GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Chicago Wolves closed out the road portion of their regular-season schedule by clinching the American Hockey League’s Midwest Division crown with a wild 7-5 victory over Grand Rapids on Friday night at Van Andel Arena.
Forwards Mark Mancari, Taylor Mateson and Anton Rodin scored goals five minutes apart in the third period to help Chicago (41-27-3-3) come from behind and win its sixth division title in the club’s 18-year history.
Center Steve Reinprecht also netted two goals, and Jordan Schroeder and Darren each tallied a strike while defenseman Kevin Connauton collected three assists.
Goaltender Eddie Lack (21-19-3) stopped 36 of 41 shots to earn the victory. Tom McCollum (11-15-0) made 30 saves in loss.
The victory locks the Wolves into the three seed in the AHL’s Western Conference playoff standings, but Chicago’s opponent is yet to be determined.
Chicago wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard. Schroeder picked the pocket of Griffins defenseman and went one-on-one with McCollum, beating the Griffins goaltender five-hole for his 21st goal of the season just 1:12 into the game.
Grand Rapids right wing Francis Pare evened the score 4:48 into the second period with a one-timer from the top of the left circle during a stint of four-on-four play.
The Wolves responded quickly, going back on top 21 seconds later courtesy of Haydar when he pounced on a long rebound following a point blast by Connauton and found the back of the net over the glove of McCollum.
Chicago extended its lead to two goals with a power-play strike by Reinprecht late in the second period, but the lead would be short lived.
The Griffins (33-30-7-4) responded with goals by Willie Coetzee and Thomas Tatar late in the second period and then scores by Pare and Andrej Nestrasil in the opening minutes of the third period to reverse the two-goal lead in their favor in less than five minutes.
The Wolves responded with Rodin’s power-play strike and then Mateson’s first professional goal to even the score once again.
Chicago completed the comeback with Mancari’s 10th power-play goal of the season. The Wolves leading scorer rifled a shot from the left side that tricked through the arm of McCollum and into the net.
Reinprecht would seal the victory and the division crwon with an empty-net goal with 49 seconds left in the final frame.
The Wolves return to Allstate Arena for the first time in three weeks at 7 p.m. Saturday against Milwaukee for the final Amtrak Rivalry contest of the season.