ROSEMONT, ILL – The Chicago Wolves’ losing woes continued Saturday night as the Grand Rapids Griffins handed them a 5-2 loss at home at the Allstate Arena. Goals for this week’s birthday boys, Beau Bennett (Nov. 27) and Paul Thompson (Nov. 30), were not enough to spark a comeback.
Matt Puempel gave the Griffins a 1-0 lead 65 seconds into the game, beating netminder Michael Leighton who started back-to-back games. Bennett would tie the game at one a few minutes later as he potted Ivan Barbashev’s pass for his first goal in eleven games.
Eric Tangradi chased Leighton from the net at 5:48 of the opening period. The Griffins’ second goal of the game came on just their second shot and saw Kasimir Kaskisuo enter the net in relief. Chicago would jump out to a 15-6 shot on goal advantage to enter the first intermission, but Grand Rapids held the 2-1 goal lead.
Not content with a one-goal lead after a shootout loss the night before, Grand Rapids scored two more unanswered goals. Matthew Ford recorded the Griffins’ third goal of the night at 7:07 of the second while on the power play, and Corey Elkins added the fourth 1:27 later.
Paul Thompson continued his habit of leading by example as he notched a power-play goal of his own to close out the second period. The captain’s goal allowed a Chicago team which held a 30-15 shot advantage after the period to only be staring down a two-goal deficit for the final 20 minutes.
That, however, was all she wrote as Matt Lorito scored an insurance goal on the power play for his team 3:12 into the third. Griffins’ goaltender Jared Coreau would go on to make 35 saves in the winning effort, while Kaskisuo made 17 saves in relief.
Chicago was unable to close the 5-2 gap, but six players were sent to the showers early in the final 50 seconds of the game. Robbie Russo jumped Brett Sterling at 19:10, and both were escorted off the ice after the fisticuffs.
Immediately after the following faceoff, Dylan McIlrath and Dan Renouf converged on a helpless Keegan Kolesar. Scooter Vaughan joined to help out his young teammate and all four left the playing surface early. Vaughan was assessed a Game Misconduct – Instigator (last 5:00) in addition to a fighting major to pair with Renouf, which means he is facing an automatic one-game suspension, and a $10,000 coach fine for the suspension, unless the league’s required review rescinds it.
Chicago’s special teams continued to be a low-point as the previously league-leading power play went 1-for-7 on the night, while the formerly league-leading penalty kill went 2-for-4. Coach Rocky Thompson was asked about both after the game.
“It’s unacceptable, really, to continue the way that we’re going. Our first power play unit, I’m extremely disappointed in. That’s why I mixed it up midway through the second period right near the end, because you can’t continue to get the opportunity that you get and not have some kind of payoff. They should be disappointed in themselves as a unit and as individuals.”
Captain Paul Thompson continues to grind out every minute of every game, no matter the score.
“Being one of the leaders on the team, it’s just trying to set an example of how – like I said before, if I’m going to hold guys accountable, I need to be doing the right things and playing hard and getting pucks to the net and playing my game, the things that make me effective. If I’m not doing that, if I’m not working my absolute hardest, I can’t hold guys accountable.”
The Wolves now find themselves 5-11-4-1 on the season. As for what it will take to break the slump? Paul Thompson says,
“I think we need belief and pride in our team and pride in the way we work every night and that’s a challenge to our team right now is, ‘How do we respond?’ Is it more of the same? Or do we finally step up and answer the bell here?”
Chicago will have a great chance to get its sixth victory of the season at home Wednesday against the San Diego Gulls. The Gulls will be playing their second of back-to-back games, both of which they will be traveling for.
“Well it’s a huge opportunity, without a doubt,” said Rocky Thompson. “There’s no way a team can be 100% at that situation and we should be. It’s a great opportunity for us to make a stand and to turn the ship around right then. It’s going to be very important. We’re going to get a day off tomorrow and then we’ve got two days of preparation for one team, and you can view it like a playoff game. That’s how I will.”
Be sure to follow @SinBinWolves on Twitter for up-to-date Wolves’ news and game updates, including Wednesday’s 7 p.m. tilt against the San Diego Gulls.