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Griffins Lead Central at Break After Rallying Past AHL’s Top Team

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San Jose Barracuda 2 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 3 SO

Mark Newman/Griffins

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Down 2-0 to an AHL-leading San Jose Barracuda squad that had shut them out the night before, the Grand Rapids Griffins rallied for a 3-2 shootout victory on Saturday before a capacity crowd at Van Andel Arena.

Filip Zadina and Carter Camper scored during the second period before Matt Puempel chipped in the only goal of the skills competition, as the Griffins handed the Barracuda a rare blemish on what remains a sparkling 12-0-0-2 record when leading after the first period. Much of the credit, though, belonged to first star Harri Sateri, who made 24 saves before turning away all three San Jose shootout attempts to claim his fourth straight win and improve to 7-1-1 in his last nine appearances.

With Iowa’s loss tonight at Rockford, the Griffins enter the all-star break alone in first place in the Central Division with a 25-14-3-4 mark, good for 57 points. After Chris Terry represents Grand Rapids during Sunday’s AHL All-Star Skills Competition and Monday’s AHL All-Star Challenge in Springfield, Mass. – both of which will air live on NHL Network at 7 p.m. – the Griffins will get back to work on Thursday when they start a two-game trip to the Lone Star State by visiting the Texas Stars at 8 p.m. EST.

San Jose, which assumed the top winning percentage in the AHL with Friday’s 4-0 victory over Grand Rapids, grabbed the advantage on its first shot 7:49 into the rematch. Picking up the puck at his own blue line, Alexander True sped up the left side, entered the Griffins’ zone and sent a shot over Sateri’s blocker from the top of the circle.

A pretty passing sequence resulted in a power play goal and a 2-0 lead for the Barracuda with 24 seconds left in the frame. Standing to the left of the net, True took a feed from Jayden Halbgewachs and one-touched a pass into the left circle to Rourke Chartier, who slammed a far-side shot past Sateri’s glove.

The Griffins snapped San Jose’s weekend shutout streak at 81:18 on Zadina’s goal early in the second period. From the bottom of the left circle, Terry backhanded a slick pass through two defenders to Zadina on the doorstep, and the rookie chipped it past Antoine Bibeau for his 11th goal of the campaign.

Grand Rapids replicated San Jose’s late-period prowess by scoring with 1:03 remaining to knot matters at two. On a 2-on-1 across the Barracuda’s blue line, Carter Camper one-timed a pass from Colin Campbell into the left corner of Bibeau’s net to match Zadina’s goal tally for the season.

As a Griffins power play was about to expire just over six minutes into the third, Sateri shut the door on a shorthanded breakaway by Evan Weinger to keep the game deadlocked. Bibeau answered in kind on the other end with 4:29 remaining as another Grand Rapids advantage drew to a close, diving back to the right post to deny a backdoor try by Camper.

The Griffins were afforded their fourth power play of the night and third of the period with 1:55 remaining when Kyle Wood tripped Matthew Ford, but San Jose killed off the penalty and Grand Rapids went to overtime for the sixth time in the last 11 home games.

Jacob Middleton was whistled off for hooking 2:32 into the extra session to give the Griffins a 4-on-3 power play. Despite a Grand Rapids timeout and several subsequent scoring chances the game progressed to the shootout, but not before Middleton fired wide left on a breakaway with six ticks left.

In the shootout, unsuccessful attempts by Chartier, Dominic Turgeon and Dylan Gambrell were followed by Puempel, who closed out round two and put an exclamation point on his 100th game as a Griffin by circling wide left, driving in and snapping a shot past Bibeau’s glove. Sateri then turned away Maxim Letunov to seal the Griffins’ 16th win in 24 home games to date (16-4-1-3).

During his four-game winning streak, Sateri has posted a 1.45 goals against average to go with a 0.953 save percentage.

Bibeau made 30 saves for the Barracuda, who remain atop the Pacific Division with a 24-8-2-4 record entering the break. San Jose’s 0.711 winning percentage now ranks second in the AHL behind Charlotte’s 0.717 mark.

Notes: San Jose went 1-for-6 on the power play while Grand Rapids was 0-for-5…The crowd of 10,834 marked the Griffins’ fourth sellout of the season, their third since New Year’s Eve and their second in the last four games (Jan. 19).

Three Stars: 1. GR Sateri (SOW, 24 saves); 2. GR Camper (game-tying goal); 3. SJ True (goal, assist)

Official Game Report