GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Chicago Wolves kicked off their 23rd season with a 3-1 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday night at Van Andel Arena.

Veteran forward Brett Sterling, playing his first game for the Wolves since April 21, 2013, broke away from the pack late in the second period to deliver Chicago’s lone tally – giving him 168 career goals in a Wolves uniform.

Chicago kept up the pressure in the third period, but couldn’t find the equalizer and Grand Rapids tacked on a Mitch Callahan’s empty-net goal with 18 seconds to play for the win.

The Wolves’ record in season openers dropped to 14-7-1-1. Chicago (0-1-0-0) and Grand Rapids (1-0-0-0) meet again Saturday night at Allstate Arena when the Wolves host their home opener at 7 p.m.

“I don’t think we executed very well or skated very well tonight,” said Wolves head coach Craig Berube. “We gave ourselves a chance, but too many penalties.”

The Wolves started slowly as Grand Rapids uncorked nine of the game’s first 10 shots. The Griffins broke on top 14:55 into the first period when Callahan redirected Kyle Criscuolo’s wrist shot past goaltender Jordan Binnington.

Grand Rapids pushed its lead to 2-0 just 35 seconds into the second period as Anthony Mantha authored a blast from between the circles for a power-play goal.

The Wolves slashed the margin in half at 15:47 of the second on Sterling’s first goal for the team since April 16, 2013. Brad Hunt chased a loose puck back to the goal line and whistled a long pass toward the blue line for Landon Ferraro, who pitched the puck ahead to Sterling for an unimpeded flip past goaltender Jared Coreau.

Coreau (1-0-0) stopped 27 of 28 shots – including a miraculous glove save on Sterling early in the third period when it appeared the net was wide-open. Wolves goaltender Binnington (0-1-0) rejected 31 of 33 shots in the loss.

“Binnington played really well,” Berube said. “He gave us a chance to win.”

The Wolves host a free tailgate party prior to Saturday’s 7 p.m. home opener against Grand Rapids. The fun starts at 4 p.m. in Allstate Arena’s West Lot. The first 5,000 to enter the arena receive a Static Cling schedule, courtesy of Savers.

To purchase tickets or get more information about the Wolves’ home opener, visit ChicagoWolves.com or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.