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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Wolves shutout Omaha 5-0. Solidify lead

The Chicago Wolves defeated the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights 5-0. The shutout could be the most important victory for the Wolves this month as Omaha was just two points behind the Wolves in the standings. A loss would have tied the teams and moved the momentum decisively into Omaha’s favor.

The shutout, in Omaha, featured goals by Darren Haydar, two goals by Brett Sterling and two goals by Jordan LaVallee. Sterling scored his second goal on the power play, LaVallee scored his first on the power play.

The first period was marked by a bruising fight between Wolves defenseman Guillaume Desbiens and Knights Brandon Pruist. Fourteen additional minutes of penalties interrupted the first frame as the Wolves traded knocks with the Knights. Nathan Oystrick and Derek Couture were given double minors during the period for roughing. The Wolves had three incomplete power play opportunities in the period and Haydar’s goal.

Leading 1-0, the Wolves received two penalties early in the second period. After Omaha was unable to capitalize on their opportunities, Sterling scored, putting the Wolves up 2-0. The Knights took two minor penalties to close the second half of the period, stopping the Wolves from taking further advantage of the situation. Only six Knights shots on goal were recorded in the second frame, versus nine for the Wolves.

Entering the final frame up 2-0, the Wolves received two additional minor penalties in the first half of the third period, but held Omaha off. In the final ten minutes, the Wolves scored three times. The first power play goal by Sterling was due to a 5 on 3 power play. The second power play, just 32 seconds later was also on the same power play. The final goal occurred in the final minute of the game.

Fred Brathwaite stopped 24 shots on goal for the win for his first shutout of the season. Curtis McElhinney stopped 29 shots on goal for the loss. The win snapped a red-hot Omaha team, on a seven game winning streak. The Wolves have improved their power play to 21.2 percent, the third best in the American Hockey League. Their penalty killing is ranked 16th at 81.8 percent. Sterling continues to lead the league among all rookies in scoring, while Haydar leads the league in points. Cory Larose is now climbing the list of league skaters at number eleven. With his victory, Brathwaite is ranked 16th in the league among goalies.

The Wolves are tied for third place in the league with 63 points. They lead the Western Division and are tied for first in the North Conference. Omaha is four points behind the Wolves at 59 points, followed by Milwaukee at 52 points, Iowa at 51 points and Peoria at 49 points.

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