Rookie defenseman Paul Postma notched two goals in the game’s final 20 minutes to complete his first professional hat trick – and the first by a Wolves player this season – and spark the Wolves offense, which had trailed San Antonio since the 5:44 mark of the first period.
The win was the eighth consecutive victory for Chicago (37-17-0-4), which is a season high. The Wolves have been handed just two regulation losses in their last 23 games (19-2-0-2) on the way to grabbing hold of first place in the West Division with 78 points.
“In the third period they played like they can play,” said Wolves Head Coach Don Lever. “We didn’t play well in front of Peter at the beginning, but we changed the momentum and found a way to come back.”
Trailing 4-3 entering the third period, the Wolves regrouped and tied the game 43 seconds into the frame when Postma clapped a shot from the blueline that skipped past San Antonio goaltender Justin Pogge.
The Wolves took their first lead of the night, 5-4, 4:54 into the third period. Right wing Anthony Stewart lobbed a shot at the net, which Pogge turned away, but center Kevin Doell pounced on the rebound and lifted it up over the netminder before he had time to react.
Chicago inched further ahead, 6-4, 1:32 later. Center Jason Krog took a shot from the left face-off circle and left wing Brett Sterling was there to pop the rebound back at Pogge.
Postma rounded out scoring, 7-4, with his third of the game with 5:07 left to play. Parked at the blueline, Postma took a pass from Jamie Hunt, wound up and cranked a slapshot past Pogge.
San Antonio (24-24-3-6) took an early lead, 5:44 into the contest when Kyle Turris flicked a wrist shot from the right face-off circle up into the corner of the net.
The Rampage pulled ahead, 2-0, with a marker from Stu Bickel at 9:49 of the first period. A San Antonio skater took a shot from the blue line, which ricocheted off a stick in front of the net and bounced past Wolves goaltender Peter Mannino.
Chicago cut San Antonio’s lead to 2-1 when Mike Vernace collected the rebound from Joey Crabb’s shot and roofed a backhand past Pogge at 12:18 of the opening frame.
Pogge (10-7-3) turned aside 30 shots for the Rampage.
San Antonio regained their two-goal pad, 3-1, on the power play at 14:43 of the first frame. Center Kevin Porter angled a shot from the side of the net, which Mannino got a piece of, but the puck escaped under his pads and trickled over the goal line.
The Wolves narrowed the gap to one goal, 3-2, with five seconds left in the first period. Working on the power-play, Crabb held the puck at the far circle and sent a pass to Postma at the blueline who rocketed a blast past a screened Pogge.
Chad Kolarik sent Mannino to the bench when he collected a rebound and lifted it up over his shoulder to make the score 4-2, 2:01 into the second period. Goalie Drew MacIntyre (16-11-1) replaced Mannino and made 21 saves on 21 shots in 37:59 of relief duty to pick up the win, his eighth in a row.
Johnny Pohl cut Chicago’s deficit to 4-3 with 20 seconds remaining in the second period. The center took a pass from Jason Krog in the slot and whacked it past Pogge.
The Wolves are idle till Friday, when they visit Carver Arena to take on the Peoria Rivermen at 7 p.m.
San Antonio 3 1 0 -- 4
Chicago 2 1 4 -- 7
First Period---1, San Antonio, Turris 13 (Kolarik, Schlemko), 5:44; 2, San Antonio, Bickel 2 (unassisted), 9:49; 3, Chicago, Vernace 2 (Crabb, Vishnevskiy), 12:18; 4, San Antonio, Porter 14 (Turris, Boedker), 14:43 pp; 5, Chicago, Postma 7 (Crabb, Stewart), 19:55 pp. Penalties---Simpson, Chicago (hooking), 13:48; Crabb, Chicago (elbowing), 14:17; Watkins, San Antonio (hooking), 18:30.
Second Period---6, San Antonio, Kolarik 17 (MacLean, Sullivan), 2:01; 7, Chicago, Pohl 14 (Krog, Verance), 19:40. Penalties---Lessard, San Antonio (fighting), 5:24; Simpson, Chicago (fighting), 5:24; MacLean, San Antonio (tripping), 4:01; Meyer, San Antonio (fighting), 20:00; Machacek, Chicago (fighting), 20:00.
Third Period---8, Chicago, Postma 8 (Crabb), Stapleton) 0:43; 9, Chicago, Doell 8 (Stewart, Hunt), 4:54; 10, Chicago, Sterling 33 (Krog, Postma), 6:26; 11, Chicago, Postma 9 (Hunt, Welch), 14:53. Penalties---None.
Shots on goal---San Antonio: 12-11-12--35. Chicago: 12-12-13--37. Power plays---San Antonio: 1-2. Chicago: 1-2. Goalies---San Antonio, Pogge (30-37). Chicago, Mannino (10-14) 21:56, replaced by MacIntyre (21-21) 37:59. A---8,612. Referee---Chris Brown. Linesmen---Aaron Mills and Dan Cohen.