The Chicago Wolves stacked up five third-period goals to squelch a Lake Erie rally and earn a crucial 7-3 victory on Tuesday night at Allstate Arena.
Forward Jeremy Welsh scored a pair of third-period goals to give the Wolves a 5-3 cushion, then defensemen Joel Edmundson and Brent Regner added short-handed empty-net goals from deep in the defensive zone to clinch the game.
Edmundson scored in the first period for his first two-goal effort as a pro while forwards Yannick Veilleux and Adam Cracknell also tallied for the Wolves (37-26-6-1), who dropped their magic number to make the playoffs from 11 to 7.
“Everybody knows what the numbers are,” said Wolves head coach John Anderson. “Both teams were playing really desperate trying to create scoring chances.”
The Wolves scored on their first two shots to take a 2-0 lead just 4:11 into the game. Cracknell opened the scoring as Terry Broadhurst raced down the right wing and found Cracknell coming down the left side for a one-timer that beat goaltender Calvin Pickard.
Edmundson made it 2-0 as Magnus Paajarvi’s pass from below the right circle found Edmundson just outside the crease for a quick backhand past Pickard.
Lake Erie (31-27-8-4) cut the margin to 2-1 with Andrew Agozzino’s power-play goal at 14:51 in the first. Agozzino worked the puck to Ben Street below the right circle and cut toward the net for a pass that he redirected past Wolves goaltender Matt Climie.
The Monsters evened the score 14 seconds into the third period as Street accepted a pass behind the net and sent a backhand feed into the slot for Agozzino, who one-timed it past Climie.
Chicago regained the lead on Veilleux’s goal at 3:52 of the third. Jacob Doty snapped the puck from the right point and it bounced off a Lake Erie player at the bottom of the right circle toward Veilleux at the faceoff dot. Veilleux sent a wrister over Pickard’s glove for his eighth goal of the year.
The Wolves gained some breathing room as Welsh outdueled Pickard in front of the net just as a Chicago power play expired. Pickard kicked out his right leg to reject Welsh’s first attempt, but he collected the rebound and lifted it over the netminder for a 4-2 lead at 10:34 of the third.
The Monsters continued to press and made it a 4-3 game at 12:50 when Colin Smith collected a rebound in the slot and slapped it home.
Welsh answered with his second goal of the night as he won another duel with Pickard. Welsh attacked the crease and had his first attempt blocked, but he regained control and banged it into the net.
“I stayed with it,” Welsh said. “If he wasn’t such a good goalie, I might’ve scored on the first shot both times. When he saves it your heart sinks, but then you whack it in and feel better.”
Lake Erie removed Pickard from the net with nearly four minutes in an effort to knot the game, but Edmundson and Regner delivered from long range to clinch the game. Edmundson lofted a hard shot from the bottom of the right circle that landed in the goal on the fly while Regner ripped a hard bouncer that skittered into the net.
Climie (15-12-3) posted 33 saves as he earned his fifth win in a row. Pickard (19-15-9) stopped 24 of 29 attempts in the loss.
The Wolves have just six regular-season games remaining, including home games at 7 p.m. Saturday against Oklahoma City and 4 p.m. Sunday against Iowa.
—Courtesy Chicago Wolves