The Chicago Wolves rallied to defeat the Grand Rapids Griffins 4-2 in the decisive Game 5 of the Central Division Semifinals on Sunday afternoon at Allstate Arena.
Forward Keegan Kolesar scored two goals for Chicago (3-2) while rookie forward Cody Glass and forward Tomas Hyka also tallied goals for the Central Division champions.
Goaltender Oscar Dansk (2-1) posted 30 saves and T.J. Tynan handed out three assists as the Wolves advanced to the Central Division Finals against the winner of Monday’s Game 5 between second-seeded Milwaukee and third-seeded Iowa.
“We had a tough start in the first period,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “We didn’t play very well. I thought Oscar did a good job of keeping it close there, then our guys did a really good job of responding in the second. We played the only way we can play. We stayed disciplined. That was a big key for us.”
Vili Saarijarvi and Colin Campbell scored for Grand Rapids (2-3) and netminder Harri Sateri (2-3) stopped 16 shots.
The Griffins took a 1-0 lead in the first period when Saarijarvi capitalized during an odd-man rush at the 7:22 mark of the first period, but the Wolves responded with three goals in the second period to steal the lead.
“I’m really proud of our guys and how they responded being down 1-nothing early in an elimination game,” Tynan said. “That’s not easy. We came together as a group and it was kind of the story of our whole year, right? Guys stepped up.”
Glass opened the scoring at the 3:41 point of the second during a long period of puck possession for the Wolves. Glass received a pass behind the Grand Rapids net from Hyka and circled up to the top of the zone patiently before sending a laser over Sateri’s right shoulder to tie the game at 1-1.
Hyka gave the Wolves a 2-1 lead on the power play, scoring at 5:31 when he slammed home a loose puck in front of Sateri. Then Kolesar snagged a blocked shot in the slot and sniped it past Sateri at 13:08 for the 3-1 advantage.
The Wolves killed off 1:29 of penalty time to start the third period before Kolesar struck again at the 3:06 mark to make it 4-1. Forward Curtis McKenzie raced up the left side of the ice and slotted a perfect pass to Kolesar at the back door for his second of the game.
Campbell scored at 19:26 while Grand Rapids had Sateri pulled for an extra attacker, but the rally came too late and the Wolves eliminated the Griffins with the 4-2 victory.
Dates and times for the best-of-seven Central Division Finals will be released Monday night as soon as the Admirals and Wild finish in Milwaukee.