GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The hottest team in the AHL’s Western Conference continued its climb up the Central Division standings on Wednesday, as the Grand Rapids Griffins improved to 9-2-0-2 in their last 13 games with a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Wolves at Van Andel Arena.
Turner Elson and Matt Puempel each scored twice while Harri Sateri played perhaps the best game of his nascent Griffins tenure and finished with 33 saves, nine of which were made in the first 10 minutes of the third period when the ice was tilted toward his net and his team nursed a two-goal lead.
Grand Rapids, which sat in seventh place in the Central when its run began on Oct. 27, has risen to third after leapfrogging both Chicago and Rockford with tonight’s victory. The Griffins, who now stand 11-7-0-2 overall and 6-2-0-2 at home, will continue their four-game homestand on Friday when they host the San Antonio Rampage at 7 p.m.
The Wolves controlled play in the early going, outshooting the Griffins 8-2 before being rewarded 9:16 into the contest. Brandon Pirri planted himself outside Sateri’s crease to tip home Zach Whitecloud’s snap shot from the right point.
Puempel answered for Grand Rapids less than three minutes later. Off a Dominic Turgeonfaceoff win in the left circle, he ripped a shot through traffic from the top of the arc that sailed over Max Lagace’s blocker at the 12:01 mark.
Just 3:01 elapsed before Matthew Ford gave the home team a 2-1 advantage. Entering the Chicago zone, Filip Zadina attempted a pass that deflected off a Chicago skate right to the stick of Ford, who sped down the right side and angled into the circle before threading a shot above Lagace’s shoulder into the near corner.
Midway through the middle frame, Elson scored his and the Griffins’ second shorthanded goal of the campaign to push the lead to two. Winning a race to a puck along the right boards just inside the Chicago line, he made a beeline toward the net and lifted a forehand past Lagace from close range at 10:23, in a play that mirrored the shortie he scored against Oscar Dansk in Saturday’s overtime win at Chicago.
A third-period flurry by the Wolves paid dividends with 8:43 remaining, as Jake Bischoff blasted a bouncing puck into the top of the net from the right circle to reduce Grand Rapids’ cushion to 3-2. But Elson provided insurance by tallying his second goal of the night from the left circle at 16:58, off a slick feed from Chris Terry, before Puempel made it a pair by scoring into an empty net with 1:41 on the clock.
Following his first two-goal game since Oct. 13, 2017, Elson now shows points in six of the last eight games (5-5—10), while Filip Hronek extended his point streak to four games (2-4—6) with an assist on Elson’s shorthanded goal. Hronek has also reached the scoresheet in eight of the last 10 contests (3-7—10).
Sateri has won three straight games and five of his last six, improving his personal record to 7-5-0. Lagace turned aside 27 of 31 shots for the Wolves, who have lost three straight to Grand Rapids following a six-game series winning streak that began last season.
Notes: Grand Rapids’ five-game point streak (4-0-0-1) ties a season high…Each team went 0-for-2 on the power play…After the game, the Griffins reassigned defenseman Trevor Hamiltonto the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. He has appeared in five games with Grand Rapids this season, going scoreless with six penalty minutes.
Three Stars: 1. GR Sateri (W, 33 saves); 2. GR Elson (two goals); 3. GR Puempel (two goals)