ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Grand Rapids Griffins scored three goals in the second period to power a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Wolves in Game 5 of the Central Division Finals on Saturday night at Allstate Arena. The Griffins claimed the series 4-1 and ended Chicago’s 2017 Calder Cup Playoff run.
Forwards Andrew Agozzino and Samuel Blais scored while defenseman Vince Dunn assisted on both goals for the Wolves (4-6). Goaltenders Ville Husso and Jordan Binnington combined for 28 saves as Chicago’s season came to a close one month after capturing the Central Division title with 101 points.
“It was a good year,” said Wolves head coach Craig Berube. “These guys should be proud of themselves. I think they came a long way and really came together as a group. Great bunch of guys to work with. Obviously nobody’s happy about losing. We had a good enough team to win it, but things have to go right and injuries really caught up with us.”
Grand Rapids (7-1) wasted no time and opened scoring at 2:08 of the period. After a strong shift from Chicago’s starting five – Ivan Barbashev, Blais, Petteri Lindbohm, Zach Sanford and Jordan Schmaltz – the Griffins got a break the other way.
Kyle Criscuolo snapped a long-range shot from the Wolves blue line, and Evgeny Svechnikov – who snuck around the back of the Wolves net unnoticed – redirected the puck into a practically empty net for the 1-0 lead.
Less than five minutes later, the Wolves knotted the game 1-1. On the rush, Wade Megan picked the puck off the right wall and dished it to Dunn heading toward the net. Dunn hesitated and slipped a pass to Agozzino, who was wide open on the left wing. He shelved the chance over Jared Coreau’s glove-side shoulder.
At 3:53 of the second period, Grand Rapids took a 2-1 lead when Tyler Bertuzzi, at the top of Husso’s crease, chipped in a pass from Dan Renouf near the left-side wall.
The Griffins pushed their lead to two goals at 15:51 of the second session while Chicago’s Tage Thompson sat in the penalty box for slashing. Matthew Ford shot the puck into a net-front scrum and Husso made the initial save. However, Tomas Nosek came up with the rebound and backhanded it into the net while falling to the ice.
Just 1:40 later, Grand Rapids made it a 4-1 game when Criscuolo wrangled a Wolves defensive-zone turnover and poked his own rebound across the goal line.
Binnington replaced Husso (4-6) to begin the third period. Through 40 minutes, Husso made 20 saves. Binnington posted 8 saves in the third period.
Bertuzzi netted his second goal of the contest just 30 seconds into the frame when he potted a rebound chance from the left wing. Nosek, skating on the right wing, made the initial shot that Binnington saved but the rebound bounced directly to Bertuzzi.
The Wolves started to come back at 3:35 of the third. Dunn snagged the puck along the left boards and peeled back around the top of the near faceoff circle. He then dished a pass to Blais near the goal line on the same side, and Blais walked into a crowd in front of the net where he chopped in his own rebound to make it 5-2.
Coreau (7-1) made 22 saves in the victory.