SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – In a special-teams battle between the Chicago Wolves and the Springfield Thunderbirds in Game 4 of the Calder Cup Finals, the visiting Wolves survived nine penalty kills and struck twice in five opportunities of their own to give them an opportunity to win the Calder Cup on Saturday night in Game 5 following Friday’s 4-2 win.
Pyotr Kochetkov turned in another fantastic effort with 39 saves on 41 shots while Joel Hofer took the loss with 28 -of-31 stops. The win is Kochetkov’s third straight since taking over goaltending duties for Alex Lyon in Game 2, while Springfield has consistently rotated Hofer and Charlie Lindgren over the course of the series.
Chicago had a great start to the game, firing 17 shots in the first period at Hofer including an unsuccessful penalty shot for Richard Panik, but the real damage was done on the power play as the Wolves got goals from Jack Drury and Panik got another with just 12 seconds to play in the frame to take a commanding 2-0 lead to the room for their efforts. Drury’s shot fooled Hofer as it went off the stick of Steven Santini, while Panik found himself alone in front of the net after a perfect centering pass from Andrew Poturalski.
— Andrew Rinaldi (@FPHWolves) June 24, 2022
Chicago would score the eventual game-winner early in the second period when Poturalski stole the puck at the Springfield blue line and beat Hofer over the shoulder to make it 3-0 in favor of the visitors. Poturalski added to his incredible playoff with the two points for 21 total, joining one of the other scorers in Drury among the league’s best. Springfield poured on the pressure in the second period with 21 shots on Kochetkov, thanks largely to a stretch of four straight power plays. The Thunderbirds’ power play has struggled in recent time after getting blanked in Game 3 but finally broke through when Klim Kostin worked his way to the slot and buried a perfect shot to cut into the Wolves’ lead.
— Andrew Rinaldi (@FPHWolves) June 25, 2022
— Corey Swartz (@cswa11) June 25, 2022
Much as it did a game before, Chicago gave Springfield and their sold-out crowd at MassMutual Center very little to cheer about aside from the goal. The two teams played a very defensive third period with few shots and fewer big chances. The Wolves would ultimately ice the game when Josh Leivo scored his 14th goal of the playoffs with a shot from his own end of the ice that managed to beat the Springfield defense into the empty net to make it 4-1. Springfield struck back before the game was over when James Neal beat Kochetkov with a shot to the far side corner, but it was ultimately too little, too late as Chicago took the win by a 4-2 final score.
The win puts the Wolves on the cusp of their third Calder Cup title and first since 2008. It would be the second straight Calder Cup to be won by an affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes and speaks volumes to the organization’s ability to put successful teams at the NHL and AHL level. Springfield will look to get back on track after losing three straight games for the first time in these Calder Cup Playoffs and will need to win three straight games for the third time in the playoffs in order to win the title. Springfield’s special teams have proven to be the difference in this series as they’ve been outdueled to this point, which will be the key to extending the series to a sixth game.
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