Griffins and Wolves to Play Decisive Game 5
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - For just the second time in their long and storied rivalry, the Grand Rapids Griffins and Chicago Wolves will face off in a winner-take-all playoff game.
Thanks to Chicago's 5-2 win at Van Andel Arena in Game 4 of the Central Division Semifinals on Wednesday - a result inflated by a pair of empty-net goals in the final two minutes - the Wolves will host the decisive game of this best-of-five series at Allstate Arena at 4 p.m. EDT on Sunday.
A scoreless opening period featured no carryover of the shenanigans from the Griffins' 6-2 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday in which a combined 144 penalty minutes were doled out. Each team was assessed only one minor penalty as Chicago out shot Grand Rapids by an 11-9 count.
The energy began to ramp up in the second period during a Griffins power play that was unsuccessful but generated numerous scoring chances on Oscar Dansk, who last saw action during Grand Rapids' Game 1 win in Chicago on Friday. Just more than a minute after the advantage expired, Derek Hulak ignited the crowd with his first goal of the playoffs, whipping a shot past Dansk from the right circle at 7:02 off a slick pass from Dominik Shine.
The Wolves answered during their own power play 2:17 later, as Nic Hague hammered home a shot from the right circle to knot the score.
An elbowing call against Joe Hicketts at 12:25 drew a chorus of boos from the Van Andel Arena partisans, and Chicago needed all of 19 seconds to tally its second power play goal. From that busy right circle, T.J. Tynan launched a shot over Harri Sateri's blocker, putting the visitors ahead 2-1.
With less than three minutes to play in the eventful period, the Griffins momentarily thought they had forged a tie when a Filip Hronek blast from the right point got past Dansk, but a referee immediately waved off the goal and confirmed the call via a quick trip to the scorer's table for a video review.
Sixty-three seconds into the third, Chicago expanded its advantage to 3-1 on a Cody Glass goal from the bottom of the left circle, but the Griffins responded just 1:05 later to claw back within one. On a rush into the Wolves' zone, Hronek slid the puck to the left wing to Turner Elson, whose wrist shot snuck inside Dansk's far post.
Grand Rapids was unable to pot the equalizer, though, and the Wolves tacked on empty-net goals by Tye McGinn at 18:41 and Keegan Kolesar at 19:49 for the misleading final margin.
Dansk and Sateri each finished with 29 saves. Grand Rapids failed to score on three power play opportunities while Chicago converted two of its four chances.
The Griffins have yet to trail in this series, having won each odd-numbered contest including a 5-1 victory in Game 1 in the Windy City last Friday. Grand Rapids, which is 2-3 all time when playing a decisive Game 5, lost one to Chicago on home ice to conclude the 2002 Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Notes: Grand Rapids is now 20-19 when its opponent faces playoff elimination, including 9-14 at home...The Griffins played without forwards Givani Smith and Dominic Turgeon, who earlier today were suspended by the AHL for one and two games, respectively, as consequences of separate incidents that occurred in Grand Rapids' Game 3 triumph on Tuesday...Captain Matthew Ford and alternate captain Brian Lashoff were also scratched due to injuries...Former University of Denver forward Jarid Lukosevicius made his pro debut for the Griffins...Tonight's attendance of 7,710 was the second-largest so far in the AHL playoffs...Only once has Grand Rapids played a decisive Game 5 on the road, as it concluded its inaugural season with a 3-2 loss at Orlando in the 1997 IHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals...The Griffins' last four winner-take-all Game 5s have all come at home as members of the AHL, beating Toronto in 2015 and Houston in 2013 while losing to Manitoba in 2018 and Chicago in 2002.
Three Stars: 1. CHI Glass (game-winning goal); 2. CHI McGinn (goal, two assists); 3. GR Hulak (goal)
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