GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Friday’s 4-1 home win over the Manitoba Moose featured several firsts for the Grand Rapids Griffins: Matt Puempel’s first AHL hat trick, the first goal allowed by Calvin Pickard in more than two games’ worth of action, and the first professional goal by Joe Veleno.
These firsts added up to the second win in three days for the Griffins on this homestand, as they improved to 4-2-0-1 on the season. Grand Rapids, which has outscored its foes 7-1 this week, will try to keep it rolling on Saturday when the Texas Stars pay a 7 p.m. visit to Van Andel Arena.
Fresh off his 3-0 shutout of Milwaukee on Wednesday, Pickard remained impenetrable during the opening period against the Moose, ensuring a scoreless game through 20 minutes despite Manitoba’s 12-6 advantage in shots.
Puempel gave Pickard and the defense some breathing room early in the second period by staking the Griffins to a 2-0 lead in a span of less than three minutes. Chris Terry earned the primary assist on each tally, first chasing down the puck in the right circle and threading a no-look pass into the slot to Puempel, who darted unmarked toward the net before slipping a shot beneath Mikhail Berdin at 3:26. Just 2:46 later, Terry lasered a feed from the top of the left circle to the right faceoff dot for a one-timer and a power play goal that gave Puempel 50 goals for his Griffins career.
The Moose (1-6-0-0) eventually skated off to the locker room with that two-goal deficit despite having inflated their shot margin to 25-13, their frustration undoubtedly fueled by a 0-for-4 performance on the power play.
Pickard, who spent most of his childhood in the Moose’s home of Winnipeg, saw his impressive run of 66 straight saves and his shutout streak of 125:21 come to an end 2:27 into the third. Off a busted play, Jansen Harkins corralled a loose puck between the circles and had time to put it on his forehand before potting it past the scrambling netminder.
Veleno broke the seal with his first pro point and provided insurance during a power play with 1:25 remaining, as he cleaned up a Chase Pearson rebound from just outside the crease. Puempel then secured his hat trick and the 4-1 final by scoring into an empty net from the Manitoba blue line at 19:12, moving him into a tie with Ed Patterson (51) for 22nd on Grand Rapids’ all-time goal-scoring list.
Pickard finished his busy night with 36 saves while Berdin stopped 18 of 21 for a Manitoba squad that has now lost five in a row.
Notes: Puempel, who owns a dozen two-goal games in the AHL, notched his only previous pro hat trick in the NHL, registering three power play goals for the New York Rangers on Dec. 29, 2016 at Arizona…The Griffins’ resurgent penalty kill denied all four Moose power play chances tonight to make it 13 successful kills in a row going back to the second period of last Friday’s 4-3 shootout loss at Texas. Meanwhile, their power play unit, which ranked fourth in the AHL entering the night, converted two of four chances for its third multi-goal effort of the young season.
Three Stars: 1. GR Puempel (hat trick); 2. GR Pickard (W, 36 saves); 3. GR Terry (two assists)