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With trade deadline looming, depleted Wolves beat IceHogs

One day before the trade deadline, the victory enabled the Wolves (26-24-3-2, 57 points) to take a two-point lead over the IceHogs for the Central Division’s last playoff spot. 

The Wolves celebrate one of their goals during Sunday’s win over the IceHogs
Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

The Wolves overcame attrition and earned an important win Sunday. But Vegas still has time to deplete the roster even more.

A day before the NHL trade deadline, the Wolves were without many key players but still beat the Rockford IceHogs 5-1 at Allstate Arena. Keegan Kolesar (right knee) hasn’t played since Jan. 31, and Gage Quinney, Zach Whitecloud and Nicolas Roy are up with the Golden Knights.

Lucas Elvenes (upper body), Cody Glass (right knee), Jimmy Schuldt (upper body) and Valentin Zykov (illness) were unavailable, and Patrick Brown was recalled to Vegas after Roy left Saturday’s Golden Knights game with an injury.

To help fill out the roster, the Wolves signed ECHL forwards

Dan DeSalvo, Cam Maclise and Shawn St-Amant to player-tryout contracts.

But for one day anyway, the Wolves had more than enough to beat an IceHogs team playing for the third consecutive day.

Brandon Pirri and Paul Cotter scored twice, Dylan Coghlan added a goal and the Wolves snapped a two-game winless streak despite being outshot 31-22. The victory enabled the Wolves (26-24-3-2, 57 points) to take a two-point lead over the IceHogs for the Central Division’s final playoff spot.

“It shows that we were ready,” said Cotter, who hadn’t scored since Dec. 28. “Coach [Rocky Thompson] kind of came in and said some of us younger guys that don’t have so much ice in the normal season, it’s time to step up.”

Another threat is looming to the roster.

Monday is the NHL trade deadline, and parent-club Vegas is once again a contender for the Stanley Cup. By placing Alex Tuch on long-term injured reserve and sending Cody Eakin to Winnipeg, the Golden Knights created enough room under the cap to make a move that could involve their prospects.

That could affect the Wolves, who were dinged last year when standout defenseman Erik Brannstrom was dealt to the Senators for Mark Stone. As for this year, Thompson quipped he’ll be watching Twitter to keep up with any developments and said the team’s bus will be leaving their Hoffman Estates training facility for the game Tuesday in Iowa a little later than normal in case a move is made Monday.

In his position, Thompson said the best thing he can do is wait and see. When reminded how different his team could look in 24 hours, Thompson said it already has changed plenty in the last week, which is part of life in the AHL.

“That’s just the way it is,” he said. “Used to that.”

Cotter, in his first professional season, will be going through his first deadline. He could see teammates departing in deals to help Vegas, but not the Wolves.

“You can’t really control things you can’t control,” Cotter said. “If anything happens, it’s for a reason, and I’m sure that if anybody leaves, we’re definitely going to miss them, but it’s a good opportunity for them to move on and get better. Hopefully there’s no moves, but I think we’re going hot right now. We’ve got to keep it going.”