CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Chicago Wolves kept their playoff hopes alive Friday night with a thorough 5-2 victory over the Lake Erie Monsters and Quicken Loans Arena.
Defenseman Jim Vandermeer, Danny Groulx and Brad Hunt and forwards Darren Archibald and Andrew Gordon scored for the Wolves (37-28-5-4) as they produced a season-high 3 power-play goals. Goaltender Matt Climie (24-24-3) stopped 40 shots to keep Chicago in the chase for a Western Conference playoff berth.
With two games to play, the Wolves sit in 10th place with 83 points. They’re among five teams chasing three available playoff spots, but they don’t control their destiny because Milwaukee (85 points, two games left) defeated Charlotte 6-4 at home while Rockford (85 points, one game left) won 9-4 at San Antonio.
Rochester, which has 86 points with two games left, also is within the Wolves reach. If the Wolves win their home games Saturday and Sunday, then they’ll finish with 87 points. They’ll reach the playoffs as long as two teams in the Milwaukee-Rockford-Rochester troika don’t reach the 87-point mark. Oklahoma City (87 points) is beyond Chicago’s grasp.
Chicago took control of Friday’s game 12:27 into the first period. With Monsters netminder Sami Aittokallio well-screened, Vandermeer blasted a point shot through traffic and into the goaltender’s mesh to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead.
Moments later on the power play, defenseman Danny Groulx found a loose puck in the slot and slammed his shot off Davies in front of the net to make it 2-0 at 14:11.
The Wolves failed to carry a two-goal lead into the first intermission, though, as Monsters right wing Tomas Vincour scored on a redirect at 19:16.
The Wolves regained control when Archibald whacked a puck out of midair past Aittokallio at the 2:50 mark in the second period. Hunt followed by firing a slap shot so forcefully that it bounced in and out of the Monsters net before some players realized it was a goal at 6:18. Aittokallio departed at that point with the Wolves leading 4-1.
After Lake Erie’s Paul Carey dumped a goal into an empty net following a scramble, Gordon accepted a Darren Haydar pass in the slot and rifled it past backup goaltender Calvin Pickard for a 5-2 lead at 17:11 of the second.
The Wolves return to the Allstate Arena at 7 p.m. Saturday for the final Amtrak Rivalry game of the season against Milwaukee.
– Chicago Wolves