Surging Wolves earn statement win over visiting Abbotsford
BY BRIAN SANDALOW For Sun-Times Media February 22, 2014 11:10PM
Updated: March 24, 2014 6:53AM
The Wolves want to be the Abbotsford Heat. They want to lead the Western Conference and build some of the American Hockey League’s longest streaks.
Except for a few minutes Saturday, the Wolves looked even better than that.
Adam Cracknell, Alexandre Bolduc, Evan Oberg and Shane Harper scored before Ty Rattie tallied an empty-netter to clinch a 5-3 victory for the Wolves (30-17-4-2), who extended their home point streak to 14 and stayed one point behind Grand Rapids for the Midwest Division lead. Matt Climie made 34 saves and won for the first time since Feb. 1.
Abbotsford entered the night leading the West with 71 points and on a 12-game point streak. The Wolves, who had their eight-game run snapped Friday in Rockford, built a 4-1 lead through two periods but allowed two goals in the first seven minutes of the third. But that was it for Abbotsford.
‘‘We’ll take it, but we want to be that team now, and we think we are,’’ Bolduc said. ‘‘The fact that we won is good, but we think we can beat anyone in this league now, and we want to be that upper team that teams are coming after.’’
The Wolves led 2-1 after the first period, thanks to goals from Cracknell and Bolduc. Cracknell’s goal came 26 seconds in, and Bolduc doubled the lead at 14:33. That lead was cut in half with 28.9 seconds to go when a dump-in from the neutral zone by Chad Billins took a bad bounce in the slot and fooled Climie.
The unfortunate end to the first did little to slow down the Wolves in the second, who scored twice to take a 4-1 lead. Oberg’s goal with 13:14 left in the period gave the Wolves a 3-1 lead, then Harper redirected a shot by Jani Hakanpaa at the 11:57 mark to build the edge to 4-1 and send Heat goalie Olivier Roy (16 saves) to the bench.
That only set up a third period that was more tense than the Wolves needed. Not that it ended up hurting them.
‘‘It was a good win for us,’’ coach John Anderson said. ‘‘You see why they’re in first place.’’
Cracknell added two assists, and Keith Aucoin’s second-period helper made him the fifth man in league history with 600.
The Wolves host the Heat again at 3 p.m. Sunday.