ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Chicago Wolves concluded the regular season with a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Marlies on Sunday afternoon at Allstate Arena.
Forwards Jeremy Welsh and Robby Fabbri scored for the Wolves (40-29-6-1), who get the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed and open the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs against top-seeded Utica at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Allstate Arena.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series will be a 7 p.m. home game on Friday before the scene shifts to Utica for the rest of the Western Conference Quarterfinal. The Wolves and Comets split their four regular-season meetings.
“Utica is a big, strong team,” said Wolves head coach John Anderson. “They’re not fancy, but they get the job done. Their defensemen are very efficient, but they also jump into the play and they have a really good goaltender.”
Toronto (40-27-9-0), which won its seventh in a row, opened the scoring with Greg McKegg’s goal at 15:29 of the first period. A Wolves slap shot bounded hard off the end boards and triggered an odd-man rush the other way, which led to Jack Rodewald slicing down the left circle and feeding McKegg on the doorstep for a tap-in.
The Marlies pushed the lead to 3-0 with a pair of unlikely goals 55 seconds apart in the second. Rookie forward Erik Bradford earned his first professional point at 2:46 when his pass from below the goal line went into the net, but only after banking off the inside of Wolves forward Jacob Doty’s and goaltender Matt Climie’s right skates.
Right wing Matt Frattin added his goal at 3:43 as he rifled a shot from the slot that Climie deflected high into the air. Frattin and a teammate rushed toward the crease and Frattin batted the puck home before the Wolves could clear it.
Toronto made it 4-0 at 11:57 of the second as Byron Froese’s pass sprung William Nylander on a breakaway for a perfectly-placed snapper.
The Wolves got on the board with Welsh’s shorthanded goal at 7:55 of the third. Magnus Paajarvi saucered a soft pass from the left circle into the slot for Welsh, who banged a shot off the crossbar and in for his 20th goal of the year.
Chicago continued to push and Fabbri delivered his first professional goal at 11:32. The puck tipped off teammate Colton Parayko’s skate in the right circle and Fabbri flicked a quick shot top-shelf to pull the Wolves within 4-2.
The Wolves pulled Climie with nearly three minutes to go and peppered goaltender Antoine Bibeau with several shots, but Toronto’s T.J. Brennan provided insurance with an empty-net goal at 19:09.
Bibeau (15-10-5) notched 26 saves to pick up the win while Climie (15-14-3) stopped 17 of 21 shots in the loss.
The Wolves earned a playoff berth for the 17th time in their 21-year history and play their first two postseason games at home against the Utica Comets. To find the best ticket specials for the Calder Cup Playoffs, visit ChicagoWolves.com or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.
— Courtesy the Chicago Wolves