Tyler Spezia and Turner Elson scored 62 seconds apart late in the second period to spark the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Wolves Saturday night at the Wolves Training Facility.
Center Tommy Novak scored for the Wolves (18-8-1-2), whose magic number to clinch the Central Division dropped to 6 because the second-place Cleveland Monsters suffered a 4-3 shootout loss to the Rochester Americans.
“I thought we worked hard for most of the game,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “Just couldn’t find a way to create a little bit more offense. A little bit of a rut right now. We’ve got to find our way out of it.”
Grand Rapids (14-10-3-1) opened the scoring at 5:26 of the first when Hayden Verbeek centered a pass toward the top of the crease that Schaumburg native Patrick Curry redirected home. The Wolves protested that defenseman Dylan McIlrath, who triggered the play in the offensive zone, used his broken stick to knock the stick out of a Wolves player’s hand shortly before the goal, but it went unheeded.
The Wolves pushed it to a 1-1 knot on Novak’s goal at 5:44 of the second. The Wolves kept peppering goaltender Pat Nagle with shots and he eventually moved out of the crease to try to cut down an angle. Phil Tomasino’s backhand from the goal line couldn’t find the back of the net, but Novak swatted home the rebound.
The Griffins seized momentum with a pair of goals 62 seconds apart late in the second. Tyler Spezia took advantage of a Wolves defensemen taking an inadvertent puck to the face to break free at 17:27, then Turner Elson snapped home a shot immediately after a faceoff at 18:29 to give the visitors a 3-1 lead entering the third.
Nagle (6-5-0) stopped 22 shots to pick up the victory while Wolves goaltender Antoine Bibeau (4-2-1) posted 26 saves in his attempt to earn his 100th American Hockey League win.
The Wolves enter their final week of the regular season by hosting the Rockford IceHogs at 2 p.m. Monday. All Wolves games are streamed on AHLTV.com.