GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — On the strength of Filip Zadina’s first two professional goals, the Grand Rapids Griffins’ offense displayed its predicted potency on Friday in a 6-3 victory over the Hershey Bears in the team’s home opener at a sold-out Van Andel Arena.
You could tell at times that the shifty 18-year-old winger is learning the ropes of professional hockey. It would sometimes seem like anytime the puck would be on his stick, he would try to put something on the highlight reel. As the game progressed, he seemed to simplify his game, which opened the ice up for him. That’s when he began to thrive.
The Griffins (1-2-0-0) never trailed in a contest that saw the clubs exchange seven goals over a near 20-minute span of the first and second periods. Carter Camper (1-2—3) and Matt Puempel (1-1—2) also chipped in multiple points while Harri Sateri stopped 19 Hershey shots to earn his first win in a Grand Rapids uniform and secure Ben Simon’s first victory as the team’s head coach.
The Griffins’ first home goal of the season came 7:42 into the opening period, courtesy of former AHL goals champion Wade Megan. Off a turnover just inside the Hershey blue line, Puempel gathered the puck along the right boards and feathered a long cross-ice pass to a charging Megan, who collected it above the left circle and immediately blasted a cannon past Ilya Samsonov.
Hershey (0-3-0-0) momentarily tied matters at 17:19, only 10 seconds after a tripping penalty to Megan had expired, when Sergei Shumakov swept a loose puck past Sateri for his first AHL goal. But the Griffins, who scored just once during their first two road games last weekend, tallied twice in a span of 30 seconds to take a two-goal lead into the break.
Zadina, the 18-year-old who was the sixth pick overall by Detroit in June’s NHL Draft, tallied his first goal at the 17:42 mark. Taking a Camper feed out of the right corner, Zadina popped a shot from the left hashmarks into the far corner of the net to ignite the Griffins’ 23rd-straight home-opening crowd of 10,834.
Filip Zadina’s 1st goal Friday night
We spoke with Filip Zadina after the game and got a little insight as to how he has been adjusting since making the transition to pro hockey.
Thirty seconds later, Puempel pushed the advantage to two. David Pope stole the puck along the right boards and slid it to Puempel, whose shot from the circle caromed off Samsonov’s blocker and into the cage. Pope, making his pro debut, earned his first point with the assist.
Hershey needed only 1:28 of the second period to halve its deficit on Shumakov’s second, as the forechecking forward knocked the puck off the stick of Matt Finn at the right side of the net, and it bounced off Sateri and across the line.
Minutes after Givani Smith’s bid for a breakaway goal out of the penalty box was thwarted, Camper succeeded in making it a 4-2 game off an egregious giveaway by Hershey defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler, whose pass out of the left corner found Camper alone in the slot for an uncontested tally at 12:13.
With Zadina in the box for interference, the Bears’ power play needed 11 seconds to capitalize at 14:38 and again cut Grand Rapids’ lead to a single goal, as Connor Hobbs connected on a blast from the top of the left circle. But the rookie soon made amends with his second goal, scored during a power play off a rebound that found him in the left circle at 16:51, staking the Griffins to a 5-3 cushion through 40 minutes.
Filip Zadina’s 2nd goal Friday night
The shooting gallery took a breather in the third, as no additional goals were scored until Dominic Turgeon’s empty-netter with 37 seconds remaining.
Samsonov turned aside 21 shots in the loss.
Grand Rapids are set to take on the Chicago Wolves in a bid for their first road win of the season. Puck drop is set for 8pm Saturday night.