GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Ontario used a trio of third-period power play goals to reign supreme over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday in the first-ever clash between the two teams, rallying for a 4-3 victory at Van Andel Arena.
Goals by Chris Terry and Carter Camper staked the Griffins to a two-goal lead that was trimmed to 2-1 as the final 20 minutes dawned, but the Reign capitalized on each of their final three power play chances before a second, late tally by Terry made for an interesting but ultimately unhappy ending for Grand Rapids.
In addition to Ontario (5-5-2-1) finishing 3-for-5 on the power play, Grand Rapids’ own unit went 0-for-4, as special teams were the decisive factor in the Reign’s second straight win.
The Griffins, who fell back to the .500 mark at 7-7-0-1, will continue their four-game homestand on Saturday when they entertain the Manitoba Moose at 7 p.m.
Terry made Griffins franchise history by scoring seven seconds after the opening faceoff, marking the fastest Grand Rapids goal ever to start either a game or a period. Camper won the draw back to Filip Hronek, who saucered a pass through center ice to Terry at the Ontario blue line. The Griffins’ top sniper skated in alone on Charles Williams before ripping a blocker-side shot for his team-leading ninth goal of the campaign.
That stood as the lone goal until 7:48 of the second period when Grand Rapids doubled its advantage. Terry won a race to the puck below the goal line and backhanded it out front to Camper, who lifted a shot into the near corner of the net from the bottom of the right circle.
A near coast-to-coast goal by Sam Herr put the Reign on the board in the waning minutes of the frame. Picking up the puck between his own circles, he sped up the left boards, eluded several defenders and snapped a shot past Patrik Rybar from the circle at the 17:36 mark.
Ontario evened matters then grabbed the lead on a quick pair of third-period power play goals by NHL veteran Matt Moulson. Finding the rebound of Matt Roy’s point shot to the right of the crease, he forced a backhand that slipped under Rybar and trickled over the line at 6:01. During a 4-on-3 just 1:50 later, he one-timed Roy’s feed past Rybar from the right faceoff dot to put Ontario ahead 3-2.
A third straight goal with a man-advantage added insurance for the Reign with 6:23 remaining, as Sean Walker connected on a wrister from above the right circle. It marked the third time in 15 games this season that the Griffins have allowed three power play goals.
Trying to cut into their two-goal deficit, the Griffins pulled Rybar for an extra attacker during their own power play with 5:25 remaining, and the gamble paid off shortly after Walker’s cross-checking penalty expired. Skating 6-on-5, Grand Rapids worked the puck around the Ontario zone until Turner Elson centered a pass from the left corner that hit traffic out front. Dominic Turgeon quickly collected and backhanded the puck to an unmarked Terry at the right post for a tap-in with 3:54 showing on the clock.
Rybar returned to the bench for most of the game’s duration, but despite several chances around the Ontario net, the Griffins were unable to net the equalizer.
Rybar saw his four-game point streak (3-0-1) snapped while turning aside 19 shots, and Williams, an ECHL callup from the Manchester Monarchs, improved to 2-0 behind 22 saves.
Notes: Reign head coach Mike Stothers made his first appearance at Van Andel Arena since 2007-08, when he finished his lone season as the Griffins’ bench boss with a 31-41-2-6 record. He went on to lead Manchester to the Calder Cup during its final AHL season in 2014-15.
Three Stars: 1. ONT Moulson (two power play goals); 2. GR Terry (two goals, assist); 3. ONT Roy (two assists)