The 2019 Western Conference champion Chicago Wolves opened the new season with an 8-5 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday night at Allstate Arena.
Forwards Gage Quinney, Lucas Elvenes, Patrick Brown, Tye McGinn and Curtis McKenzie produced goals for the Wolves (0-1-0-0) in the second highest-scoring opener in the franchise’s 26-year history, but the Griffins (1-0-0-0) never trailed despite being outshot 40-26.
“I’m not disgusted with the way we played,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “There was a lot of good things that we did. Obviously it’s the start of the year, so there are going to be mishaps along the way. I don’t think the score was truly reflective of the type of game that it was. If anything, we could have scored more goals.”
Grand Rapids opened the scoring 3:48 into the night on Evgeny Svechnikov’s chip from close range. The Wolves answered with Quinney’s power-play goal at 5:28 – the third-year center using a beautiful toe drag to get into the slot and flick the puck past Griffins goaltender Calvin Pickard.
The Griffins responded with a goal on their first power play of the season as Matthew Ford (2G) set up in the slot and re-directed Svechnikov’s pass past Wolves goaltender Oscar Dansk.
Grand Rapids took a 3-1 lead into the second period, but Elvenes (G, 3A) struck at 2:39 for his first North American professional goal. The 20-year-old came from behind the net and fed center Ben Jones in the slot. Pickard stopped Jones’ shot with his right pad, but he sent it right to Elvenes for the one-timer rebound to cut the margin to 3-2.
After Grand Rapids veteran Chris Terry restored the visitors’ lead to 4-2, new Wolves acquisition Brown delivered his first goal with the team on a long blast from the left point at 16:40 of the second.
The Griffins broke open the game early in the third period with two goals in a nine-second span. That 6-3 lead didn’t last long as McGinn scored 3:41 into the third to cut the deficit to two. McKenzie’s power-play goal at 10:29 pulled the Wolves within 6-5, but the Griffins never allowed Chicago to catch up.
Pickard (1-0-0) posted 35 saves while Dansk (0-1-0) turned away 18 shots.
The Wolves head to San Antonio and Rockford before hosting the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday, Oct. 19, in an Illinois Lottery Cup clash.