MILWAUKEE — With barely a minute left on the clock, Matt Puempel fired off a shot from the Griffins’ goal line that sent the puck flying down the ice and straight into an open empty net.
The goal, combined with a 28-save effort from Patrik Rybar and early scoring help from Carter Camper and Axel Holmstrom, guided the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 3-1 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena on Friday
Headed into the matchup tied with the Griffins at 44 points, the Admirals (19-13-5-1) now claim third in Central Division standings while Grand Rapids moves up to second, matching the Chicago Wolves’ total of 46 points and sitting within a single point of the Division-leading Iowa Wild.
The win closes out a three-game road trip for the Griffins (20-12-3-3), who return to Van Andel Arena on Friday and Saturday for a weekend series of 7 p.m. games with the Belleville Senators in their first-ever visit to Grand Rapids.
With the victory, Rybar earned his ninth win of the season while both Camper and Holmstrom netted their ninth goals within the first 20 minutes of the contest. Camper, just 55 seconds into the first period, knocked a rebound behind Milwaukee goaltender Troy Grosenick from the slot off Dylan McIlrath’sattempt, leaving the Griffins with a 1-0 advantage on just their fourth shot of the night.
Before Holmstrom could tally his ninth of the season, the Admirals’ Justin Kirkland put his team on the board with a goal at 8:03. Facing pressure from Camper inside the left-wing circle, Milwaukee forward Yakov Trenin slid the puck to Kirkland, who flung it past defenseman Libor Sulak and Rybar to even the score.
At 15:52, as Jake Chelios ripped off a shot from the left point, Holmstrom positioned himself in front of Grosenick’s net to tip the puck inside the right post and over the goaltender’s shoulder to re-establish Grand Rapids’ lead.
Both teams were awarded their first power play opportunities of the night in a scoreless second period, though neither managed to find twine as Grand Rapids finished the contest 0-for-3. A late penalty with six minutes left in the third frame granted the Admirals their second power play of the game, but the Griffins’ penalty kill unit remained dependable as Trevor Hamilton blocked a slapshot from Milwaukee’s Matt Donovan in the waning moments to help Grand Rapids to a perfect 2-for-2 finish.
With 1:01 left in regulation, Puempel tacked on his empty-net goal unassisted to secure the 3-1 win for Grand Rapids.
Notes: Grosenick tallied 28 saves on the night...After representing the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championship, Filip Zadina made his first appearance back in the lineup since Dec. 19…Turner Elson (Oct. 11, 2013), Joe Hicketts (Nov. 12, 2016) and Hamilton (Dec. 15, 2018) have all scored their first AHL goals against the Admirals.
Three Stars: 1. GR Rybar (W, 28 saves); 2. MIL Grosenick (28 saves); 3. GR Camper (goal)