SYRACUSE, N.Y — The Grand Rapids Griffins pull within one game of being the Calder Cup Champions in a 3-2 victory over the Syracuse Crunch Friday night, handing the Crunch their first loss on home ice in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs.
A flat power-play unit (zero goals on seven attempts) wouldn’t stop the Griffins — goals from Ben Street and Dan Renouf in the first period proved to be enough to put a bow on a game four victory, and now the Griffins look to take the league championship in game five.
The Crunch came out surging, but the Griffins pushed back to take control of the game, leaving the shots at 16-12 in favor of Grand Rapids after the first period. Jared Coreau posted an impressive 31-save win — and held the Crunch scoreless in five power-play attempts. Here’s your full recap:
Behind a pair of goals by defensemanDan Renouf, the Grand Rapids Griffins put a blemish on the Syracuse Crunch’s perfect home record and moved within one win of claiming the Calder Cup with a 3-2 victory on Fridayat the War Memorial Arena.
Now leading the Calder Cup Finals three games to one, the Griffins have a chance to wrap up their second championship in five years on Saturday when they face the Crunch in Game 5 at the War Memorial at 7 p.m. Grand Rapids has won its last seven games overall and its last six on the road when its opponent faces elimination.
Renouf, who scored three goals in 67 regular season games, staked the Griffins to leads of 2-0 and 3-0 before playing a key part in a final-minute penalty kill by blocking two Crunch shots to help preserve what had dwindled to a one-goal margin. His heroics were matched by Jared Coreau, who turned aside 31 shots to earn first star honors and help snap the Crunch’s 10-game home playoff winning streak one shy of the AHL record. It was Syracuse’s first regulation loss at the War Memorial since March 24.
Mike McKenna made the first big save of the game just over six minutes in, when Martin Frk stole a pass at his blue line, broke into the Crunch zone and, with a defender draped on him, managed a one-handed shot that McKenna gloved down. But the netminder wasn’t so fortunate at the 10-minute mark after stopping a point-blank try by Mitch Callahan, as a trailing Ben Street cleaned up by lifting a backhand into the top of the cage to put the Griffins ahead.
Grand Rapids, now 10-0 in the playoffs when scoring the first goal, put the Crunch in just their second two-goal deficit at home this postseason 2:12 before intermission, when Renouf kept the puck in at the left point and launched a shot that snuck past McKenna for the rookie’s first playoff goal.
While Grand Rapids got to McKenna twice on 16 shots – marking the first time in the last 10 home periods that the Crunch allowed two goals – Coreau made 12 saves to blank Syracuse for a second straight period at the War Memorial, where the home squad had scored in 20 of the previous 21 frames prior to the third period in Game 3 on Wednesday.
Renouf potted his second of the game 10:33 into the middle period. Eric Tangradi started an odd-man rush by chipping the puck to himself off the left boards to avoid a defender then finished it by centering a pass to Renouf, whose wrister from the top of the circles eluded McKenna. Tangradi’s 17th assist set a franchise record for a single playoff year, breaking the mark of 16 set by Jiri Hudler in 2006.
Syracuse’s first three-goal deficit of the playoffs lasted all of 1:12, with the Crunch snapping a scoring drought of 55:07 when an unmarked Yanni Gourde went far side with a shot from the bottom of the right circle.
The Crunch, who hadn’t trailed to start a third period at home in these playoffs, pulled within 3-2 with 12:31 remaining in the game. Michael Bournival showcased his speed down the slot to win a race to the puck and bank it off Coreau and across the line, igniting the crowd of 6,523.
The goalies began to pile up a string of impressive saves at either end, none more so than Coreau’s left toe stop on Tye McGinn with less than seven minutes left. Consecutive Crunch penalties gave the Griffins a 5-on-3 power play for 1:24with under six minutes remaining, but Grand Rapids was unable to capitalize. Syracuse then received a 5-on-4 advantage when Matthew Ford was whistled off for slashing with 2:21 left, but the Griffins killed that off due to Renouf’s two blocked shots and another by Dylan McIlrath before surviving the final seconds with McKenna on the bench for an extra attacker. The Crunch goalie finished with 32 saves.
Both penalty kill units were outstanding, as the Griffins failed on all seven power play attempts and the Crunch misfired on their five tries.
Notes: Teams leading a best-of-seven Calder Cup Finals 3-1 have won the series 33 of 36 times (91.7%), with the only comebacks occurring in 1949 (Providence over Hershey), 1947 (Hershey over Pittsburgh) and 1946 (Buffalo over Cleveland)…The Griffins have won all eight best-of-seven series in which they’ve held a 3-1 lead…Grand Rapids, which has answered each of its three playoff losses with a victory in its next outing, has not dropped consecutive games since April 8-9.
Three Stars: 1. GR Coreau (W, 31 saves); 2. GR Renouf (two goals); 3. SYR Gourde (goal)