Wolves Hand Griffins Rare Home Loss
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Two power play goals helped the Chicago Wolves jump out to a 3-0 lead over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Sunday afternoon, and they survived a third-period surge by the home team to take a 4-1 victory that tightened the Central Division race and served as a rare setback for the Griffins at Van Andel Arena.
The regulation loss was just the second for the Griffins in their last 11 home games and the third in their last 20, as they had posted an 8-1-0-1 record within friendly confines since Dec. 19 and a 14-2-1-2 mark since Nov. 16.
Now 28-16-3-4 overall and 18-5-1-3 at home, Grand Rapids remains in first place with a two-point lead over Iowa and a three-point margin over Chicago (27-15-5-1). The Griffins will continue their seven-game homestand this Friday and Saturday when the San Antonio Rampage pay a pair of 7 p.m. visits to West Michigan.
The Griffins took some time to awake from their afternoon slumber, as their first shot on goal did not come for 11:41, by which time Chicago had already registered six of its own. The Wolves finished the frame with an 11-5 advantage in shots, breaking through Harri Sateri with 18 seconds left. With just two ticks remaining in a Chicago power play, Nic Hague set up at the top of the right circle and blasted a one-timer that hit Joe Hicketts on its way into the net.
Grand Rapids fired the first four shots of the middle period before the Wolves used another power play opportunity to double their lead, as Curtis McKenzie whiffed on his initial try from the slot before whipping the puck past Sateri's blocker at the 3:32 mark.
Just over six minutes in, heavyweights Dylan McIlrath and Alex Gallant took center stage in a mid-ice fight that was even for the first 20 seconds, before McIlrath unleashed nine unanswered rights and took Gallant down to the ice. The Griffins' offense, though, did not benefit from any spark, and Chicago went ahead 3-0 with 3:18 remaining before intermission. Brooks Macek forced Axel Holmstrom into a turnover along the right boards, and Gage Quinney collected the loose puck in the high slot and fired a wrister inside the left post.
Filip Zadina put the Griffins on the board with his 13th goal of the season at the 4:35 mark of the third. Matt Puempel attempted to bank the puck off Lagace's back from below the right goal line, but it ended up landing on the netminder's right pad before falling to the ice, and Zadina was able to smack the puck across the line before the cavalry arrived.
The Griffins gained momentum and maintained their hopes for a comeback by killing off 1:07 of a 5-on-3 Chicago power play midway through the period, and their chances further improved thanks to a boarding penalty on Keegan Kolesar with 8:11 remaining. Sateri did his part by stifling a shorthanded breakaway by Stefan Matteau, and Grand Rapids immediately went on another power play thanks to a cross-checking call on Griffin Reinhart.
After that opportunity also went by the wayside, the Griffins pulled Sateri for an extra attacker and nearly reaped dividends with 1:26 remaining. Carter Camper roofed a sharp-angle shot from the left side that was signaled as a goal on the ice but overturned after a lengthy video review, and the Griffins - who out-shot the Wolves 19-7 over the final 20 minutes - allowed an empty-net goal to Daniel Carr at 19:58 for the final margin.
Lagace earned first star honors behind 34 saves while Sateri turned back 27 of 30 shots by Chicago. Grand Rapids, which saw the Wolves convert two of six power play chances, failed on its five attempts.
Three Stars: 1. CHI Lagace (W, 34 saves); 2. CHI McKenzie (power play/game-winning goal); 3. GR Zadina (goal)
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