GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– The Western Conference’s hottest team once again got the better of its best team on Wednesday, as the Grand Rapids Griffins maintained their torrid run with a 4-2 victory over the Manitoba Moose at Van Andel Arena.
With Evgeny’s Svechnikov’s goal and two assists leading the way, the Griffins improved to 15-3-0-2 (0.800) in their last 20 games and claimed their third win against the Moose in as many tries since the calendar’s turn to 2018.
Jared Coreau turned aside 25 shots to improve his personal record to 11-2-2 over his last 15 appearances and push the Griffins to 25-18-1-5 overall, which keeps them in a tie with Rockford for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division.
While the Griffins and IceHogs each have a 0.571 points percentage, Grand Rapids’ 56 points tie Chicago and Rockford for second in the division, now just 12 points behind the first-place Moose. When the Griffins’ current run began they trailed Manitoba by 23 points, slashing 11 points off their deficit since Dec. 22.
The Griffins will conclude a stretch of three home games in four nights by hosting the San Antonio Rampage on Friday and the Stockton Heat on Saturday. Game time each night is 7 p.m.
Each team enjoyed success on its initial power play chance early in the opening period, with the Griffins striking first at the 3:51 mark. From the point, Robbie Russo lasered a pass into the right circle to Svechnikov, who blasted a one-timer into the near corner of Eric Comrie’s net. Buddy Robinson answered for the Moose at 7:27, blowing a shot past Coreau’s glove from just above the right hashmarks.
Grand Rapids responded by capitalizing on its third opportunity in the final minute of the frame to take a 2-1 lead. Vili Saarijarvi carried the puck down low before threading a pass back to the top of the left circle to Russo, who connected with 43 seconds showing on the clock.
Filip Hronek, second among rookie AHL defensemen in scoring, doubled the home team’s margin 2:33 into the second. Taking a pass from Matthew Fordup the left boards, Hronek slid toward the point before launching a wrister that snuck through traffic.
Robinson’s second goal of the night pulled Manitoba to within one 4:28 into the final period, as he finished off a mad goal-mouth scramble by slamming a shot that caromed off Russo’s skate blade and across the line. But the Moose could not get the equalizer, and after pulling Comrie late for an extra attacker, Matt Lorito stickhandled three-quarters the length of the ice before depositing the puck into the empty net with 22 seconds remaining.
Comrie stopped 35 of 38 shots for the Moose, who saw their 5-0-0-1 streak snapped by a Griffins team that increased its own point run to seven games (6-0-0-1).
Matt Puempel’s career-high nine-game point streak (6-7—13) was snapped.
Notes: Prior to the game, the Griffins held a moment of silence for Jake Engel, their corporate sales account manager who passed away on Tuesday morning. In his honor, the Griffins’ front office, coaching and training staffs wore ribbonsbearing his initials, and players donned JE helmet stickers that will be worn for the duration of the season.
Three Stars: 1. GR Svechnikov (power play goal, two assists); 2. MB Robinson (two goals); 3. GR Russo (power play goal, assist)