“Whew,” were the first words out of Chicago Wolves head coach John Anderson following Saturday night’s 5-3 victory over the conference-leading Abbotsford Heat. The Wolves nearly blew a three-goal lead, but hung on for the win, their 14th straight game at Allstate Arena with at least one point.
“It’s just one game at a time,” said Alexandre Bolduc. “We feel comfortable at home, but we don’t talk about the streak too much.”
Earlier in the night, Grand Rapids defeated Oklahoma City 4-3 to prevent Chicago from taking over the division lead for at least one more day.
“As long as we keep winning games, we’re going to keep moving up,” said Adam Cracknell. “We know who’s ahead of us but we can’t control what Grand Rapids does.”
After leading 4-1 after two periods of play, the Wolves (30-17-4-2) staved off a dominant third period from Abbotsford (33-16-4-1) to preserve the win. Abbotsford scored twice early in the third period on goals from Brett Olson and Corban Knight to cut the lead to 4-3. The goals came just six minutes apart.
“You saw how quick those guys can come back,” said Anderson.
“They can put goals in fast and did that,” said Bolduc. “We were talking about how they can come back easily going into the third and we gave them the opportunities and they capitalized on them.
Despite narrowing the deficit to just one goal, Chicago stayed composed. With 20 seconds to play, Ty Rattie scored his team-leading 20th goal of the season on a diving play on a race for the puck with the net empty to seal the victory.
“You know, it could have been icing too,” said Anderson. “They would have had an (offensive-zone) faceoff with 20 seconds left.”
Abbotsford may be atop the conference, but the Wolves believe they are right there with them.
“The fact that we won is good but we think we can beat anyone in this league,“ said Bolduc. “We want to be that upper-team, where teams are coming after us.”
Cracknell got the Wolves off and running, netting the opening goal just 26 seconds into the first period. Bolduc, Evan Oberg, and Shane Harper also scored for Chicago before Rattie’s tally with the empty net.
Veteran center Keith Aucoin picked up the secondary assist on Oberg’s goal, marking the 600th helper of his AHL career. Aucoin became the fifth player in AHL history to reach the 600 mark. He also made history by playing in his 750th career AHL game, becoming the third active player to do so.
Chicago and Abbotsford will meet again tomorrow afternoon back at Allstate Arena.