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Griffins Sweep Admirals With OT Victory, Advance to Central Division Final

Calder Cup Playoffs – Central Division Semifinals – Game 3 – Grand Rapids Wins Series, 3-0

Photo by Randy Cleves, courtesy of Grand Rapids Griffins

GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 3 at Milwaukee Admirals 2 OT

MILWAUKEEKyle Criscuolo tipped a feed from Dan Renouf past Marek Mazanec 10:03 into overtime on Wednesday to give the Grand Rapids Griffins a three-game sweep of the Milwaukee Admirals in the Central Division Semifinals.

The Griffins advance to face the division-champion Chicago Wolves in the best-of-seven division finals, which will begin next Wednesday in the Windy City and mark the first playoff meeting in 13 years between these longtime rivals. Click here for the series schedule and additional information.

Criscuolo’s overtime goal marked the Griffins’ first walk-off series win since a first-round triumph over Toronto in 2006 and propelled them into the second round for a franchise-record fifth consecutive year. It also continued the Griffins’ remarkable success at closing opponents out, as Grand Rapids won its fifth straight game in which its opponent faced playoff elimination and improved to 4-0 in such games on the road since the beginning of its Calder Cup run in 2013.

Jared Coreau was a rock in net for the Griffins, making 41 saves to trump Mazanec’s 35 stops and enable Grand Rapids to patiently endure a string of three near-miss shots in the latter reaches of the game that all bounced off the pipe and out of harm’s way.

An evenly matched and scoreless opening period saw each team fire 11 shots on goal and fail on one power play opportunity. The Admirals then had a great scoring chance by Mike Liambas on a breakaway early in the second but Coreau stuck out his right pad to deny the attempt, part of a run of 20 straight saves he made to open the game.

Milwaukee’s 21st shot, however, found pay dirt near the midpoint of the frame, just one second after a Grand Rapids power play expired. The Griffins turned over the puck coming out of their zone, and Trevor Murphy took a drop pass from Justin Kirkland above the left circle and snapped a shot past Coreau at the 8:29mark.

The Griffins’ fourth power play chance turned out to be their charm for the tying goal late in the second, after the Admirals were penalized for delay of game for knocking their net off its moorings during a goalmouth scrum. Evgeny Svechnikov fired a wrister from the top of the circles that Mazanec stopped, butTomas Nosek pounced on the rebound at the hashmarks and slammed it inside the left post with 1:30 remaining before intermission.

Both goalies continued to rack up saves late into the third period until Murphy tallied his second of the game at the 12:37 mark, one-timing the puck past Coreau’s glove from above the left circle to make it 2-1, and the Admirals had a shot to go ahead by two during a 3-on-1 break with five minutes left but could not put the puck on net. That failure proved excruciating when Grand Rapids netted the equalizer at 16:22, as Matt Lorito redirected a Robbie Russo shot through Mazanec’s pads from the edge of the right circle.

Milwaukee’s Anthony Richard lifted the puck over the glass with 1:43 remaining to earn a delay of game penalty and give the Griffins another power play to end regulation, and the home team breathed an enormous sigh of relief when an Eric Tangradi deflection clanged off the iron three seconds before the buzzer. It marked the second crossbar of the period for Tangradi, who also bounced one off the pipe four minutes into the stanza.

Grand Rapids’ 17 seconds of remaining power play time to begin overtime passed without harm to the Admirals. The pipes continued to be Mazanec’s best friend eight minutes in when Colin Campbell’s try off a partial break hit the right post, but Criscuolo’s deflection from below the left circle ended the series two minutes later and gave the Griffins a first-round sweep of Milwaukee for the second straight year.

The Griffins improved to 17-16 all time when their opponent faces elimination (10-4 on the road) and 15-11 in playoff overtimes (8-2 on the road).