GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A robust offense and a redemptive penalty kill combined to lead the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 5-2 victory over the Rockford IceHogs on Friday at Van Andel Arena.
Four Griffins forwards registered multi-point outings, and Grand Rapids denied three Rockford power plays during the third period – the first two of which were spawned from a run of six straight penalties to the home team – to finish off a 6-for-7 night while undermanned. The result was the Griffins’ third win in their last four games and second victory of the season over the IceHogs, improving them to 8-6-1-1 overall.
These teams will stage the back end of their weekend home-and-home series at 7 p.m. EST on Saturday at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Jarid Lukosevicius’ third goal of the season staked the Griffins to a 1-0 advantage 6:33 into the first period. Gregor MacLeod won a faceoff in the left circle, and Lukosevicius quickly gathered the puck and launched a shot from the top of the arc that seemed to surprise Collin Delia as it flew past his blocker.
Grand Rapids’ margin doubled just 1:59 later, as Matt Puempel notched his ninth goal of the campaign to extend his career-high point streak to 11 games, matching the sixth-longest in franchise history. On a rush into the Rockford zone, Dominic Turgeon pulled up along the right boards and threw the puck toward the far post to a charging Puempel, who used his step on Adam Boqvist to score on a backdoor redirection.
Matthew Highmore put the IceHogs (7-7-0-0) on the board at the 17:30 mark, potting a centering pass from Philipp Kurashev into a yawning net after Calvin Pickard overcommitted to Kurashev and slid past the left post. Rockford then momentarily appeared to have tied it on a power play goal 53 seconds before intermission, but upon conferring the officials ruled that Anton Wedin’s stick was above the crossbar when he tipped Dylan Sikura’s shot into the cage.
The Griffins withstood an early push by the IceHogs in the second period, as Rockford fired the first seven shots of the frame only to see Grand Rapids score on its first attempt to make it 3-1, with Chase Pearson snapping the puck past Delia from the right side at the 7:40 mark. Matthew Ford earned the primary assist on what would prove to be the game-winning tally, while defenseman Alec McCrea picked up the second helper for his first point as a Griffin in his AHL debut.
Rockford cashed in a 5-on-3 power play chance to pull back within one at the 17:29 mark, as Philip Holm connected on a one-timer from the left circle. The Griffins held their subsequent one-goal margin into the final period despite being outshot 13-2 during the second.
After killing off two IceHogs power plays to start the third, the Griffins capitalized on their own advantage with 11:41 remaining for a 4-2 cushion. A beautiful Gustav Lindstrom to Puempel to Filip Zadina to Chris Terry passing sequence culminated in Terry blasting a slap shot past Delia from the right circle. Terry’s ninth goal of the season tied him with Puempel for team leadership and increased his league-leading point total to 24.
Pearson added an empty-netter at 17:55 for his second goal of the game, equaling the two-point nights logged by Puempel, Terry and Zadina.
Pickard, who finished with 25 saves to trump Delia’s 18-for-22 performance, nabbed his third straight win.
Grand Rapids’ power play, which ranked third in the AHL entering the night, finished 1-for-3.
Three Stars: 1. GR Puempel (goal, assist); 2. GR Terry (power play goal, assist); 3. GR Pickard (W, 25 saves)