ROSEMONT, Ill. – Rookies accounted for eight points – including three goals – as the Chicago Wolves ousted the Grand Rapids Griffins 7-3 on Friday night at Allstate Arena in Game 2 of the Central Division Finals. The victory evened the best-of-seven series 1-1.
Rookies Vince Dunn, Mackenzie MacEachern and Tage Thompson each recorded a goal and an assist while Kenny Agostino and Ty Loney each collected two assists for the Wolves, who built a 3-0 lead in the first period and scored four third-period goals to answer a Grand Rapids threat. Andrew Agozzino, Petteri Lindbohm, Brett Sterling and Jake Walman accounted for the other four Chicago tallies.
Wolves rookie goaltender Ville Husso (4-3) posted 28 saves while Jared Coreau (4-1) stopped 24 of 31 shots in Grand Rapids’ first loss of the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs.
“We came out strong and played the way we’re capable of playing,” said Wolves head coach Craig Berube. “It was intense. It was the playoffs, you know?”
The Wolves (4-3) opened scoring just 3:10 into the first frame as center Alex Friesen carried the puck up the right wing. He was squeezed near the offensive half wall by the Griffins defense, but managed to cut toward the net and shovel a pass through the slot to Lindbohm skating hard up the left wing. Lindbohm one-timed a chance into an almost empty net.
At the 9:44 of the same period, Chicago doubled its lead when Sterling netted his first goal of the postseason. Upon entering the offensive zone, the veteran Sterling slipped a pass to Chris Butler at the left point. Coreau saved Butler’s shot, but then all three Wolves forwards were down low scrambling for the rebound. Sterling came up the puck and snapped it in from the left side of the crease.
With less than a minute to play in the first period – and the Griffins’ Tyler Bertuzzi serving an interference penalty – Dunn, standing on the left offensive wall, saucered a pass through both circles to Walman rushing in on the opposite wing. Walman snapped a shot past Coreau for Chicago’s third goal of the session.
During the second period, the Griffins registered their first goal of the contest at 8:37. Mitch Callahan spun around near the top of the left circle and put a shot on the net. Husso made the initial save but Kyle Criscuolo scarfed up the loose puck from the top of the crease and snapped it over Husso to make it 3-1.
On the power play, Bertuzzi and Eric Tangradi drew the Chicago defense low into the left corner. Bertuzzi picked the puck off the wall and dished a pass to Evgeny Svechnikov along high in the slot for an easy goal to pull the Griffins within a score with just 45 seconds left in the second period.
The Wolves weathered an offensive flurry from the Griffins to begin the third, then MacEachern netted his first professional postseason goal at 3:49 to give Chicago a 4-2 lead. The puck pinballed from behind the Griffins net and MacEachern was there to jam it in.
Grand Rapids again climbed back within a goal – on the power play – at 8:45 when Matt Lorito wired a shot from the right point.
With Chicago’s lead challenged again, Wolves rookie forward Samuel Blais skated up the left wing and led the power-play rush into the Grand Rapids zone. From near the top of the circle, Blais fed a pass to Thompson coming down the slot for the 5-3 lead.
Agozzino collected an unassisted short-handed tally at 15:08 to push Chicago’s lead to 6-3. Coreau strayed from the net and tried a breakout pass attempt, but Agozzino intercepted it and snapped it home before Coreau could return to the crease.
Chicago stretched its lead to four goals as the team took advantage of a 5-on-3 in the waning minutes. Agostino pushed a pass to Dunn, who skated in the left circle and wristed a shot past Coreau on the glove side.
The Central Division Finals move to Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids for Games 3 and 4. Game 3 takes place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 6, and Game 4 is 6 p.m. on Monday, May 8. Both games will stream on AHLLive.com.
For information about tickets for Game 5 at Allstate Arena on Saturday, May 13, or 2017 Calder Cup Playoff updates, visit ChicagoWolves.com.