Wednesday, May 3 | 7:00 p.m. | Allstate Arena
SECOND SEASON, SECOND WIND
The Chicago Wolves and Grand Rapids Griffins haven’t met in the postseason in 13 years, but this used to be a regular thing. Dating back to International Hockey League competition, the Wolves and Griffins have battled four times in the playoffs and Chicago holds a 11-8 edge in the all-time postseason series. In their most recent playoff series — the 2004 Western Division Semifinal — the Wolves were victorious as they swept the Griffins in four games. Chicago put a dagger in the series with the a decisive 8-2 victory on home ice at Allstate Arena. The Wolves have won three of four postseason showdowns with Grand Rapids. Their only series loss to the Griffins came in 2003 when they dropped four consecutive games and were swept in the Western Conference Semi final. In that series, all four contests were decided by two goals or less and Game 1 needed overtime for a resolution.
The Grand Rapids Griffins were one of two teams that had the Chicago Wolves’ number during the 2016-17 season. In 10 meetings, the Griffins posted a 8-2-0-0 record and outscored the Wolves 38-23. Grand Rapids also had a lethal power play, cashing in on the man advantage a dozen times for a 30.8 percent success rate. While three games did go to overtime between the clubs, the Griffins snagged all three victories with goals from Matt Lorito (Dec. 7), Evgeny Svechnikov (March 17) and Ben Street (March 18). Of those OT games, one was a 6-5 barnburner at Van Andel Arena that saw league MVP and leading scorer Kenny Agostino tally his first four-point game of the season with four assists. Eight days later at Allstate Arena, the Griffins again upset the Wolves — this time, by the tune of 7-1 — in a School-Day matinee.
TALE OF TWO GOALIES
According to my friend, currently obsessed with solitaire apps and the Wolves, during the 2016-17 regular season, the Chicago Wolves and Grand Rapids Griffins faced off 10 times. Griffins goaltender Jared Coreau started seven of those contests and posted a 5-2-0-0 record against Chicago. It marked his best season finish against the Wolves. During his four-year American Hockey League career, Coreau has faced the Wolves 16 times and collected a 2.31 goals against average with a .920 save percentage. His career record versus Chicago is 10-5-1-0. At the opposite end of the ice, North American rookie netminder Ville Husso appeared in three tilts for the Wolves against the Griffins. While his record was a bleak 0-2-1 — the Wolves were 2-5-3-0 this season against Grand Rapids — the 22-year-old did post the best goals-against average (3.31) and save percentage (.895) this year of the three Chicago goalkeepers to face Grand Rapids.
By the Numbers
- 2:Through the Central Division Semifinals of the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs, the Chicago Wolves scored two goals more than the Grand Rapids Griffins. Chicago netted 14 markers while Grand Rapids potted 12. However, the Griffins averaged 4.00 goals per game through three contests as they swept the Milwaukee Admirals in the best-of-five series. Conversely, the Wolves needed all five first-round games to emerge victorious against the pesky Charlotte Checkers as Chicago averaged 2.80 goals per game. The feat is impressive considering they were shut out in one of those contests. Grand Rapids posted a better goal differential in the first round, allowing the Milwaukee Admirals just 2.33 goals per game. The Wolves registered a positive goal differential, but it was smaller as Charlotte averaged 2.60 goals per game.
- 14:With 14 points, first-year players accounted for more than a third of the Chicago Wolves scoring during the Central Division Semifinals against the Charlotte Checkers. Two of the Wolves’ top three scorers were rookies Samuel Blais and Adam Musil. The 20-year-old Musil led the pack with three goals and two assists for five points. Blais also registered five points — two goals and three assists — to rank third in team scoring. Unsurprisingly, the team’s other top scorer was Kenny Agostino, the American Hockey League’s leading scorer in the regular season. He also collected two goals and three assists for five points. The trio were the only players to average at least a point per game for the Wolves in the opening round. Getting back to first-year skaters, defenseman Vince Dunn (0-2–2) and Jake Walman (1-1–2) also made their presence known on the scoresheet. In net, the Wolves looked to North American rookie Ville Husso to backstop the club. Husso started all five games and posted a 2-1 record while registering a 2.34 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.
- 23.1:Through the first round of the postseason, the Chicago Wolves posted a 23.1 percent success rate on the power play that was good enough to rank third among the 16 Calder Cup Playoff teams. However, that percentage is just three power-play goals on 13 attempts. For the majority of the round, the Wolves and Charlotte Checkers were two of the least penalized teams in the league. Ultimately, the Wolves ranked fifth among the most penalized teams in the postseason with 19 total infractions. That total includes 15 minors, two majors and two 10-minute misconducts. Grand Rapids ranked seventh among playoff teams and finished its series with 17 total infractions that were all minors.
- 30.8:During the regular season, the Grand Rapids Griffins owned the series against the Chicago Wolves in large part due to the success of the club’s power play. Through 76 games, the Griffins posted a 24.4 percent conversion rate on the man advantage that was good enough to lead the 30-team American Hockey League. In 10 games against Chicago, the Griffins posted a 30.8 percent success rate on the man advantage as they scored a dozen goals in 39 opportunities. Chicago’s power play spent the majority of the season in the league’s top 10 and finished in the No. 8 spot with a 20.3 percent. The Wolves’ series power play was on par with their overall, as they registered a 20.6 percent conversion rate against the Griffins.
- 251:The Chicago Wolves and Grand Rapids Griffins both ended the regular season with 251 goals scored. That’s not surprising for two teams that battled down to Game 76 for the Central Division crown. The Griffins upended the Milwaukee Admirals 5-1 on April 15 and the Wolves needed to match — in points — what Grand Rapids did to keep the top spot in the division when the dust settled. The Charlotte Checkers — Chicago’s eventual first-round opponent — took the Wolves to overtime, but Andrew Agozzino saved the day in extra time with a power-play goal for the 4-3 victory.
ROUND 1 REWIND
- Chicago held on during a decisive Game 5 of the Central Division Semifinals to move onto the Central Division Finals against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
- Linemates Kenny Agostino and Andrew Agozzino each tallied a power-play goal while rookie Adam Musil netted a short-handed marker.
- Rookie netminder Ville Husso made 32 saves for his first North American postseason series.
- The Wolves scored four third-period goals to force Game 5 in the Central Division Semifinals.
- Right wing Ty Rattie netted two goals – including the first power-play goal of the series – while Samuel Blais, Jordan Schmaltz and Jake Walman also tallied.
- Rookie netminder Ville Husso made 26 saves in the win.