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GRIFFINS WAX WOLVES, 6-3

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Two goals by Eric Himelfarb sparked the Grand Rapids Griffins’ largest offensive output of the season on Friday, as they broke a seven-game home skid with a 6-3 win over the Chicago Wolves at Van Andel Arena.

After starting the year 0-4 at home against the Wolves, the Griffins changed their fortunes by exploding for six goals against Kari Lehtonen, the most surrendered by the can’t-miss NHL prospect during his two seasons in North America.

The Griffins (20-17-1-1) will now embark on the stiffest road challenge in their history, as they’ll play eight of the next nine games away from home. The test starts Saturday in Houston with an 8:35 p.m. faceoff against the Aeros.

Having faced a 2-0 deficit in each of their previous six home games, the Griffins finally earned their own two-goal lead before the game was three minutes old. Matt Ellis popped a rebound into a gaping net just 1:07 into the contest to give the Griffins their first home lead in a span of 421:07, and Himelfarb scored from the left side during a power play at 2:24.

Grand Rapids’ first two-goal cushion on home ice since Nov. 20 lasted all of 1:39, as J.P. Vigier beat Joey MacDonald with a 70-foot shot from outside the blueline at 4:03. The Griffins seemed unfazed by the fluky goal, however, and reasserted their two-goal spread at 11:20. Himelfarb tallied his second of the night during another power play, taking a pass from Darryl Bootland and blasting a one-timer past Lehtonen from the bottom of the left circle, the same spot as his first goal.

Midway through the second period, the Wolves used their own advantage to cut the Griffins’ lead to 3-2. MacDonald stopped the first two tries during a Chicago flurry but Grand Rapids could not clear the puck, allowing Paul Flache to score from the left hashmarks at 10:44. It took only 12 seconds for the Griffins to respond, as Nathan Robinson took a pass from Bootland, swooped in and scored on a forehand from the top of the crease. Grand Rapids’ fourth goal came on just its eleventh shot on Lehtonen, whom The Hockey News has dubbed the AHL’s first-half MVP and its top NHL prospect.

Niklas Kronwall and Peter Vandermeer added to the carnage during the third period before Brian Maloney tallied a final goal for the Wolves with 36 seconds left.

MacDonald earned the win with 33 saves while Lehtonen finished with 23 stops for the Wolves (23-14-4-1), who made their final visit of the regular season to West Michigan.


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