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Griffins drop 5-1 decision to Chicago Wolves

GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 1 at Chicago Wolves 5

Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

ROSEMONT, Ill. – Powered by Brooks Macek’s hat trick, the Chicago Wolves defeated the Grand Rapids Griffins by a 5-1 final on Saturday night at Allstate Arena.

Rookie David Pope opened the game’s scoring with his first professional goal, but Chicago retaliated with three tallies over a 3:11 span later in the first period to take the lead for good. The Wolves tacked on two more goals in a 2:38 stretch late in the second frame to provide the closing margin. Goaltender Max Lagace stopped 32 shots to help the Wolves (3-0-0-0) remain unbeaten.

The Griffins (1-3-0-0) will return to Van Andel Arena for a pair of games next week. First up is the Texas Stars on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Pope’s initial goal put the visitors on top 3:22 into the contest. While on the man-advantage, Pope received a pass from Vili Saarijarvi at the near circle and, after turning with the puck, let go a low shot that found its way between Lagace’s pads.

Macek notched his first AHL goal with 7:57 remaining in the opening period to tie the game. An accidental collision between Saarijarvi and Matt Finn on the Griffins’ blueline allowed Macek to skate in uncontested and tuck a backhand shot underneath the crossbar. Macek, selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, is skating in his first AHL campaign after spending the last five in Germany.

Just 1:21 later the Wolves took a 2-1 advantage. With Chicago pressuring in the offensive zone and a Grand Rapids skater playing without a stick, Zac Leslie’s shot from high in the slot sped through traffic and beat Patrik Rybar to the glove side. Rybar finished with 19 saves on the night while making his first career start in North America.

Chicago took a two-goal margin into the first intermission, thanks to Brandon Pirri’s power play marker at 15:14. Curtis McKenzie dropped a cross-ice feed for a charging Pirri at the left circle, who unfurled a shot to the short side of the goal past the stick of Rybar.

Grand Rapids nearly posted its second power play goal of the game with 13:47 remaining in the second period. Matt Puempel’s attempt from the far circle trickled past Lagace and the puck was on its way to rolling over the line before Leslie crashed in at the last moment to paddle it away.

Despite Grand Rapids holding an 11-7 advantage in second-period shots that included a 9-1 edge at one point more than halfway through the frame, it was the Wolves who would put two in the net.

After Chicago won an offensive-zone faceoff, Macek from behind the goal line in the right corner aimed a sharp-angle shot at Rybar that caromed off the netminder’s right pad and went in with 2:44 left in the period. With only six seconds remaining in the stanza, Macek completed the hat trick when his backhand shot from in front of the goal mouth hit the twine.

Grand Rapids concluded the contest 1-for-6 on the power play, while Chicago capitalized once on four tries.

Notes: Chicago has won six consecutive contests against the Griffins…The two rivals will meet seven more times this season…Macek’s hat trick was the first three-goal game by an opposing player since Chandler Stephenson of Hershey did so on Oct. 21, 2017.

Three Stars: 1. CHI Macek (hat trick); 2. CHI Carr (three assists); 3. CHI Leslie (game-winning goal)