Chicago Wolves win Central Division and move on to Western Conference finals
Leivo’s hat trick knocks out Milwaukee Wolves host Game 1 of Western Conference Finals on Friday, June 3. Chicago hosts either Stockton or Colorado in Game 1 on Friday, June 3
Veteran forward Josh Leivo produced his second professional hat trick as the Chicago Wolves wrapped up the Central Division Finals with a 5-1 triumph in Game 4 Friday night at Panther Arena.
Defensemen Max Lajoie and Josh Jacobs also scored for the Wolves (6-1) as they shrugged off Wednesday’s Game 3 loss by jumping to a 4-0 lead early in the second period.
Goaltender Alex Lyon (6-1) rejected 17 shots and Stefan Noesen handed out two assists to clinch Chicago’s second consecutive appearance in the Calder Cup Playoffs’ Western Conference Finals.
The Wolves own home-ice advantage in the best-of-7 Western Conference Finals and will host Game 1 on Friday, June 3, and Game 2 on Monday, June 6. Chicago will face either the Stockton Heat, who own a 2-0 lead in the Pacific Division Finals, or the Colorado Eagles.
“It doesn’t surprise me with this group,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “We’ve responded all year long to losses, backs-against-the-wall situations, adversity, and these guys have responded. They’re a good group of guys that play for each other. And when you do that, special things can happen.”
The Wolves jumped on top 3:56 into the game as they indirectly benefited from taking an early penalty.
Just as Lajoie finished serving his two minutes for high-sticking, the Wolves’ Cavan Fitzgerald and Vasili Ponomarev started a counterattack up the left wing. Lajoie jumped out of the box and zipped down the right wing to set up a 2-on-1 situation. Ponomarev fed Lajoie and he slid a shot between goaltender Devin Cooley’s skates for a 1-0 lead.
The Wolves pushed the lead to 2-0 on Leivo’s first power-play goal at 11:02 of the first. Noesen battled on his knees along the right half-wall to steer the puck back to Joey Keane at the right point. Keane zipped it to the left point for Leivo, who used a shoulder fake to get past a Milwaukee defenseman and then parked a shot in the top right corner for his fourth postseason goal.
Chicago made it 3-0 before the end of the first period on Jacobs’ one-timer from the right point. Ponomarev forced a turnover in Milwaukee’s defensive zone and Stelio Mattheos fired a shot that Cooley rejected. An Admirals defenseman cleared the puck by firing it toward the right corner, but it banked right toward Jacobs and he whistled a riser past Cooley at 17:18.
The Wolves maintained the momentum through the first intermission and jumped ahead 4-0 on Leivo’s power-play goal 1:01 into the second. The veteran forward collected a rebound above the right circle, dragged his way into an open shooting lane and snapped the puck home.
“We had a lot of shots last game and their goalie (Cooley) was just on his head,” Leivo said. “I think tonight, we capitalized on a couple early and that got us motivated and moving. We knew we weren’t going to let this one get away and (have to) go back home (for Game 5).”
Milwaukee (4-5) answered with Cole Schneider’s power-play goal at 2:27 of the second to cut the margin to 4-1, but the hosts could never get closer than three goals the rest of the way as the Wolves continued to suppress shots. The Admirals managed just 12 shots on goal through the first 45 minutes.
The Admirals removed Cooley with 4:19 remaining to add an extra attacker, but it led to Leivo wrapping up his first hat trick since March 8, 2014, when he played for the Toronto Marlies against the Lake Erie Monsters.
Spencer Smallman dished unselfishly to Leivo with 2:07 left and he flicked the puck into the empty net to make it 5-1.
Cooley (3-2) finished with 26 saves for the Admirals.
When the Wolves host Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals at 7 p.m. Friday, it will be $3 Beer Night at Allstate Arena. To find the best deals on postseason tickets, visit ChicagoWolves.com/Playoffs or contact a team representative via email at WolvesTix@ChicagoWolves.com.
WOLVES 5, ADMIRALS 1
Chicago 3 1 1 — 5
Milwaukee 0 1 0 — 1
First Period—1, Chicago, Lajoie 3 (Ponomarev, Fitzgerald), 3:56; 2, Chicago, Leivo 4 (Keane, Noesen), 11:02 pp; 3, Chicago, Jacobs 1 (unassisted), 17:18.
Penalties—Lajoie, Chicago (high-sticking), 1:49; Panik, Chicago (roughing double-minor), 7:48; McLain, Milwaukee (roughing), 7:48; Milwaukee (delay of game, served by Afanasyev), 10:38; McLaughlin, Milwaukee (holding the stick), 14:12; Smith, Milwaukee (interference), 19:41.
Second Period—4, Chicago, Leivo 5 (Noesen), 1:01 pp; 5, Milwaukee, Schneider 4 (Glass), 2:27 pp.
Penalties—Smallman, Chicago (interference), 2:23; Leivo, Chicago (hooking), 5:07; McLain, Milwaukee (roughing), 8:06; Lajoie, Chicago (roughing), 8:06; Davies, Milwaukee (roughing), 14:39; Leivo, Chicago (roughing), 14:39; Poturalski, Chicago (tripping), 14:46; Smith, Milwaukee (roughing), 18:40; Poturalski, Chicago (high-sticking), 18:40.
Third Period—6, Chicago, Leivo 6 (Smallman), 17:53 en.
Penalties—Gunler, Chicago (holding), 3:46.
Shots on goal—Chicago 15-10-6—31; Milwaukee 6-5-7—18. Power plays—Chicago 2-3; Milwaukee 1-6. Goalies—Chicago, Lyon (17-18); Milwaukee, Cooley (26-30). Referees—Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Brandon Blandina. Linesmen—Mitchell Hunt and Ryan Jackson.
Chicago Wolves advance to Western Conference Finals
After eliminating the Rockford IceHogs and Milwaukee Admirals to claim the Central Division Finals, the Chicago Wolves have advanced to the Western Conference Finals of the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs. The best-of-7 series begins Friday, June 3, at Allstate Arena against either the Stockton Heat or Colorado Eagles.
The Wolves own home-ice advantage throughout the postseason after producing the American Hockey League’s best regular-season record and setting the franchise’s single-season mark for highest points percentage (.724). In addition to Game 1, the Wolves are assured of hosting Game 2 on Monday, June 6, and two more games, if necessary, as they pursue the organization’s fifth league championship.
The current schedule for the Western Conference Finals:
Game 1 Friday, June 3 Allstate Arena 7 p.m.
Game 2 Monday, June 6 Allstate Arena 7 p.m.
Game 3 TBA TBA TBA
Game 4 TBA TBA TBA
Game 5* TBA TBA TBA
Game 6* Tuesday, June 14 Allstate Arena 7 p.m.
Game 7* Wednesday, June 15 Allstate Arena 7 p.m.
The Wolves await the winner of the best-of-5 Pacific Division Finals. Top-seeded Stockton, which posted the AHL’s second-best regular season points percentage, owns a 2-1 series lead over third-seeded Colorado. They’ll meet in Game 4 Sunday at Colorado. The Wolves did not face either team this season.
The winner of the Western Conference Finals will meet the winner of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Finals in the Calder Cup Finals. The North Division’s Laval Rocket already has qualified for the Eastern Conference Finals while the Springfield Thunderbirds need one more win over the Charlotte Checkers in the Atlantic Division Finals.
To purchase tickets and to find the latest information on the Calder Cup Playoffs, visit ChicagoWolves.com/Playoffs or contact a team representative at WolvesTix@ChicagoWolves.com. Individual tickets for all playoff games also can be purchased by visiting Ticketmaster.com, calling Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000, or visiting the Allstate Arena box office or any other Ticketmaster outlet.
Every postseason game will be broadcast in HD on AHLTV.com. To set up an all-access package — either for one day or for every Calder Cup Playoffs contest — visit www.AHLTV.com.
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