GRAND RAPIDS, Mich – A 1-1 series meant that Tuesday’s game three between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Chicago Wolves was really the first in a now best-of-three series. When the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard showed a 6-2 win for the Griffins. At this point, however, the score was the least of everyone’s concerns.
In just three periods of play, these teams combined for 144 penalty minutes; Chicago would finish the game with just 11 skaters.
Dylan McIlrath was the first player ejected from the game when he was assessed a match penalty at 9:20 of the opening period after a hit to Tyler Wong, who would leave the game on a stretcher and later be transported to the hospital.The initial word on Wong is that he is okay; there are no additional details at this point. T.J. Tynan and the Wolves power play was able to convert once on the five minute man advantage, but it would be the only success Chicago go on to have on the power play.
Filip Zadina would get the equalizer for the Griffins just after the expiration of a penalty to Griffin Reinhart, and the two teams would enter the first intermission locked at one apiece.
From the opening puck drop of the second period, things quickly got out of hand. First, it was Keegan Kolesar leaving just 40 seconds in due to roughing; he would finish the night with 19 total PIMs. This power play would be negated shortly after with an interference penalty, and then at 2:24, Martin Frk would score on Max Lagace from a nearly-impossible angle from the goal line to make it 2-1 for the home team. Tye McGinn would knot things back up at two three and a half minutes later, and then again disaster struck for the visitors.
Gage Quinney needed help off the ice after what looked more like an awkward collision than a malicious play, and the Wolves were now short two important centermen.
Former Wolves favorite Wade Megan recorded the go-ahead goal at 9:16 of the sandwich stanza, much to the disdain of his ex-teammates.
10:42 of the second would begin a series of fights which turned this into more of a WWE event than a hockey game. Kevin Lough and Joel Hicketts were each assessed roughing minors, and Kolesar would get a roughing minor and a game misconduct (continuing altercation) for grabbing Hicketts by the collar of his jersey.
It was Megan again who doubled the home team’s lead at 12:23, and it was now 4-2 in favor of Grand Rapids on a power-play goal from the Lough-Hicketts-Kolesar altercation. The wheels had officially fallen off for the officiating crew, and any control they had momentarily regained disappeared permanently with the fourth Griffins goal.
With 2:30 left on the clock, Curtis McKenzie and Filip Hronek would take their respective seats in the box after coming together in front of Lagace. Each would get two for roughing and 10 for continuing altercation, and Hronek would get the additional roughing minor as well.
Chicago would not covert on the man advantage to end the period, and Matt Puempel wanted a piece of lofty defenseman Nic Hague. The duo would be dealt unsportsmanlike misconducts as a result of their post-buzzer action.
Second intermission lasted over an hour – yes, you read that correctly – after the ice resurfacer took a chunk out of the playing surface behind the home goal. It took extreme and lengthy repairs to get the ice back to a favorable condition, though it still looked dimply. During this intermission, the Fort Wayne Komets were eliminated from postseason contention, and the Vegas Golden Knights finished both warm ups and the first period.
Everyone had hoped the ice delay would cool the two teams off, but that, unfortunately, was not the case.
The Wolves had two early power-play chances to open the third, and again had trouble solving Griffins netminder Harri Sateri who kept his team ahead 4-2. After penalties to Stefan Matteau, Dominik Shine and Libor Sulak who fought after Matteau and McGinn played to a delayed whistle, the Wolves were back on the power play. Again, no dice, but they were missing key power-play pieces in Hague, Quinney and McKenzie, along with the previously-injured Dylan Coghlan.
Frk would take a cheap-shot on Ryan Wagner, and Alex Gallant took offense to it. These two then coupled up, and went off with a 10 and two apiece.
That would not be all she wrote.
The next altercation was sparked by McGinn cross-checking a Grand Rapids player. He would be assessed a minor, and Smith and Hague would also go at it. The latter two would get five for fighting, and Hague was given his second misconduct of the game after tossing out a cup a fan had thrown at him in the penalty box. This was a questionable call by the referee as Hague was clearly not throwing the cup at anyone in particular, and the penalty box attendant appeared to argue in his defense as well, to no avail.
Fittingly, the game’s final fight featured Kolesar – who had received the game’s first misconduct – and Jake Chelios. Both received five for fighting at 16:46, and would be the last of 144 combined penalty minutes.
In total, there were eight fighting-related majors handed out during this game after the refs let things get a bit out of hand. Hague’s 25 PIMs, five for fighting and two misconducts was the high.
The final score read 6-2 in favor of Grand Rapids thanks to two late goals by Zadina and Puempel, and the Wolves now find themselves on the brink of elimination entering Wednesday’s game down 2-1 in the series. Sateri was unshakable in net for the Griffins, allowing just two goals on 37 shots for the win. Lagace is now 1-1 in the series and did not appear as sharp as he did in Sunday’s Wolves victory, though he did sustain an injury late in that game.
It will be interesting to see who Rocky Thompson turns to for game four, both in net and to fill the roster vacancies resulting from this game, as Oscar Dansk and Lagace have each turned in an only-okay performance in this series.
The Wolves made the same mistakes in this loss as they did the first one, albeit on a much larger scale. They allowed two goals on four power-play opportunities, though many of their heavy penalty killers were either in the box at the time, or in the case of Quinney and Wong, out injured. The power play converted on just one of seven chances.
Peppering Sateri with shots is a great start, but they need to create more high-danger chances. Grand Rapids did a great job of forcing shots from the outside and not allowing Chicago to go after rebounds, so though the netminder faced a high volume of shots, a good amount of them were easy saves.
It’s now or never for Rocky and his team, and what promises to be an extremely riveting game four is set for a 6 p.m. start in Grand Rapids.
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