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BACK TO THE GRIND

GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 5 at Chicago Wolves 2

Feb. 3, 2017

ROSEMONT, Ill. – After scoring four goals in their previous three outings, the Grand Rapids Griffins used a pair of tallies from Matt Lorito to defeat the Chicago Wolves 5-2 on Friday at Allstate Arena.
 
The Western Conference-leading Griffins continued their recent dominance over the Wolves, improving to 6-2 on the season series. Grand Rapids has also won nine of its last 11 contests at Allstate Arena, outscoring Chicago 43-16 in that stretch.
 
Eddie Pasquale made 30 saves to earn the victory and has allowed just 10 goals (1.69 goals-against average) and has stopped 174-of-184 shots (0.946 save percentage) over his last six starts. Lorito was one of four Grand Rapids skaters to register multiple points.
 
Ben Street opened the scoring on the power play for the Griffins (29-12-1-2) 1:29 into the hockey game. Martin Frk fed the puck across to Street at the right point, who worked his way to the top of the right circle and placed a wrist shot inside the right post past a screened Pheonix Copley for his team-leading 15th goal of the campaign.
 
Chicago (25-16-3-3) took advantage of a defensive-zone turnover near the halfway point of the first frame. Brett Sterling intercepted Tyler Bertuzzi’s blind pass and quickly sent the puck to Kenny Agostino, who in turn found Samuel Blais in front for a backhanded shot over Pasquale’s glove-side shoulder at the 9:14 mark.
 
Grand Rapids recaptured the lead with just over five minutes remaining in the opening period. Robbie Russo’s initial effort from the right point bounced off the crest of Copley’s sweater, but Lorito was in the right place at the right time to swat the rebound out of mid-air and inside the left post.
 
Bertuzzi gave the visitors a two-goal cushion 3:15 into the second stanza. On an eventual 2-on-1, Kyle Criscuolo’s pass across the slot towards Bertuzzi was broken up by the outstretched stick of a diving Reid McNeill. However, Bertuzzi quickly regained possession, spun around and banked the puck off the inside of Copley’s left pad and narrowly over the line. The goal was not initially given by the referee behind the net, a brief review confirmed Bertuzzi’s fifth marker of the season. Evgeny Svechnikov extended his point streak to six consecutive games with the secondary assist.
 
Agostino capitalized on the man advantage to bring the Wolves back to within a goal. With 3:06 left in the middle period, the AHL’s leading scorer took a rinkwide pass from Jordan Schmaltz at the top of the right circle and fired a one-timer into the top left corner.
 
The Griffins put the game beyond any doubt with a pair of late insurance tallies. Brian Lashoff restored the visitors’ two-goal advantage when he accepted a rinkwide pass from Conor Allen at the top of the left circle and tucked a wrist shot inside the left post at the 15:39 mark. Lorito added an empty-netter with 1:35 on the clock.
 
Grand Rapids finished 1-for-2 on the power play while Chicago converted on 1-of-5 opportunities. Copley turned away 25-of-29 shots in a losing effort. The Griffins return to a sold-out Van Andel Arena on Saturday for a 7 p.m. contest against the Milwaukee Admirals.
 
Notes: Lorito registered his 100th AHL point with his second goal of the night…Allen played in his 250th professional game…The Griffins are a perfect 13-0 when scoring five or more times this season and 24-3-1-1 (0.862) when scoring the game’s first goal.
 
Three Stars: 1. GR Lorito (two goals); 2. GR Street (power play goal, assist); 3. GR Pasquale (W, 30 saves)