GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Griffins held an early lead in the first period, but it was not enough as they dropped their season opener to the Chicago Wolves, 3-1. Kyle Criscuolo provided the lone goal for Grand Rapids with Riley Barber and Michael Rasmussen getting the assists.
Criscuolo got Grand Rapids on the board just under eight minutes into the opening period on a power play. The Wolves’ Tom Novak tied the game with just over a minute and a half remaining in the period. Griffins goalie Pat Nagle played well in the period stopping 11 of 12 shots from Chicago. The Griffins had a little trouble generating any offense in the first period, only getting off five shots. Nagle robbed the Wolves multiple times point blank to keep the game close as the Wolves controlled the pace for most of the first 20 minutes.
Grand Rapids came out a little more intense in the second period and were able to gain the zone multiple times as they tried to get another tally on the board. The Wolves defense played well enough to keep the Griffins scoreless and Wolves goalie Antoine Biebeau was able to keep the puck from reaching the back of the net. Grand Rapids had multiple power play opportunities, but could not find success. The Wolves were able withstand an onslaught of shots and heavy forechecking of the Griffins.
Chicago took the lead in the middle frame when Seth Jarvis scored a power play goal from near the face-off circle as Turner Elson was whistled off for a boarding penalty. The Griffins found themselves down by a goal and began to add a little pressure on the Chicago defense. But Biebeau was able to make save after save and keep the Griffins off of the scoreboard in the second period. Nagle did his best to keep the Griffins deficit at just a goal, but the Griffins had trouble staying out of the penalty box.
The Wolves put the game away when Cavan Fitzgerald found an opening between the legs of Nagle to put Chicago up 3-1 with just under seven minutes remaining in the contest. The Griffins could not solve Bibeau, coming up empty on multiple scoring chances. Grand Rapids had a chance to cut into the lead on a Power Play with just over five and a half minutes remaining in the game, but came up short. The Griffins nearly cut the deficit to one when a shot from Elson was dancing around near the goal mouth causing a mad scramble in front of the net. Bibeau could not find the puck, but the Griffins could not capitalize on the opportunity as the Wolves defense was able to make a play to keep the puck out of the net.
Nagle was pulled with just over two minutes remaining for the extra attacker, but Bibeau stood tall and helped the Wolves close the game out, earning the victory. The Griffins dropped only their third road opener in eight years.
The Griffins finished 1-for-5 on the power play while the Wolves were 1-for-4. Nagle stopped 26 of 29 shots while Biebeau stopped 22 of 23 shots from Grand Rapids.
Next up is the Chicago Wolves again on Thursday, Feb. 11 for a 3 p.m. EST puck drop.