GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS (7-6-2-1)
AT CHICAGO WOLVES (10-4-1-1)
In June 2001, the Chicago Wolves and Grand Rapids Griffins were among the handful of teams that moved from the International Hockey League to the American Hockey League. And in the 20-plus seasons since that move to the AHL, the Wolves never had rallied from a three-goal, third-period deficit to win in regulation.
Until Friday night in Grand Rapids.
The Griffins owned a 3-0 lead entering the third period at Van Andel Arena, but Wolves forwards Josh Leivo and Maxim Letunov scored in the opening 2:26 of the final frame to pull the visitors tantalizingly close. Yet Griffins goaltender Calvin Pickard slammed the door for the next 15 minutes and forced Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky to pull the goalie for the first time this season in order to get an extra attacker on the ice.
That move worked immediately as Spencer Smallman produced the game-tying goal at 18:24, just 14 seconds after goaltender Eetu Makiniemi reached the bench. With Makiniemi back on the ice, Chicago’s C.J. Smith scored the go-ahead goal at 18:36. Captain Andrew Poturalski added an empty-net goal for good measure with 42 seconds remaining to complete the unprecedented comeback.
For the record, the Wolves own two other third-period comebacks from a three-goal deficit during their AHL era. However, Chicago needed overtime and a shootout to complete both of those rallies.
March 29, 2014: The Lake Erie Monsters took a 4-1 lead on Michael Schumacher’s goal 5:13 into the third at Allstate Arena. But defensemen Evan Oberg (7:03) and Mark Cundari (14:41) and forward Shane Harper (17:12) erased that lead to force extra time. In the shootout, Harper scored in the fifth round to tie it and Pat Cannone delivered in the sixth to win.
Jan. 22, 2016: With fans prohibited from entering Bojangles’ Coliseum due to an ice storm, the Wolves fell behind the Charlotte Checkers 3-0 in the first two periods. Jordan Caron triggered Chicago’s rally with a goal 56 seconds into the third, then Danny Kristo followed with tallies at 7:33 and 19:54 of the third. In the shootout, Kristo delivered in the second round and it held up for a 4-3 Wolves win.
THAT HAVING BEEN SAID…
The Wolves are well aware that Grand Rapids’ players had Saturday to lick their wounds and reinforce their resolve for this afternoon’s rematch. After all, the Griffins led for 46 minutes and 17 seconds of Friday’s game and came away empty-handed.
“I don’t think I even need to say anything,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “I think our guys know their guys are going to be ready. It’s a 3-in-3 (for us). We need to make our game simple. We know how we need to play.”
we are the wolves
A little bit of history is on the line this afternoon as the Wolves can win their sixth straight regular-season game over the Grand Rapids Griffins — something that has happened only once since the Chicago-Grand Rapids rivalry began Nov. 1, 1996.
The Wolves’ first six-game winning streak started with a 6-3 win on Dec. 15, 2017, and ended with a 5-1 victory Oct. 13, 2018. Max Lagace earned three of the six wins.
The Wolves’ current streak began May 12 at Grand Rapids when David Cotton’s hat trick and Beck Warm’s 35-save effort gave Chicago a 7-0 win and clinched the 2021 Central Division crown.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Rockford scored two goals in the second period to take the lead, but the Wolves tied it with 5:19 remaining and Josh Leivo scored in the third round of the shootout to win it.
- Forwards Maxim Letunov and C.J. Smith scored in regulation while Smith and captain Andrew Poturalski earned the primary assists.
- Goaltender Alex Lyon stopped 17 shots in regulation and overtime and all three shootout tries.
- Trailing 3-0 entering the third period, the Wolves scored two goals in the first three minutes and three goals in the last two minutes to stun the Griffins at Van Andel Arena.
- Forwards Josh Leivo, Maxim Letunov, Spencer Smallman, C.J. Smith and Andrew Poturalski scored in the final period while Poturalski added three assists.
- Goaltender Eetu Makiniemi posted 29 saves to earn the win.
By the numbers
2: You can count on two fingers the number of times the Wolves have been outshot during their first 16 games this season. The first game was way back on Oct. 22 when the Wolves allowed a season-high 43 shots in a 3-2 win at Milwaukee. The second was Nov. 6 when Manitoba limited the Wolves to a season-low 23 attempts during a 5-1 Moose win at Allstate Arena. Chicago enters today’s action riding an nine-game streak of outshooting its opponent. The Wolves own a 317-229 margin (35.2-25.4 per game) in shots during this run.
4: Wolves captain Andrew Poturalski tied a franchise record Friday night when he produced four points in the third period. It marked the seventh time in Wolves history that somebody managed four points in one regular-season period — and the first time since Jason Krog posted 2 goals and 2 assists in the second period of a 7-4 win on Dec. 19, 2007, at Peoria. Poturalski earned the primary assist on Josh Leivo’s power-play goal 1:29 into the third, the secondary assist on Spencer Smallman’s game-tying goal with 1:36 left, the primary assist on C.J. Smith’s go-ahead score with 1:24 left and then he threw in an empty-net goal from the red line with 42 seconds to go. Poturalski ranks second in the AHL with 22 points and shares second with 14 assists.
6: The Wolves have six 3-in-3s on their schedule this season — meaning there are six times when the team must play three games in three days. Considering Chicago started this weekend’s work at 6 p.m. Friday, it’s really more like three games in 48 hours for the players’ bodies. Regardless of how you want to characterize it, the Wolves find themselves with a wonderful opportunity to have six points to show for their efforts. The franchise hasn’t swept a 3-in-3 since March 8-10, 2019, when Rocky Thompson’s crew defeated Milwaukee twice and Iowa once by a combined 10-3 score. Prior to that, the Wolves’ last 3-in-3 sweep was March 27-29, 2015.
34.65: The Chicago Wolves’ single-season record for shots per game was set by the 1998-99 squad with 34.65 per outing. This output led the 16-team International Hockey League that season — and marks the only time in the Wolves’ first 27 years that they led their league in shots per game. This year’s squad has a chance to break the team record AND become the second in franchise annals to lead the league. The Wolves enter today’s game averaging 34.13 shots per game, which ranks third in the 31-team AHL. Manitoba leads the league with 35.18 shots per outing.
200: Forward C.J. Smith transformed his 200th AHL game into a celebration Saturday night. With 10 friends and family members in the stands, he set up the Wolves’ first goal (his slap shot was tipped in by Maxim Letunov) and he scored the game-tying goal with 5:19 left. Smith ranks second on the Wolves in goals (6) and points (17). “C.J. Smith was our best player (Saturday) night,” said head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “He was flying. Obviously the goals are one thing, but just his compete level. He was getting inside ice. Just the things we’ve preached on him to do. Huge to see him do that.”
415: Since the Wolves organization played its first game on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 707 players have suited up for Chicago. Center Stephen Harper was the latest to make his debut when he played Nov. 12 at Rockford. When forward Ben Jones made his debut with the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 20, he became the 415th Wolves alum to compete in the greatest league in the world. Put another way, 58.7 percent of all Wolves have played in the NHL.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
|Thursday, Dec. 2||vs. Iowa||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Dec. 4||at Iowa||6 p.m.||Wells Fargo Arena||AHLTV|
|Sunday, Dec. 5||at Iowa||3 p.m.||Wells Fargo Arena||AHLTV|
|Thursday, Dec. 9||at Texas||7 p.m.||H-E-B Center||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Dec. 11||at Texas||7 p.m.||H-E-B Center||AHLTV|
All games are streamed on AHLTV.