The Griffins came into game three with the series tied, and home ice advantage, but their backs are still against the wall — when you’re missing key players like Matt Lorito, Dominic Turgeon, Colin Campell, Axel Holmstrom, and even Tyler Bertuzzi if you want to count him — winning a playoff game is going to be a tall task.
The first period was an action-filled 20 minutes, the Griffins seemed to have the edge in most categories. Specifically, the shot count. They were outshooting the Moose all period long, but the Moose were able to score the games first two goals. After that, all hell broke loose.
Ben Street picked up a power-play goal to pull his team within one, but then a scrum between Michael Spacek and Filip Hronek broke out. The refs had a tough time pulling the two apart — that’s when another fight broke out. Hronek and Ford were both dealt 10-minute misconducts, while Michael Spacek was dealt 10 minutes and a game misconduct. From there, the rest of the period remained pretty quiet - aside from a couple of attempts from Brendan Lemieux to get under the Griffins’ skin.
At the end of 20, the Moose had a one-goal edge, but the Griffins were up on shots 14-10.
The second period brought less of the physicality, and more scoring. Both teams went back and forth trading goals. Defenseman Sami Niku opened up the scoring on the power-play, which was met with a goal from Matt Puempel less than a minute later. Once the Moose managed to make it a two-goal game again, the Griffins took on a different edge. The line of Ben Street, Eric Tangradi, and Matt Puempel hemmed the Moose in their own zone, going on a flurry of chances. Tangradi would make it a one-goal game shortly after — Puempel found him right in the sweet spot, and he managed to roof it past Eric Comrie.
Tom McCollum would not make it out of the second period — He would be pulled for Jared Coreau.
The remainder of the 2nd period was quiet. Both teams visually exhausted, which made for few chances. After 40 minutes, it was a one-goal game. Moose leading 4-3. Griffins have the massive edge in shots, 33-17.
Up to this point, Dennis Cholowski has seen limited playing time, but more than I had originally anticipated. Nothing dazzling by any means, but nothing that made me think that he was having a bad game. For his first pro game, he’s been fine. He’s got a real ability to make the stretch-pass, but on the other side of things, he needs to work on his swagger and confidence. That will come with time.
When I asked Cholowski about what gives him the biggest edge in the AHL, he said that it has to be his skating ability, and most scouts would agree:
NOTE: Dennis Cholowski is very soft-spoken and calm, so you may need headphones to hear what he says.
The Moose continued to play a trap game in the final 20 minutes. They made it very difficult on the Griffins, and the Griffins also made it very difficult on themselves. They weren’t particularly great with face-offs, so whenever the Moose would win the puck, they would shuffle it down the ice. This alone neutralized the Griffins offensive capabilities.
Joe Hicketts. What a player. He didn’t light it up offensively, but he had a couple of huge hits on Brendan Lemieux that put him on his rear-end. He’s got the heart of a lion, there’s no doubt about it.
With just over two minutes left in the period, Coach pulled Jared Coreau, and the face-off continued to damn the Griffins. They lost a draw in the Moose zone, and that immediately turned to an empty-net goal. Another empty-netter would turn a 6-3 loss for the Griffins.
The team now faces a do-or-die situation. Down two games to one means they need to win the next two games in order to advance to the next round. Coach Nelson wasn’t particularly pleased with the way the team played, despite having such a large edge in shots (48-25), but to their credit, this banged up team is missing some key role-players.
Coach says he hasn’t made a decision on a starter for Thursday, and that he expects Colin Campbell (a guy who plays a huge role on the PK) will return. There could also be more line-up changes coming, coach did mention Vili Saarijarvi possibly dressing. Here’s what he had to say postgame:
Fun fact: Since the start of the 2013 playoffs, the Griffins are 6-1 when facing elimination at Van Andel Arena.
Puck drop for game four is set for 7pm at Van Andel Arena Thursday night.