GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Chicago came into Friday’s game as the only unbeaten team left in the American Hockey League, and with that kind of target on their back, they knew they would be getting opposing teams’ best shots every night. They got that in Grand Rapids, as Riley Barber scored twice and Kevin Boyle stopped 22 of 23 shots to lead Grand Rapids to a decisive 4-1 victory, handing the Wolves their first loss of the 2020-2021 season.
The Griffins came out flying from the opening puck drop and applied a serious forecheck in the Wolves’ zone. Chicago struggled to get the puck out early, and Grand Rapids capitalized on a turnover at the blue line just four minutes into the game when Michael Rasmussen drove the slot and left the puck for Barber, who tucked it home for his third goal of the year.
Though there wasn’t more scoring in the first period, Antoine Bibeau had to make several key stops in the early frame to keep this a one-goal contest in his first game since his assignment from Carolina.
With the puck drop of the second period, it was more of the same. Just 44 seconds in, Dominik Shine was left all alone in front, where he displayed some great hand-eye coordination in whacking a rebound out of the air for a 2-0 Griffins lead. 1:20 later, and it was Barber again, who was left all alone back door with a yawning cage behind Bibeau, who fired home his second of the game to make it a 3-0 game.
Grand Rapids squeezed out the Wolves’ attack in the neutral zone, refusing to allow them the speed for their zone entries into their puck possession game that has dominated teams in the beginning of the season. This game also marked the first time in the season where Chicago was left completely off the board on the powerplay, going 0-for-5 on the night. However, their penalty kill remained outstanding as they kept Grand Rapids out of the net on the man advantage. The Wolves’ PK has now seen twenty straight opportunities killed off.
Chicago had some life to start the third period, as Rem Pitlick put a rebound in off a Frederic Allard point shot for his AHL leading seventh goal of the season. The Griffins, however, wouldn’t allow the Wolves to gain any momentum off that through the final frame, continuing to stymie the Wolves at every opportunity, and Givani Smith would put this one away with just under two minutes left. Smith’s power move cutting across the crease would make it a 4-1 game that would end up being the final in this one.
— Grand Rapids Griffins (@griffinshockey) February 27, 2021
Taro Hirose and Dominic Turgeon each had two assists for the Griffins, winners of four straight following Friday’s victory.
Bibeau made 31 saves for the Wolves in his first game action since the season opener against these very Griffins.
These two teams rematch Sunday at Triphahn Community Center and Ice Arena at 3 pm CST.
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