Chicago Wolves oust Grand Rapids Griffins in short, sweet overtime

By Lindsey Woods

The Wolves’ overtime against the Grand Rapids Griffins Feb. 15 ended abruptly when Wolves left winger Bill Sweatt sailed the puck past goaltender Tom McCollum for the winning goal only 18 seconds into the extra period at Allstate Arena, 6920

Mannheim Road.

The 4-3 win wasn’t as merry as the celebration following Sweatt’s goal, however. The Wolves let a 3-1 lead in the second period slip away, giving Grand Rapids a second period goal, as well as the game tying one halfway into the third period.

The Griffins’ first two goals came on power plays in the first and second periods, which have been a struggle for the Wolves in their last three matches. For the third game in a row, Chicago allowed its opponent to score with a one-man advantage.

“It was a tough game,” said Wolves Head Coach Craig MacTavish. “There’s just a black cloud following you when you’re up 3 to 1, and you end up softening. There’s a lot of stress that goes into that type of game.”

According to MacTavish, the problem was in the second period, when the Wolves allowed Griffins center Joakim Andersson the second of the team’s power play goals, closing the Wolves’ lead to a single point.

“In the second period, they took momentum back,” he said. “We never really recovered until they tied it.”

The game-tying goal slid past Wolves goalie Eddie Lack off a slapshot from the blue line by Grand Rapids defenseman Brendan Smith in the third period.

Then came Sweatt’s overtime goal.

“We sucked them in and came with a lot of speed, and it ended up working out,” Sweatt said. “You never know what’s going to happen in a shoot-out, so it was nice to get it over within overtime.”

Sweatt, along with center Jordan Schroeder, had one goal and one assist, both assisting on forward Michael Davies’ goal in the first period and Schroeder scoring the early second-period goal that put the Wolves up 3-1.

“[Davies, Schroeder and I] play well together because we’re all the same type of player really,” Sweatt said. “We’re really fast and have a little bit of skill. We kinda know where each other are, which is kind of weird because we all went to different schools in college.”

The Griffins were forced to pull starting goaltender Jordan Pearce following Schroeder’s goal, assisted by Mike Duco, who was back on the ice after playing three games with NHL affiliate Vancouver from Feb. 9–13.

The Griffins’ two-goalie game came in the wake of losing starting goaltender Joey MacDonald to its parent team, the Detroit Red Wings, for the past several games.

Other Wolves players who secured points against the Griffins were forward Tim Miller, who had the team’s first goal of the game in the first period, assisted by fellow forward Nathan Longpre and defenseman Adam Polasek, and defensemen Chris Tanev and Kevin Cannaughton, who both assisted on Sweatt’s overtime game-winner.

Going into the game, the Wolves were 27-18-1-3 and ranked No. 2 in the Midwest Division and No. 5 in the Western Conference. With the second half of the season well underway, Sweatt said the team is more focused on being No. 1 in its conference to procure a spot in the post-season Calder Cup tournament.

“The main goal is just to get first place,” Sweatt said. “The first priority is to secure a spot in the playoffs.”

The Wolves stayed at Allstate Feb. 18–19 to play the Charlotte Checkers, the only team ahead of them in the Midwest Division. The two fought for first place, not only in the game but for the title No. 1 in the Midwest, as well.