagace made 21 saves in the win, while Kivlenieks and Kulbakov snagged 12 apiece. With two more points, extending their point streak to 12 games, the Wolves are now 16-12-5-1 and in a playoff spot – just barely.
Always one to try and take advantage of a tired team, that is exactly what Head Coach Rocky Thompson believed his team was able to do today.
“I think they were running on adrenaline when they got that third goal,” said Rocky. “And that’s why Gervais’ goal was so important. They had climbed to such a hard situation – playing last night in Rockford and then coming back from a three-goal deficit. When that goal went in, that’s really hard because it’s really a punch in the gut.”
What did Rocky think about Lagace’s play on the night?
“That was a tough game for him as well. Not getting anything early, and then facing a lot of good opportunities as the game wore on in the second and third period. Mentally he was able to stay in it and allowed us to stay in it.. Then we were able to score a big goal for him – really, two goals.”
How does Gervais, and the rest of the team, feel about the target on his back?
“I think we’re ready to handle that pressure. Coming into the season, we sort of thought we’d have a target on our backs all year long and then we started out slow there. But now that we’re back up to speed, we’re expecting to have a target on our backs.”
The Chicago Wolves next face the Manitoba Moose at home Friday in a battle between the AHL’s two hottest teams. Puck drop at the Allstate Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m. As always, be sure to follow @SinBinWolves on Twitter for current game updates and team news.