ROSEMONT, IL- After winning the American Hockey League’s Central Division crown earlier this week, the Chicago Wolves (42-22-7-4) looked to finish off their season series with the Rockford IceHogs (40-28-4-4) and claim the Illinois Lottery Cup for the second year in-a-row on Saturday night. And the Wolves did just that with a 5-4 victory over the IceHogs at Allstate Arena. It was a back and forth game the most of the night. A third period goal from winger Brett Sterling (the 250 goal of his career) was the deciding factor with 11 minutes left in regulation.
The Wolves defense held it down the rest of the way, and they win the season series with Rockford with a record of 6-2-3-1. The rest of the Wolves goals came from forward Thomas Hyka (16th of the season), defenseman Philip Holm (first goal with the Wolves), and two first period goals from winger Teemu Pulkkinen (19).
“It was an important week for us for sure,” said head coach Rocky Thompson after the win. “We had to just do what we continue to do everyday to control what we need to control.”
The Wolves are now headed to the Calder Cup playoffs for the 19th time in franchise history. Although they haven’t won the Calder Cup Trophy since 2008, the Wolves continue to be one of Chicago’s better teams when it comes to reaching the postseason. That fact certainly isn’t lost on coach Thompson.
“There’s a great tradition here and a great culture that’s been in place with the Chicago Wolves. We want to continue with that… If we work hard and come to work everyday and we practice, and we play, and we focus, tomorrow will be a little bit better,” he said.
As fate would have it the Wolves aren’t done with the IceHogs just yet. They’ll play each other again in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs starting on April 21st at Allstate Arena. While every team usually tends to change some things heading into the playoffs, for the most part Thompson already knows what to expect from their division rivals.
“It does give us a video that we (can look at); we played them 12 times this year so we know how they play, and they know how we play. It’s been a great matchup all year long, right down the middle,” says Thompson.
The Wolves wrap up the regular season on Sunday when the Manitoba Moose pay a visit. The Wolves hope to finish the season on a winning note as they make their way into the postseason.
“I give our guys a ton of credit, we’re just taking it day by day,” Thompson says. And that day-by-day approach could be the key as they hope to win their fifth championship in team history.