Wolves down Griffins in Game 5 to advance
Instead of throwing in the towel, the Grand Rapids Griffins opted to throw in the water bottle at Allstate Arena on Sunday.
Yes, believe it or not, a Griffins player earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for tossing a bottle at an official 5½ minutes after the Wolves took a 4-1 lead in a winner-take-all Game 5.
"I don't know if I've ever seen that before," said forward T.J. Tynan, who racked up 3 assists in a 4-2 victory that advanced the Wolves to the second round of the playoffs for just the fourth time since they won the Calder Cup in 2008.
Up next for coach Rocky Thompson's squad is a best-of-seven series against Iowa or Milwaukee.
The bigger, tougher Griffins tried getting under the Wolves' skin all series. It worked at times, but not Sunday as the Wolves took just one penalty and kept their composure after a questionable hit along the boards on Matthew Weis in the second period.
"Celebrating this now feels a lot better than punching a guy in the face on the ice and getting hit too," said Keegan Kolesar, whose 2 goals put the Wolves up 3-1 and 4-1. "We just wanted to weather the storm and look the other way as much as we could."
Grand Rapids owned the first period and took a 1-0 lead into the locker room.
Three unsung heroes in Weis, Tobias Lindberg and Stefan Matteau then stepped up early in the second period by hemming Grand Rapids in their defensive zone. They did such a good job that the Wolves were able to change lines, and the game completely turned when rookie phenom Cody Glass fired a wrist shot from about 35 feet out that found the back of the net.
"He's a world-class player," Kolesar said of Glass, whom the Golden Knights selected with the sixth overall pick of last June's draft.
"There's a reason Vegas picked him where they did, and he's proving that he can play at this level and be a big impact for us."
Glass, who spent four years in juniors, has 5 goals in just 11 games with the Wolves.
Less than two minutes later, Tomas Hyka gave the Wolves a 2-1 lead on a power-play goal. Kolesar then made it 3-1 at 13:08 of the second, and Grand Rapids was all but done. The Griffins really came unglued in the third period, taking 4 penalties, the second of which came when the aforementioned water bottle skidded across the ice with 11:30 remaining.
Oscar Dansk made 30 saves for the Wolves and earned his second victory of the series.
"Really proud of our guys with how they responded being down 1-0 in an elimination game," Tynan said. "That's not easy. Came together as a group once again. It was kind of the story of our whole year."
And it flipped the script on last season, which ended with an unceremonious thud at the hands of the Rockford IceHogs.
"It's the polar opposite," Tynan said. "Last year was devastating for us. I mean we thought we could make a run and obviously it didn't happen. …
"We've got a great group of guys and a great locker room. It's always fun to extend your season."
The Wolves, who were again without league MVP Daniel Carr and 19-goal scorer Gage Quinney, improved to 10-4 overall and 8-2 at Allstate Arena in elimination games over their 25-year history.
Thompson, in his second season as coach, was particularly proud of how everyone stayed together and didn't fold when things looked bleak.
"What I take pride in is the effort that the team put forward," he said. "I really appreciate that from the players. They (gave) everything they have and they put the team first.
"That's something very special."