Best record in Wolves history!
Stefan Noesen and Vasili Ponomarev scored two goals apiece to lead the Chicago Wolves to a 6-2 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Sunday afternoon at Allstate Arena.
Captain Andrew Poturalski and rookie forward Noel Gunler also scored for the Wolves (48-16-5-5), who notched the best regular-season record in the franchise’s 28-year history. The Central Division champions will finish with no less than a 0.697 point percentage, which leads the 2000 Turner Cup championship team who finished at 0.695.
Noesen’s goals were his 44th and 45th of the season, giving him a five-goal lead over Ontario’s Martin Frk in the race for the Willie Marshall Award for the American Hockey League’s top scorer.
Poturalski set up both of Noesen’s goals in addition to scoring his 27th goal, which took his points total to 97 with two games remaining as he seeks to become the first AHL player in 12 years to reach the 100 point bar.
“It was a great start to us,” Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky said. “Noesen’s goal kind of set the tone, and then we built on it. Kudos to the guys in the room for showing up the way they did.
Wolves only needed 1:19 to go up the board. Poturalski and Richard Panik slid the puck on the forecheck and it ended up behind the Grand Rapids net, where Poturalski spotted Noesen running into the left face-off circle for a quick hit to the top corner .
Wolves’ forecheck paid off again at 5:22 of the first. Forward Stelio Mattheos stole the puck in the neutral zone, slid down the right wing and found Ponomarev stepping into the slot for his second goal.
Veteran forward Riley Barber responded with his 23rd goal of the year to bring Grand Rapids (32-34-6-2) to 2-1 at 18:18 from first. The tally extended Barber’s point streak to an AHL-best 15 games this season.
Chicago regained control of the game early in the second period when Grand Rapids took the first two penalties of the game 17 seconds apart. With the advantage 5-3, Poturalski fired a single shot from Noesen from the left face-off spot to make it 3-1 at 6:17.
Thirty-one seconds later, defenseman Jesper Sellgren found David Cotton open in front of the net. Grand Rapids goaltender Kaden Fulcher blocked both Cotton’s attempts to bring the puck home, but the rebound flipped into the slot and Ponomarev sent it into the net for the lead 4 -1.
Ponomarev, 20, made the first three-point performance of his young professional career when he netted Gunler’s goal 14:29 from the second to extend the lead to 5-1.
Poturalski pushed the margin to 6-1 when he whistled a power play goal from the right faceoff circle at 2:31 of the third. Chicago finished 3 of 3 on the power play.
Wolves goalie Dylan Wells (1-1-1), who started for the second straight day after expected starter Jack LaFontaine was called off an hour before the face-off, turned down 26 shots to claim his first win in the the AHL since April 14, 2019.
Fulcher (1-3-0) finished with 29 saves while playing against a shorthanded Griffins team.
The Wolves begin the final week of regular season action by hosting Grand Rapids at 7 p.m. Thursday on $2 Beer Night. For tickets to the regular season finale or the upcoming Calder Cup Playoffs, contact a team representative at [email protected]