ROSEMONT, Ill. – After allowing a goal midway through the opening period, the Grand Rapids Griffins responded with five unanswered tallies to seize a 5-1 victory over the Chicago Wolves on Friday in Game 1 of the Central Division Semifinals and steal home-ice advantage in the best-of-five series.
Harri Sateri’s 29 saves enabled the Griffins to withstand numerous flurries by the Wolves as the game hung in the balance, while Dominic Turgeon led the way offensively with a goal and an assist. As a result, Grand Rapids earned its second straight Game 1 win at Allstate Arena against a division-champion Chicago squad, following a 4-1 triumph in the opener of the 2017 Central Division Finals during its run to the Calder Cup.
After giving Ben Simon his first playoff victory as an AHL head coach, the Griffins will look to extend their series lead on Saturday when Chicago hosts Game 2 at 8 p.m. EDT.
Oscar Dansk thwarted the first prime scoring chance of the early going, flashing his glove to rob Givani Smith at the right post 7:52 into the game, and the Wolves struck less than a minute later. Off a draw in the left circle, the puck bounced to Tye McGinn on the right wing, and his whack from the hashmarks snuck past Sateri’s left shoulder at 8:28.
Five minutes later, Sateri denied a point-blank rebound attempt by Tyler Wong to keep the Griffins’ deficit at one, and Colin Campbell cleaned up a goalmouth scramble in the final minute of the frame to knot the score. Dansk turned back a wraparound try by Turgeon and a deflection off a teammate’s skate before Campbell swooped in to slip a backhand inside the left post with 42 seconds left before intermission.
The Griffins’ power play, which was silent over the final three games of the regular season, gave the visitors their first lead of the postseason 10:01 into the second period. Off a nifty cross-ice pass by Filip Hronek, Carter Camper fired a shot from the top of the right arc that sailed wide of the goal, but Matt Puempel was waiting at the bottom of the left circle to pop the carom into a wide-open net.
Sateri preserved that slim cushion four minutes into the third when Keegan Kolesar found McGinn alone in the slot for a shot that was stopped by the netminder’s right pad, and Sateri then helped the Griffins survive an avalanche of chances during a wild first 30 seconds of a Chicago power play.
Turgeon gave Grand Rapids insurance at the 13:10 mark, taking a Christoffer Ehn feed out of the left corner and putting a backhand off Dansk and in to make it 3-1, a play made possible by Campbell’s ferocious forechecking that forced a turnover behind the Chicago cage. Turner Elson then scored into an empty net at 17:06 and Dominik Shine followed up by lifting a shot over Dansk from the slot at 17:39 for the final margin. Dansk finished with 26 saves.
With Puempel’s tally standing as the only power play goal scored by either team – Grand Rapids had just that one opportunity to Chicago’s four – the Griffins are now 4-0 against the Wolves this season when not allowing a power play goal and 0-5 when surrendering one.
The start to this series is reminiscent of the 2016 Central Division Semifinals, when the Griffins swept the first-place Milwaukee Admirals after losing their last five regular season games. Grand Rapids had dropped nine straight games prior to tonight’s victory over the top-seeded Wolves, with its last win having come 5-2 at Iowa on March 26.
All time, the Griffins are 4-2 in best-of-five series after taking a 1-0 lead, including 2-1 when winning Game 1 on the road.
Notes: The Griffins earned their fourth straight playoff win against the Wolves and sent Chicago to its seventh consecutive postseason loss, with both streaks dating to their 2017 clash…Grand Rapids last won four straight playoff games versus Chicago in 2003, with a sweep of the Western Conference Semifinals…Campbell’s goal was his second in 41 career playoff games with Grand Rapids, having gone 27 games without a goal since scoring against Milwaukee on April 26, 2016…Due to injuries, the Wolves played without newly crowned AHL MVP Daniel Carr (30-41—71) as well as potent forward Brooks Macek (26—34—60) and defenseman Dylan Coghlan (15-25—40). Captain Matthew Ford was the Griffins’ only injured scratch.
Three Stars: 1. GR Turgeon (goal, assist); 2. GR Puempel (game-winning/power play goal); 3. GR Sateri (W, 29 saves)