GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 2 at Chicago Wolves 4
ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Chicago Wolves responded to an early deficit by scoring four consecutive goals en route to a 4-2 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Sunday in the decisive Game 5 of the Central Division Semifinals at Allstate Arena.
Two years after ending Chicago’s season in the second round on the way to their second Calder Cup, the Griffins saw their franchise-record seventh consecutive playoff run end at the hands of their most frequent postseason rival. Coupled with its home-ice loss to the Wolves in Game 5 of the 2002 Western Conference Quarterfinals, Grand Rapids has dropped both winner-take-all games against Chicago in its playoff history and now owns a 2-4 series mark versus the Wolves.
Division champ Chicago advances to the best-of-seven Central Division Finals to face either the second-seeded Milwaukee Admirals or the third-seeded Iowa Wild. That series is tied 2-2 following consecutive Admirals wins, with Game 5 set for Monday in Milwaukee.
The Griffins had the game’s first scoring chance on a Wade Megan breakaway just 60 seconds in, but Oscar Dansk swallowed that backhand attempt before turning aside shots by Givani Smith and Joe Hicketts less than two minutes later. Vili Saarijarvi, making his first appearance of the playoffs in place of the injured Dylan McIlrath, staked Grand Rapids to that 1-0 lead at 7:22, planting himself just outside the crease to knock the rebound of a Chris Terry shot across the line.
Early in the second period, the Wolves hemmed the Griffins in their own zone for 80 seconds before taking advantage of their weary opponent to knot the score, as Cody Glass’ shot from the point sailed past a screened Harri Sateri and into the top left corner of the net at 3:41.
Less than two minutes later, the Wolves grabbed the upper hand on their fifth power play goal of the series, with Tomas Hyka slamming home a puck below the left circle at the 5:31 mark. Chicago then struck for its third unanswered goal of the frame at 13:08 thanks to a textbook lucky bounce. Jake Bischoff’s misfired one-timer from the point was blocked by Filip Zadina but the puck fell right onto the stick of Keegan Kolesar, whose quick shot from the high slot eluded Sateri for his first of two goals on the afternoon and a 3-1 Chicago advantage.
Just over three minutes into the final frame, after Grand Rapids had failed to score on its only power play chance of the game, Curtis McKenzie hit Kolesar with a backdoor pass to finish off a 2-on-1 and increase the home team’s margin to three goals with 16:54 remaining. T.J. Tynan earned his third secondary assist of the day for the Wolves, who converted one of their five power play opportunities.
The Griffins pulled Sateri for an extra attacker with 3:56 left and inched within two at 19:26 on Colin Campbell’s third goal of the postseason, but they could not get any closer despite a late flurry around the Wolves’ net.
Grand Rapids finished with a 32-20 edge in shots. Sateri made 16 saves while Dansk answered with 30.
Grand Rapids fell to 4-6 all time in winner-take-all playoff games, including 2-4 in Game 5s, 0-2 in Game 5s on the road, and 0-3 in decisive Game 5s or Game 7s away from home.
Notes: Three veteran leaders were missing from the Griffins’ lineup due to injuries – captain Matthew Ford and alternates McIlrath and Brian Lashoff – while fellow 2017 Calder Cup champion Dominic Turgeon served the second game of his suspension that was handed down by the AHL in the wake of Game 3…The winner of three of the five previous playoff clashes between Grand Rapids and Chicago continued on to win the league’s championship…The Griffins’ previous four winner-take-all Game 5s all came 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 Kolesar (two goals); 2. CHI Hyka (power play goal, assist); 3. CHI Dansk (W, 30 saves)