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Wolves win second straight, beat Grand Rapids 5-3

Following their four-goal loss on Saturday to the last-place Iowa Wild, Wolves coach John Anderson didn’t mince words about his players. He questioned their effort and made his frustration clear with a group that had lost five of six and was struggling to produce any kind of consistent attack.

“It dries out because we’re not playing that hard. We’re not playing hard,” Anderson said Saturday. “I think that they think that they’re playing hard, but they’re not. There’s something extra in the tank. When you give that little extra, good things start to happen.”

That message might have reached the players.

Boosted by two goals by Jeremy Welsh, including his eventual game-winner with 6:31 left, the Wolves beat the Grand Rapids Griffins 5-3 on Monday night to pull five points within Midwest Division-leading Rockford. John McCarthy, Shane Harper and Welsh scored in the first period and Philip McRae provided insurance with 1:59 left in the third for the Wolves, who got 19 saves from Jordan Binnington to win their second straight and follow up on their 5-1 victory Sunday at Iowa.

The response must be pleasing to Anderson, who not too long ago saw what his team is capable of.

“We had to change our style a little bit because of our lineup and our tiredness. It was hard but I appreciate the guys buying in,” Anderson said. “It’s hard to change your things that you want to do in midstream but we had to do things we had to do to get better and they did it. They responded very well.”

During the Wolves’ recent struggles, the one game that stood out as an outlier was their 6-2 win Dec. 9 at San Antonio. It was a game when the Wolves’ offense only generated 24 shots on goal but the chances were consistent and the scoring was balanced.

Though asking his team to duplicate that six-goal game is probably a bit much, Anderson’s players have come a lot closer the last two times they’ve played. They looked especially close during the first period Monday.

The Wolves got off to a good start, taking a 2-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game. McCarthy opened the scoring 5:44 into the first, then Harper’s 10th 60 seconds later gave the Wolves a 2-0 advantage.

Mark Zengerle’s score with 8:15 left in the first cut the Wolves’ lead in half before Welsh restored the two-goal advantage. A goal at 18:09 by the Griffins’ Tomas Nosek completed the first-period scoring and was the last of the game until Grand Rapids’ Teemu Pulkinnen tied it at 3-3 6:33 into the third, setting up Welsh’s winner.

“It’s good to see that guys are responding and caring about the team,” Anderson said. “It brings the team together.”

NOTE: The Wolves honored Blackhawks assistant equipment manager Clint Reif with a moment of silence before the game. Reif spent one season with the Wolves before joining the Hawks.