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Recap: Griffins Beat IceHogs 2-1 in OT

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Tyler Bertuzzi, Overtime Hero
Tyler Bertuzzi, Overtime Hero
Griffins Hockey

ROCKFORD, Ill. - Tyler Bertuzzi scored his second goal of the night 13 seconds into overtime on Thursday to give the Grand Rapids Griffins a 2-1 win over the Rockford IceHogs and a commanding 3-1 lead in their Western Conference Semifinal.

After Tom McCollum denied a half-ice try by Ryan Hartman off the overtime faceoff, a Grand Rapids rush the other way ended with Bertuzzi popping home a rebound of a long Andy Miele shot for the fastest overtime goal in Griffins playoff history.

The Griffins, who've won all five previous best-of-seven series in which they held a 3-1 lead, will have an opportunity to close out the IceHogs and advance to the conference finals when they stage Game 5 at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Sunday at 5 p.m. EDT.

Bertuzzi first put the Griffins ahead 6:48 into the opening period, staking his ground atop Michael Leighton's crease to redirect Mark Zengerle's shot from the left point.

Rockford tied the score on its 18th shot midway through the contest, as Phillip Danault took a pass in the left circle and snapped a perfect shot into the top left corner of McCollum's net at the 9:01 mark of the second stanza.

After firing a combined 25 shots during the first period, the two teams managed a total of just seven during the middle frame. The Griffins rebounded from their lackluster three-shot frame by generating chance after chance around the Rockford net during the first 10 minutes of the third, before McCollum made a series of spectacular saves on the other end as time dwindled, including a denial of Cody Bass' breakaway in the final minutes of regulation.

Despite finishing with a 15-9 shot advantage for the third period and a 29-27 edge during regulation, the Griffins went to overtime for the first time during the 2015 playoffs and just the third time in 43 postseason games under coach Jeff Blashill.

A rookie who spent the 2014-15 season with OHL Guelph before logging just two regular season games with the Griffins, Bertuzzi now has five goals and eight points in just seven playoff games. But his heroics would not have been possible without the performance of McCollum, who made 27 saves to improve his record to 6-2 this postseason.

The Griffins' victory snapped their franchise-record six-game losing streak on the road during the playoffs.

Three Stars: 1. GR Bertuzzi (two goals); 2. GR McCollum (W, 27 saves); 3. RFD Leighton (L, 29 saves)

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Box Score

Tyler Bertuzzi's 1st goal

Philip Danault's goal

Tyler Bertuzzi's OT winner

  • Tyler Bertuzzi continues to impress everyone and show us why the Wings drafted him 149 spots higher than central scouting projected him to be taken. He's made a seamless transition from the OHL to the AHL and not looking at all like a fresh faced 20 year old rookie who's only played 9 pro games. Bertuzzi lives up to his pest reputation, but he's also a smart player whose hockey sense and tenacity have made him an integral part of the team. Bertuzzi has 5 goals and 8 points in 7 playoff games and 6 goals & 9 points in 9 games since joining the Griffins from juniors. The IceHogs started gunning for him early in this game, running him and making it a point to hit him whenever possible. That's what Tyler Bertuzzi does, he drives opposing players crazy and gets then focused on him rather than scoring goals, then he goes and scores all the goals for his team including the game winner in overtime. I can't say enough about how impressed I am with Bertuzzi already. I was higher on him than most this season with Guelph, but even I didn't expect him to fit in this well this soon. What a great story he's turning out to be.

  • Anthony Mantha used his size and strength more effectively in this game, and had the puck more as a result. He still has a long way to go before he's ready for the big show, but he's making progress. There were two instances I specifically remember in this game where he used his size to create scoring chances. The first was early in the 1st period when he stole the puck and pretty much bulldozed his way through a couple IceHogs and got a shot on net. Later in the game he had the puck behind the Hogs net, someone came in trying to obliterate him, he saw it coming and it looked like he just stood up, puffed out his chest, and the Hog player went crashing to the ice. When he figures out how to use his size and skill together consistently, and stay engaged for the entire game, he's going to really start progressing by leaps and bounds.

  • Teemu Pulkkinen wasn't the star in this game, and that's ok. With 12 goals and 13 points in 9 playoff games, he' carried the bulk of the scoring up until now, but depth scoring is what this team has had all season, and it's what they're going to need to win the Cup. Teeny Pokemon had a night off from scoring goals, only his 2nd pointless game in a Griffins uniform since February 7th, and it was someone else' turn to shine.
  • I thought Alexey Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet, and Nick Jensen all had a very good game. Their mistakes were few, but what I liked even more was how they would recover and take corrective action after a mistake or turnover. Ouellet did a particularly good job in the corners winning board battles and taking his man out of the play physically. Marchenko played his smart game, taking away space from the Hogs and eliminating scoring chances, and he makes it look so easy. Jensen moved the puck well up to the forwards, and his great skating and speed allow him to take a few more risks offensively because he can recover and get back if they don't work out. For example, in the 2nd period the Griffins had established the offensive zone, and Jensen took a hard shot from the point, his stick broke, the puck bounced off an IceHog's leg and the Hog came racing through the middle of the ice and briefly has a breakaway on McCollum. Jensen reacted quickly, still with no stick, caught up to the IceHog, and used his feet and body to take the Hog out of the play and he was forced to the outside and never got a shot off.

With a 3-1 series lead over the IceHogs, the Griffins now have 3 chances to close this series out, and the sooner they do it, the better. Game 5 is Sunday at 5pm in Rockford.

Let's Go Griffins!!!

Bonus Content:

If you want to better understand the attitude and mentality of the IceHogs, watch the excuses post game interviews from their head coach Ted Dent and goalie Michael Leighton. Everyone send them some cheese to go with their whine.