GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– A replica Calder Cup championship ring giveaway and another win by Jared Coreau and the Grand Rapids Griffins made it a great night to be among Saturday’s sold-out crowd at Van Andel Arena.
Having enjoyed an idle week following last Saturday’s 4-3 home win over Rockford, the Griffins picked up where they left off by defeating the IceHogs 4-1 for their third straight series win, after going 0-3-0-3 in this season’s first six meetings.
Aided by a stifling defensive effort by his teammates, Coreau turned in a gem of a performance, stopping 16 of 17 shots to claim his ninth victory in his last 12 appearances (9-2-1). Moreover, the Griffins earned their third straight win and improved to 12-3-0-1 in their last 16 outings, becoming an ever greater part of the AHL playoff conversation.
After watching forwards Matt Puempel and Matt Lorito take part in the AHL All-Star Classic tomorrow and Monday in Utica, N.Y., the Griffins (22-18-1-4) will dive back into action with three straight games in Cleveland against the Monsters, starting on Thursday at 7 p.m. It will mark the first time in franchise history that the Griffins play three consecutive regular season games on the road against the same team, with the three clashes occurring within a 66-hour span.
The IceHogs drew first blood with 1:54 remaining in the opening period. Anthony Louis darted right-to-left through the slot, corralled a pass from William Pelletier and slipped a shot through the traffic in front of Coreau from the bottom of the left circle.
Grand Rapids answered during its second power play opportunity, 2:59 into the middle frame. Taking a feed from Filip Hronek high in the left circle, Puempel had time and space to tee up a slap shot that found daylight between Matt Tomkins and the far post.
Defenseman Brian Lashoff, whose 370 regular season games rank second in Griffins history, gave the home team the lead with a veteran play for an unassisted goal midway through the period. Pinching along the left boards, he won a battle for the puck, carried it down to the goal line and unleashed a wrister that snuck through a gap between Tomkins and the near post at 11:17.
The Griffins’ third goal of the period came 4:08 later, courtesy of Evgeny Svechnikov. Eric Tangradi backhanded a pass from behind the net to the high slot, and Svechnikov blew a shot by Tomkins’ glove from between the circles to stake Grand Rapids to a two-goal cushion heading into the final 20 minutes.
Grand Rapids limited Rockford to only three shots in the third period and capitalized on one of its five to account for the final margin, with Matthew Fordbanging home the rebound of a Ben Street try at the left post with 3:03remaining.
Tomkins finished with 20 saves for the IceHogs (24-17-2-3), who fell in regulation for just the second time in their last 11 games.
Notes: Ford and Puempel are tied for the team’s goal-scoring lead with 17...The crowd of 10,834 was the Griffins’ third sellout of the season, their second straight crowd of more than 10,000 and their fourth crowd of 9,000-plus in their last five home games…With the NHL on its all-star break, longtime Detroit Red Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer assisted the Griffins’ equipment staff tonight, marking the first AHL game of his 26-year career in pro hockey.
Three Stars: 1. GR Coreau (W, 16 saves); 2. GR Lashoff (game-winning goal); 3. GR Tangradi (two assists)