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Wolves’ fourth line shines

Grand Rapids 2 | Chicago 4
Smallman, Miletic and Mattheos score 2 points apiece to spark fourth win in a row

New fourth-line combination Spencer Smallman, Sam Miletic and Stelio Mattheos teamed up for two goals as the Chicago Wolves earned a 4-2 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins Wednesday night at Van Andel Arena.

Forwards Smallman, Miletic and CJ Smith and defenseman Josh Jacobs scored for the Wolves (34-10-4-4), who won for the seventh time in their last eight games overall and pushed their record to 8-0-0 against Grand Rapids this season.

Rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov, the 22-year-old from Penza, Russia, who joined the Wolves Feb. 15, posted 20 saves to become the sixth goaltender in franchise history to win his first four starts.

Jacobs opened the scoring at 5:09 of the first period with his fourth goal of the year. Defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald, working at the left point, spun the puck along the wall to Smith behind the net. Smith banked a pass back to the right point for Jacobs, who threaded a wrister through traffic for the goal.

The Wolves’ fourth line made its first impact to push the lead to 2-0 at 6:33 of the second. Miletic and Mattheos battled in the left corner to take the puck from the Griffins, then Mattheos fed Smallman waiting in the left circle for a quick wrister past Victor Brattstrom.

The Griffins (23-23-5-2) pulled within 2-1 on Turner Elson’s goal at 11:00 of the second as the hosts took advantage once Kochetkov lost his stick during the latter stages of a Grand Rapids power play.

The Wolves’ fourth line came through again to give Chicago a 3-1 lead at 4:07 of the third. Smallman, working near the right corner, delivered a short pass to Mattheos that sent him circling behind the net. When Mattheos emerged on the other side with a Griffins defender attached, he spied Miletic open in the slot and his pass set up a pinpoint chip top-shelf.

Grand Rapids responded with Tyler Spezia’s rebound goal with 6:02 left in regulation. The Griffins pulled Brannstrom with two minutes left in search of the equalizer, but Smith made them pay with an empty-net goal at 19:00.

Brattstrom (5-8-2) stopped 29 shots in the loss.

The Wolves head to Milwaukee at 6 p.m. Saturday before welcoming Grand Rapids to Allstate Arena at 3 p.m. Sunday. To get the best tickets for Papa Johns Family Sunday and the final chance to see the Wolves’ St. Patrick’s Day jerseys — presented by Jewel-Osco to benefit Easterseals and autism awareness — email a team representative at [email protected].