ROSEMONT, Illinois – Forward Brooks Macek needed just two periods to produce three goals and lead the Chicago Wolves to a 5-1 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday night in the team’s 25th anniversary season home opener.
Macek became the first to deliver a hat trick in the American Hockey League this season. Defenseman Zac Leslie and forward Brandon Pirri also scored for the Wolves (3-0-0-0), who are off to the franchise’s fifth 3-0 start. Three of the previous 3-0 starts resulted in Chicago capturing the league championship.
“It’s positive,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “It’s a good start. We’re laying the foundation. It’s really early, but we want to continue to lay those bricks.”
After Grand Rapids (1-3-0-0) opened the scoring on David Pope’s power-play goal 3:22 into the game, the Wolves took control later in the first period with three goals in a 3-minute, 11-second stretch.
Macek, who was the leading goal-scorer in Germany’s top league last year, started the spree with a breakaway that he turned into a beautiful backhand flip at 12:03. He moved to North America this season after spending his first five pro seasons overseas.
“When he got that breakaway, he knew what he was doing,” Thompson said. “He had done that before. He had a shot mentality tonight.”
Defenseman Zac Leslie followed with a rising wrister at 13:24 before forward Brandon Pirri buried a power-play blast at 15:14.
Macek added two goals late in the second period and the hats started to fly at Allstate Arena. Linemate Daniel Carr assisted on all three Macek goals while center Gage Quinney assisted on the first two.
Wolves goaltender Max Lagace (2-0-0) rejected 32 shots to earn the win. Grand Rapids’ Patrik Rybar (0-1-0) made 19 saves in his North American debut.
The Wolves return to Allstate Arena at 3 p.m. Sunday against the Milwaukee Admirals for a Family Sunday game. Governor Bruce Rauner has proclaimed Sunday as “Chicago Wolves Day” throughout Illinois to celebrate the team’s 25th season.