ROSEMONT, Ill. – Matt Lorito netted two goals to lead the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Wolves Friday night at Allstate Arena in a showdown of the Central Division’s top teams.
The Wolves (25-16-3-3) kept pace with the Griffins (29-12-1-2) for the majority of the game as forwards Samuel Blais and Kenny Agostino scored, but goals from Brian Lashoff and Lorito in the third period sealed the victory for Grand Rapids.
“I didn’t mind a lot of the game, to be honest with you,” said Wolves head coach Craig Berube. “We didn’t put enough opportunities away. We’ve got to execute a little better (Saturday against Rockford).”
The Griffins struck just 1:29 into the first frame on an early power-play chance when Ben Street netted his third goal of the season against the Wolves with help from Martin Frk.
Thanks to a strong shift from Andrew Agozzino, Blais, Vince Dunn, Petteri Lindbohm and Brett Sterling, Chicago countered at 9:14 of the first. Along the left-side boards, the Wolves forced a turnover, and then Agozzino fed the puck to Blais, sliding on a knee across the top of the crease, for a backhand chip shot over Griffins goaltender Eddie Pasquale’s shoulder.
However, Lorito, Grand Rapids’ second-leading scorer, batted a rebound past Pheonix Copley (11-5-3) with 5:01 left in the first to recoup the lead.
The Griffins extended their lead to 3-1 early in the middle period. After fending off a Wolves offensive flurry, Kyle Criscuolo fed Tyler Bertuzzi on the rush for a chance. Copley stopped the first shot, but Bertuzzi corralled his own rebound to the left of the net for another chance. A scrum gathered in the front and the goal was reviewed before being awarded to give Grand Rapids the two-goal lead at 3:15.
With the 3:06 to play in the frame, the Wolves climbed back within a goal when Agostino, the league’s leading point-getter, ripped a shot in the top right corner of the net from near the top of the left circle.
The Wolves applied pressure in the third period, but Lashoff potted his second goal of the season with 4:21 left to push the Griffins’ lead back to two goals.
Chicago signaled Copley to the bench with three minutes to go, looking to pull back within a goal. However, Lorito delivered an empty-net tally at 18:25 for the 5-2 final score.
Pasquale (11-4-3) made 30 saves in the victory.
The Wolves return to action on Saturday for an Illinois Lottery Cup game against the Rockford IceHogs. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on CW50. Julianna Zobrist will headline a postgame concert presented by Judson University. For ticket information or complete 2016-17 game and broadcast schedules, visit ChicagoWolves.com.