GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — The Griffins kicked off their season in style, lifting another banner to the rafters, and putting up a dominating 5-2 win over the Manitoba Moose Friday night.
It was hard to pick a better night to raise the team’s second Calder Cup banner, as Artprize 9 awards were going on just across the street, the city was buzzing.
Here’s a look at the lineup for Grand Rapids:
Elson - Turgeon - Campbell
Tangradi - Street - Ford
Lorito - Holmstrom - Esposito
Sadowy - Elkins - Shine
Hicketts - McIlrath
Lashoff - Russo
Renouf - Sproul
SCRATCHES: Saarijarvi, Hronek, McCarron, Nastasiuk, Borkowski
Most questioned why the team would sit two promising prospects in Saarijarvi and Hronek, I can tell you now that it is all a part of a calculated plan with Todd Nelson. “I think it’s hard to crack this lineup with what we have,” coach added. “They will definitely play,” Nelson says he will likely run seven defensemen in the near future. Moral of the story is that the Griffins have a strong core of veteran defensemen — Saarijarvi and Hronek’s time will come.
The Griffins made quick work, feeding off the crowd’s energy. They started the first period quick, scoring the first three goals, and edging the Moose in shots, 9-7. The opening goal came from Ryan Sproul on the power-play. He did what he does — ripped a laser shot from above the face-off circle on a feed from Ben Street. It would take the Griffins just over two minutes to pull ahead by two, Dominic Turgeon slid one under Comrie’s pads. The second goal sparked up the crowd even more, it seemed.
The first would end 3-0 — goals from Sproul, Turgeon, and Campbell. Griffins went 2/2 on the penalty kill. Turner Elson had himself an impressive start, picking up two helpers.
The Moose started to come on in the second period, they were able to pull within two goals on a shorthanded two-on-one chance. Griffins power-play unit got bit hard as they were over-committing a little too much. Coreau left with no chance.
Speaking of Jared Coreau, he had a few big moments in the second — he stoned Kyle Connor, who had a clear breakaway. Shortly after that, he made a big save at point-blank while the Moose began to cycle down low, creating room out front.
The Griffins managed to make it a three-goal game again when Turner Elson became Johnny-on-the-spot from a Colin Campbell play. This would mark his third point in the game. That top line was extremely effective through the first 40 minutes.
Shots through two periods sit at 19-17 in favor of the Griffins.
The Moose managed to cut into the Griffins lead in the third period, but the Griffins showed a lot of offensive tenaciousness. Dylan McIlrath picked up a goal in the closing minute - He danced right into the high slot and sniped in a beauty. He had himself a great game.
The story of the game was certainly the Griffins top line of Elson, Turgeon, and Campbell. They combined for a total of eight points. Elson hit a career-high in the AHL with four points (1-3-4). “I wanted to keep Campbell and Turgeon together because they work so well together, so I thought why not put Elson there, thats a pretty heavy & responsible line,” coach Nelson said about his first line. I’d say that’s a line to keep an eye on, and a good thing for Dominic Turgeon, who is turning out to be a seriously high-end two-way centerman in the AHL.
The Griffins will draw the Moose again Saturday night — coach Nelson says Tom McCollum will get the start, and it’s likely he runs with the same lines. Would be interested in seeing if he decides on running seven defensemen like he said, but that could be something coming later in the season.