ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - With the playoffs approaching and the Western Conference race tightening, the Chicago Wolves finally showed they could perform under pressure.
Down a goal heading into the third period, the Wolves came from behind to win 5-4 in a shootout over the Abbotsford Heat in American Hockey League action.
Heading into Thursday in Abbotsford, the Vancouver Canucks' farm club was 0-19-0 when trailing after two periods.
"It's a big step for our team," said Jordan Schroeder, who scored twice for the Wolves. "We haven't really done that all year. For us to come back in the third and get the shootout win is great.
"Any time you score and help your team win it's definitely a big boost."
Mark Mancari scored the lone goal in the shootout after the Wolves came back to tie the game in the third period.
Eddie Lack stopped Dustin Sylvester to clinch the win. Lack made 19 saves in the victory, though he had to stop just five shots in the final 25 minutes.
"He made some big saves for them," said Abbotsford's Ben Walter. "Especially in the shootout. There's not much room on him. He?s the kind of goalie that?s going to make the first save most of the time and we???ve just got to get to the rebounds."
Rookie Brad Hunt recorded his first professional goal and added an assist, while Tim Miller also scored for the visiting Wolves (38-25-5), who increased their lead in the Midwest Division to six points, solidifying their hold on the third seed in the Western Conference.
"Every game right now is huge," said Wolves defenceman Kevin Connauton. "The standings are so tight and every point counts. I don???t even know if we'll clinch a spot until the last three games maybe. Those points are huge tonight and we need to continue and pick up another two tomorrow."
Paul Byron, Hugh Jessiman, Joe Piskula and Krys Kolanos scored for Abbotsford (35-26-8).
Leland Irving stopped 30 shots in the loss, but the single point allowed Abbotsford to hold on to fourth place in the Western Conference.
The Wolves took the lead in the season series 4-2-1. The teams have developed a rivalry this season since Chicago is the Canucks' farm club, just an hour's drive from Abbotsford.
The Heat opened the scoring on their first shot of the game at 4:02. Sylvester poked the puck away from Mark Matheson and went in on two-on-one with Byron. He faked a shot, held up and slid it over to Byron who easily redirected it past Lack for his fifth of the season.
With the Wolves killing a too many men minor, Miller tied the game at 12:33 on a short-handed rush. He wired a shot past Irving's glove for his 18th goal of the season and his second short handed.
"We can't give up short-handed goals this time of year and be an effective team," Ward said.
The Heat regained the lead just as the Wolves' penalty expired. Jessiman took a pass from Greg Nemisz, wheeled out to the face-off dot and wired a shot short-side on Lack at 13:16.
Schroeder scored twice in 25 seconds in the second period to give Chicago their first lead of the game. Brad Hunt???s point shot was deflected by Schroeder in front at 5:51, then Schroeder took a feed from Michael Davies and slid a puck under Irving for his 19th of the season.
"Sometimes you get lucky bounces if you go to the net," Schroeder said. "I was fortunate to get one off the leg and kind of got me going. That same shift my line mates made a great play and it ended up in the back of the net."
The Heat stormed right back. Piskula threw a puck towards the net that snaked its way through bodies into the net at 11:43. It was the veteran defenceman???s third of the season.
The Heat regained the lead on their third power play of the game. Off the draw the puck came back to Kolanos, who???s one-timer slapshot at 14:17 gave him 23 on the season.
With ex-Wolf J.P. Testwuide in the box for tripping the Wolves tied the game. Hunt redirected a pass from Steve Reinprecht in the slot at 12:37 for his first AHL goal.
"It feels great," said Hunt, who played his minor hockey just across the Fraser River in Ridge Meadows. "It was a nice pass from Reinprecht. It???s just good to get the first one out of the way and to get it at home in front of my family and friends."
The Heat had just three shots on goal in the third period and none until Hunt?????????s power play goal, the second man advantage for the Wolves in the third.
"If you've got a lead in the third period you want to stay out of the box," said Heat captain Quintin Laing. "We didn?????????t do that and we paid a price for it."
The two teams face-off again Friday night at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
NOTES: Heat captain Quintin Laing returned Thursday after missing seven games with a cut on his foot?????????winger Jon Rheault is set to return from injury Friday and Roman Horak was reassigned to the Heat by the Calgary Flames Thursday morning and will join the team Friday?????????The Canucks????????? farm team is 9-1-1 now playing in Abbotsford, dating back to when the affiliate was the Manitoba Moose.