GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Behind goals from four different scorers and 34 saves from Jared Coreau, the Grand Rapids Griffins beat the Rockford IceHogs 4-3 on Saturday night before 10,259 at Van Andel Arena.
In addition to winning 10 of its last 13 games, Grand Rapids (21-18-1-4) has knocked out back-to-back second-place teams in the Central Division after dismissing Milwaukee last night. The Griffins continue to stand in sixth in the division, although 0.037 percentage points is all that separates second and sixth place.
Coreau earned his eighth win in his last 11 appearances to help the Griffins halt Rockford’s season-high seven-game point streak.
Following a week respite from game action, Grand Rapids will rematch against Rockford (22-16-2-3) next Saturday at 7 p.m. at Van Andel Arena.
As a harbinger for a vibrant first period that would see the teams combine for 29 shots, Luke Johnson made the game’s first attempt just six seconds after the IceHogs won the opening draw.
Rockford’s second shot of the night put the IceHogs on the board at the 1:22 mark. After 30 seconds had elapsed on Turner Elson’s tripping infraction, Tyler Sikura battled for the puck behind the Griffins’ goal and sent a pass to John Hayden near the right post. Hayden, skating in his sixth game with the ‘Hogs since being assigned by the Chicago Blackhawks, worked the puck to his backhand and beat Coreau.
The IceHogs’ early edge would last all of 14 seconds as Eric Tangradi notched his fourth goal in the last three games. After Axel Holmstrom won an offensive zone faceoff in the far circle, Tangradi skated with the puck from the right ring to between the wheels and snapped a left-handed shot past Matt Tomkins’ blocker.
Matt Puempel scored on the power play with 2:16 remaining in the second period to push his point streak to five games and give the Griffins the lead. With possession of the puck at the right point,Filip Hronek skated toward the right circle and passed to Puempel at the top of the left circle, who then blasted the puck inside the far post and by the catching glove of Rockford’s rookie netminder.
Rockford tied the game at two at 4:21 of the third period. Adam Clendening rifled a shot from the slot that Tanner Kero, positioned by the left post, got a stick on and shoveled past the outstretched right pad of Coreau.
The game was tied a mere 21 seconds before rookie Dominik Shine scored his fourth career goal to put the Griffins back on top. Accepting a pass from Holmstrom at the red line, Shine gained the zone and teed up a slapshot from above the right circle that buzzed by Tomkins and rattled off the left pipe before going in.
Robbie Russo extended Grand Rapids’ edge to two with 12:34 remaining during 4-on-4 action. In the right corner, Vili Saarijarvi spun and delivered a terrific backhand pass to his fellow defenseman all alone in the slot. With time to gather himself, Russo lined up a shot that whistled past the goalie’s stick side.
Rockford pulled Tomkins with 2:00 minutes remaining and would be rewarded with 39 seconds showing on the clock as Sikura tipped in Clendening’s rising bullet from the point. Any further attempt by the IceHogs to tie the game was squashed when Johnson was called for tripping at 19:53.
Grand Rapids finished 1-for-4 on the power play, its third straight game with a goal on the man-advantage, while Rockford was 1-for-2. Tomkins collected 25 saves in a losing effort.
Notes: With goals tonight, Tangradi and Puempel tied Matthew Ford for the team lead with 16…Grand Rapids has won two straight against Rockford after dropping the first six meetings of the season…The Griffins are 19-4-1-1 against the IceHogs at Van Andel Arena since the start of the 2012-13 season.
Three Stars: 1) GR Puempel (power play goal, assist); 2) GR Shine (goal); 3) GR Coreau (W, 34 saves)